Ekiti: Situation Room decries siting of Polling Units in private residences, over-concentration of voters

The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, an umbrella coalition of over 70 major civil society organizations in the country, has called on the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC to take urgent steps to remove polling units from private residences before the next general election.

The Situation Room gave the charge Sunday morning in Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti state capital while presenting a preliminary report on weekend’s governorship election in the state. 

Convener, Ene Obi and co-Conveners, Asma’u Joda and James Ugochukwu noted that siting polling units in private residences could substantially impugn the credibility of elections.

They also lamented the over-concentration of voters in certain polling units while others had fewer voters.

The development had led to situations in certain units where voting did not end until about 7pm, whereas in certain areas, voting ended before mid-day.

With a network of observers deployed across the 16 local government areas of the state, the Situation Room however commended INEC for its prompt opening of polls and deliberate efforts to stem the tide of vote buying.

“Situation Room notes that INEC’s strategy of voters’ redistribution failed to address the problem of over concentration of voters in some polling units. A glaring example was the situation at Surajudeen School, Ado Dallimore (Ward 9), Ado Ekiti LGA, which had about five thousand registered voters shared between just two polling units. Some of the voters complained that their request for transfer of registration to their preferred polling units was not approved before this exercise.

“Several of the polling units were sited in private residences and compounds in Ekiti State contrary to claims by INEC that the Commission had moved polling units to public spaces during its “Expansion of Voters Access to Polling Units Exercise” in 2021. We hope that INEC will properly address this lingering issue going into the 2023 General Elections.

“Situation Room notes an appreciable improvement in INEC’s logistics and election administration, especially with the early arrival of election officials and materials at the polling units, leading to early opening of polls. This is a welcome improvement from what was observed in both the Anambra State Governorship Election 2021 and FCT Area Councils Elections 2022.

“Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS): Our observations indicate the BVAS was functional in at least 76% of the voting locations. However, there have been many reports of delays and malfunctioning BVAS machines in some voting units especially those with many registered voters. Examples of the locations where the machines malfunctioned are PU 002 Igbaletere by Mechanic Workshop, Ward 6 Ado Okeyinmi, Ado-Ekiti LGA where the Machine was going on and off intermittently, PU 007 LA Primary School Oke Afin. Otun Ward III and PUO18 Igogo Ward II both in Moba LGA, where the BVAS failed, and PU 014, Ward 1 Okemesi, Ekiti West LGA, amongst others.

“Also, reports from field observers indicate that it takes at least 3 minutes to accredit a voter using the BVAS in 41% of the locations observed. Going by this, the BVAS would have successfully accredited 20 voters per hour on the average in the affected voting locations. 

“Consequently, INEC will need to double its efforts to improve on the turnaround time of the BVAS of one minute per voter for a seamless process on election day. Furthermore, INEC’s distribution of the BVAS devices was not proportionate to the population of registered voters by polling unit”, the Situation Room added.

On vote buying, the Situation Room observed that the issue of vote buying and selling has continued unabatedly. 

“This follows a familiar pattern of similar incidences across the country, and in particular, the 2014 Governorship election in Ekiti State. The description of this phenomenon as “Stomach Infrastructure” in the 2014 election has evolved into a new nomenclature now described as ‘See and Buy’.

“The ability of Ekiti politicians to make light of such a grave violation of extant laws is most unfortunate. Situation Room strongly condemns this blatant violation of the electoral law”, it added.

While the widespread presence of security personnel did not deter vote trading, Situation Room however commended the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC for the arrests of suspected persons involved in votes buying and hopes that these cases will lead to prosecution if the evidence is found to be germane.