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FCT Polls: Yiaga Africa, others tell Buhari Sign Electoral Bill

The Yiaga Africa, a leading election observer group and civil society organisation (CSO) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill…

The Yiaga Africa, a leading election observer group and civil society organisation (CSO) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill without delay.

The organisation made the call on Monday in Abuja in its preliminary statement on the 2022 FCT Area Council elections.

The report was jointly presented by Yiaga Africa Executive Director, Samson Itodo; Board of Trustee (BoT) member, Ezenwa Nwagwu; Director of Program, Yiaga Africa, Cynthia Mbamalu; Executive Director, Inclusive Friends Association (IFA), Grace Jerry and Jake Ekpele, of the Albino Foundation.

They said President Buhari must sign the Electoral Act if he want the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to improve the electoral integrity.

They also scored INEC low on the conduct of the just concluded FCT area council elections.

He said that the findings revealed the election was characterized by operational deficiencies, election security challenges, and abysmal voter turnout.

“As noted in our mid-day situational statement, the FCT Area Council election was fraught with shortcomings and infractions.

“These include late deployment of election materials, poor distribution of PWD assistive materials, and uneven allocation of voters to polling units and malfunctioning of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS). Yiaga Africa considers these challenges a rollback in the quality of election day administration,” Itodo said.

He said that the organisation had also predicted a low turnout of voters in the election, and this was manifest in polling units visited, especially in the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC).

He said that Yiaga Africa WTV findings showed late deployment of election materials and delayed commencement of poll in most areas.

He added that although BVAS was deployed in all polling units (PUs), technological glitches were observed in its usage.

He said that the BVAS was fraught with challenges, including wrong configuration and failure to accredit voters.

He added that there was also delays in technicians’ response to BVAS complaints in some polling units as well as delays in authenticating voters within processing time.

“Yiaga Africa observed that in some PUs with over 1000 registered voters, INEC deployed only one BVAS, indicating an inconsistency in the guidelines for the BVAS deployment,” he said.

Itodo also said that the group observed delays in uploading election results on INEC result platform.

He said that while some polling units had as many as 2,500 registered voters, others had less than 5 voters within the same location.

He said that Yiaga Africa observers witnessed incidents of vote-buying in some PUs and security officials deployed to the polling unit were complicit, as people were seen collecting bundles of N1000 notes.

He urged INEC to undertake an audit of the BVAS and ensure all the technical glitches with the device were resolved, ahead of the Ekiti and Osun 2022 off-cycle governorship elections.

Itodo said that this was to prevent possible disenfranchisement of voters and also inspire public confidence in electoral technologies being deployed INEC for election.

Grace Jerry and Mr. Jake Epelle decried the unavailability of magnifying glasses and brail for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs).

They said that only one magnifying glass was seen and that most ad hoc staff did not know what it was used for.

Epelle said that the group also observed that many of the PUs were set and mounted on high grounds making it difficult for blind persons and PWDs to access accreditation and voting points.

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