South African former President, Thabo Mbeki, who led the Commonwealth Election Observation Mission to Nigeria, on Saturday, expressed his concern over some glitches he noticed at various polling units within the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
According to the Vanguard online, Mbeki gave his assessment of the Presidential and National Assembly elections, at the Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room, decried the late arrival of polling materials and officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, at the polling units he visited.
He noted that whereas officials of the electoral body got late to the respective polling units he visited, he said it took over an hour before electorates were eventually allowed to cast their ballot.The former President of South Africa disclosed that in one of the polling units he visited, INEC officials arrived at the center around 11:30 am.
According to him, while he waited at one of the units, the principal electoral officer, upon his arrival with the polling materials, took a long time and addressed voters there to convey information on the voting procedure.
“As he was educating the voters and took much time, it looked odd”, Mbeki added, stressing that some of the electorates became agitated owing to the late commencement of voting.
“We arrived at the second polling unit around 10am, the same time as the INEC. When we got to the 3rd one, they just arrived and that was around 11:30am. When we left, only two people had voted.
“Part of what was the issue was that the officials had to stamp the voters papers and sign them, but their ink was dry. He had to make a call. As we were there, another official came and said their pad for the thumbprint was also dry.
“At that point, a police officer that was standing next to me said it was too early for the ink to dry up. Hopefully, they would sort out the problem.
“The point we are making is that where we went, the officials arrived late and it took a lot of time for people to vote. People at the first polling unit really cooperating, but in the second one, they were already agitating. It was very bad.
“The official apologised for starting late because apparently the vehicles to convey the materials arrived late.
“I think that INEC can correct some of these things. Otherwise, the voters themselves seemed to be in good mood”, Mbeki added.
Meanwhile, in its interim statement on the start of the elections, the Situation Room, which is a coalition of over 70 CSOs, said it was hopeful that INEC would “resolve existing and emerging challenges relating to deployment of electoral officials and materials, prompt commencement of polls, and accreditation and voting.
“There was late deployment of election materials across the country, with less than 30 percent of polling units starting on time, according to reports from our network of observers and partners.
“States where polls opened around 8.30 am include Bauchi, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ekiti, Gombe and Jigawa. However, in Enugu, Anambra, Imo, Abia, Ebonyi, Rivers, Kaduna and FCT, there has been significant delays in commencement of polls, with many polling units yet to open as at 11.30 am.
“In most states, deployment of election officials and materials to the RACs commenced early hours of this morning, making it extremely difficult for the election to commence on time. In some states, many ad hoc staff could not find their names on the staff list, even after participating in the training exercise, causing further delays.
“There were reports of deployment of election materials to the wrong polling units in parts of North West and North East states”, the statement that was signed by conveners of the Situation Room, Ene Obi, Asma’u Joda and James Ugochukwu, further read.