The 2015 presidential and national assembly elections held yesterday had a number of problems. Idayat Hassan who monitored the process writes a report (edited) published on Premium Times about 5 major challenges witnessed in the various polling units.
1. Late opening of polling units: Polling units across the country opened later than scheduled. The delay was occasioned by the late arrival of election officials and materials; this caused a lot of anxiety among voters as well as an overlap of procedures in many polling units. However, the conduct of voters in response to this has been largely peaceful. The turnout and enthusiasm of voters across Nigeria is highly commendable despite concerns that the election will be marred by violence.
2. Security at polling units: The general view of the security presence at polling units was positive. Notwithstanding, there were cases of intimidation and harassment of voters by overzealous security agents and party thugs/supporters. In Sokoto metropolis, voters were prevented by security agents from taking photos and recording the voting processes.
3. Card reader performance: Following several reports of widespread challenges with card readers, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) directed election officers to manually accredit voters using the voter register. The late deployment of personnel and materials exacerbated the card reader imbroligio. The implication of this is that accreditation ran later than expected. For example, in Kwandila ward in Tarauni Local Government Area (GRA), Kano state, and in some parts of Anthony in Lagos state, accreditation was still ongoing as at 4pm.
4. Quality of voting procedure (timeliness, efficiency, effectiveness etc): Electoral irregularities were witnessed by field observers in some polling units in Kano and Sokoto states where party supporters were unduly assisting election officials in the polling process. In Lagos, there were severe logistical problems with the delivery of voting materials, particularly ballot boxes. Voting cubicles were not seen in several polling units in Kano, Kaduna and Osun States which means voters were unable to cast their votes in secret. A defining character is the lack of adherence to INEC approved guidelines and regulations for the conduct of 2015 general elections by the election officials. In the observed polling units, the uniformity in the execution of the various stages of the election as outlined in the guideline. However, there was noticeable cooperation among observers, security agents and election officials.
It would seem that INEC did not consider the likely implications of its abrupt decision on the overall electoral process. Pockets of violent conflicts reported across the country, some of which may not be election-related, may continue to instill fear among the electorate in the conflict zones notably the North-East, North-Central and the South- South zones. Instances of irregularity recorded in some states can impact upon the integrity of the electoral process. Against this backdrop, it is imperative that all stakeholders, particularly INEC, political parties and security agencies, should note the observations above with the view to improve on their performance in subsequent elections.