As Anambra election continues today, three leading contenders at the ongoing Anambra State governorship election, which began on Saturday, have won their respective polling units.
This was before the Independent National Electoral Commission announced that voting would continue on Sunday (today).
According to Punch The voting according to the commission was extended as a result of the malfunctioning of the newly deployed Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, which interrupted accreditation and voting in some areas.
The leading gubernatorial candidates for election were Chukwuma Soludo of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Andy Uba of All Progressives Congress, and Valentine Ozigbo of Peoples Democratic Party,
The APC candidate, who voted at Saint Peter’s Catholic School, Uga Ward 16, Polling Unit 10 of Aguata Local Government, scored 80, followed by APGA with 10 votes, YPP scored five votes while PDP scored two votes.
The candidate of the PDP, who voted at polling unit 010 Social Center, Ward 005, of the Aguata Local Government, Area scored 75 votes, followed by APGA with eight votes while the APC scored two.
The candidate of APGA, who voted at Isuofia Ward 13, Unit 002 in the Aguata LGA, scored 126 votes while PDP scored five and both APC and YPP scored three votes each.
Meanwhile, it was gathered that the election was marred by voter apathy, vote-buying, late arrival of materials and the malfunction of the BVAS machine.
Although, INEC worked hard to ensure a hitch-free exercise, there were several complaints from voters in towns like Awka, Onitsha, Nnewi, Isuofia and some other parts of the state.
As announced by the commission, Voting was expected to start by 8.30am but as of 11am voting was yet to commence in most centres in Awka, the state capital. With over two hours into the voting exercise, the people of Mgbakwu in Awka North were still awaiting voting materials, which later arrived after midday.
Also, Party agents and voters waiting at Central School lamented the absence of materials and electoral officers. The school houses the two polling units in the town.
A party agent, Benneth Aniezeofor, lamented that the development would impact the exercise negatively as people might lose interest.
“Late arrival of materials will disenfranchise many voters and people may run out of patience and leave which is not good for the election,” he added.
Party agents resulted in going from one house to employing people to come out and cast their votes as a result of low voter turnout at Nkwo Market Square in Akwa Central. Others were calling family members and friends on the telephone to come out and vote.
One of the party agents, Joseph Nnake, attributed the apathy to fear, saying low voter turnout could mar the exercise. He also described the election as peaceful.
Punch reported that there was vote-buying at the Nkwo Market Square. Adding that Voters were paid N2,500. After voting, the interested voters were ushered to a secluded room to collect the money. A police officer was also heard telling his junior colleague to collect their own share of the money from party agents.
At Ward 19, Unit 8 at the Ezenifite Town Hall, Okpuno in Awka South Local Government Area, voting finally commenced at about 9.35am.
The Registration Area Officer, Ibrahim Ganiyu, disclosed that they worked overnight at the centre to ensure that ad hoc staff moved to the field early on Saturday. He noted that corps members needed further guidance regarding the process.
Reports from other local government areas across the state indicated that voting did not commence at 8.30am. A 63-year-old woman, Madam Theresa, said she would wait till voting started.
“I am a native of Cross River State but my late husband hailed from this town. I came out to vote. I am not afraid of any kind of harassment or intimidation. Even if they shoot me, I will die and go to where my late husband is,” she said.
At Ward 9, Ezimezi in Amawbia, Awka South Local Government, a mild drama ensued as voters protested the instruction by the presiding officer, Ahmed Abdulahi, who said ‘No facemask, no voting’.
Irked by the order, a former Anambra State House of Assembly member, Chikodi Aghanya, described the instruction as “rubbish”.
A presiding officer however explained that it was INEC’s instruction and they would implement it, while admitting that they were having challenges with the network to operate.
Meanwhile, Governor Willie Obiano and his deputy, Dr Nkem Okeke, hailed the process, describing it as transparent.
The governor, who has cast his ballot at Eri Primary School, Unit 004, Otuocha 1, Aguleri, Anambra East LGA of the state said, “I appeal to Ndi Anambra to come out and vote as the voting exercise would last for only a few hours. I commend the voting process, it was fast and easy. I am optimistic that the entire exercise would be free and fair across the state.”
Meanwhile, INEC extended voting till Sunday in areas where voting could not be concluded on Saturday.
The state Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr Nkwachukwu Orji, said at a press briefing at the commission’s headquarters in Awka, the state capital, on Saturday that the poll would open at 8.30am and close at 4pm on Sunday.
He said the revised closing time would apply to areas where polling units opened after 8.30am.
He said, “In line with existing regulations and guidelines of the commission, any intending voter who is in the queue by 4pm shall be allowed to vote. All Polling Units staff must comply with this directive.
“The time extension arose out of several field reports that voters had problems with accreditation. The commission is currently investigating the reason the accreditation devices, Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, worked perfectly in some polling units but not in others. In some of the cases, it would seem that this resulted from software glitches.
“Our technicians have already built an update for the device software to prevent further challenges. The update is currently being installed in the concerned BVAS and we request voters, candidates and agents to be patient and allow our technical staff to solve the problem”.
“The commission wishes to reiterate that in cases of sustained malfunction of the BVAS, the Presiding Officer must inform the voters and polling agents that accreditation and voting for the affected polling unit shall continue tomorrow or at another time determined by the commission”.
The REC promised that no voter would be disenfranchised. He, however, lamented that some ad hoc staff and transporters contracted to move polling materials and personnel failed to show up.
He added, “Our deployment has also been adversely affected by transport challenges in some locations. It must be noted that on account of security concerns, some of the transporters that were mobilised and collected 50 per cent of their sign-on fee backed out at the last moment, leaving some of our ad hoc staff stranded”.
“Also, some of the trained ad hoc staff backed out at the last moment. The commission is on top of these challenges and extant regulations and guidelines will be applied on a case-by-case basis”.
“Consequently, we are harvesting areas where voting will realistically no longer take place today, including places where substantial disruption has occurred to enable a possible recommencement of voting at another time, in line with extant laws and the regulations and guidelines of the commission”.
“We appeal to all voters, candidates, stakeholders, communities and political parties to remain calm and law-abiding. We assure you that the commission is determined to make all votes count”.