Yesterday, millions of Nigerians trooped to the polling units to elect a President and members of the National Assembly. Voting took place nationwide. The Commission is happy with the general peaceful and patriotic conduct of citizens. Elections are all about the people and once again, Nigerians have demonstrated extra-ordinary resilience and abiding faith in democracy and the electoral process. We wish to reiterate our commitment to protecting the sanctity of the ballot and the integrity of the choices made by Nigerians at the polls.
Late last night, the Commission met and reviewed the processes and challenges arising from the conduct of the elections based on reports received from our State offices nationwide as well as information harvested from our various citizens’ contact platforms. The Commission acknowledges that there were places where personnel and materials did not arrive on time resulting in delays in opening of polls. We responded by extending the voting period to compensate for the initial loss of time. Our reports indicate that many citizens who would have otherwise been disenfranchised had the opportunity to vote.
Similarly, in spite of our best effort to enhance the functionality of the Smart Card Readers (SCRs), we experienced technical glitches in some locations. Through the deployment of 8,809 Area Technical Support (RATECHS) that we engaged as ad hoc, many of these glitches were successfully rectified which enabled voting to take place seamlessly in the affected PUs nationwide. Yet there were places where voting could not proceed as a result of the failure of the SCRs. In addition, there are places where materials arrived late for voting to proceed.
After consultation with the communities involved, and in line with our Regulations and Guidelines, new SCRs have been reconfigured and deployed for elections in the affected polling units. Right now elections are ongoing in some PUs in Abia, Bayelsa, Benue, Plateau, Zamfara and one Polling Unit in Binji LGA of Sokoto State and Kuje Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). We are determined that the vote of every Nigerian is important and must count.
We have received preliminary reports and are closely monitoring the situation in Rivers, particularly Bonny and Akoku-Toru LGAs. We are similarly awaiting the detailed report from our Imo office particularly in respect of the Owerri Municipal LGA. We are also aware of the incidents in some parts of Lagos, particularly Okota. We are similarly aware of the incidence of intimidation, abduction, hostage-taking and violence unleashed on election officials in some States, notably Akwa Ibom, and the burning down of a vehicle conveying materials used for the election yesterday in Dekina LGA of Kogi State.
Some Youth Corps members serving as ad hoc staff were also attacked in Osun State. While in all these attacks, election staff sustained injuries, we have unfortunately recorded the first fatality in Rivers State. An ad hoc staff, Mrs. Ibisaki Amachree, was hit by a bullet while returning from election duty in Degema. We condemn these attacks and will forward a comprehensive report to the security agencies for expeditious investigation and prosecution of those involved.
We have also received reports of voters who presented genuine PVCs read by the SCRs but were not allowed to vote because their names were not on the register of voters. We have been confronted by such a situation in one of the off-season elections conducted by the Commission. For this reason, we made a clear provision in our draft Regulations and Guidelines to allow such voters to vote. However, when the draft was discussed with stakeholders, the clause was rejected on the grounds that it will encourage voting by identity theft. We dropped it.
For our part, all election duty personnel have sworn an oath of neutrality. We have reports of possible dereliction of duty by some electoral officials in refusing to activate or deploy the SCRs, the failure to fully account for materials collected for the election, absconding from duty and a host of other infractions. In Imo State, one of our EOs has already been handed over to the Police. We will not tolerate violations against, or by, our own officials. The duty of upholding the choice made by Nigerians in democratic elections must never be compromised.
Our attention has also been drawn to the omission of the logo of the African Action Congress (AAC) from the ballot paper for Lagos East Senatorial District. We have checked our record and confirmed the inadvertent omission. We have contacted the Chairman of the party to acknowledge the error. The omission is inadvertent and it is one out of 23,316 nominations for elections into 1,558 constituencies.
We promised Nigerians and the international observers that our Situation Room will be open to visitation. I am glad to note that yesterday, a number of groups visited the Situation Room. This will continue within the time allotted to the various groups for such visitation until the end of collation and declaration for the Presidential election results.
Meanwhile, collation of results from yesterday’s elections continue nationwide. Almost all the States have concluded RA collation and are now collating results at LGA level. Some have commenced State-level collation. We expect the State Collation Officers for Presidential Election (SCOPE) to start arriving at the National Collation Centre later today or early morning tomorrow. Accordingly, the National Collation Centre will be officially declared open today at 6pm. Collation will commence as soon as the results arrive from the States.
Already, some PU results are in the public domain. Let me once again reiterate the position of the law that only the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) can tally figures, announce result and declare winners in our general election. I urge all stakeholders to strictly adhere to the provisions of the law and be circumspect in this respect. We are doing everything possible to ensure the speedy collation of results and the declaration of winners for the elections conducted yesterday.