The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says eight of its Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) cards were snatched by thugs in Delta and Katsina States in the ongoing presidential and national assembly elections.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this while briefing journalists on the ongoing general elections on Saturday in Abuja.
He, however, said that the snatched BVAS were immediately replaced for the election to continue, while three were later recovered by security agencies.
“Based on the reports we have received from our offices, there have been some challenges in the process."
“One of the challenges is the inability of the commission in some locations to open the polling units at 8:30 a.m.
“Some of the reasons for this include the perennial problem of logistics, in spite of our best efforts."
“Generally speaking, we have delivered hundreds of ballot papers and result sheets that we were supposed to deliver."
“For instance, we couldn’t deploy early in Alawa in Shiroro LGA of Niger State because bandits launched an attack, not necessarily on INEC officials, within the area.
“So, on the advice of security agencies, we tarried awhile, and I’m happy to say that we were able to deploy, and voting in that location is ongoing as we speak.“
Yakubu said similarly that in the Oshimili local government area of Delta, thugs attacked polling units, during which two BVAS machines were lost.
“Again, determined that election must continue, we were able to replace the stolen machines, restore security and voting continued in that location.
“Similarly, in the Safana LG area of Katsina State, thugs attacked one voting location and snatched six of our BVAS machines."
But again, we were able to use the spare BVAS machines and restore security for voting to continue.
“The security agencies have recovered three BVAS machines, but three are still held by the thugs."
“In these locations, the targets of attacks were the BVAS machines. "It is no longer the ballot boxes,” Yakubu said.
On the functionality of BVAS, the INEC chairman said the device has been performing optimally.
“So far, so good. Generally speaking, the BVAS, which was deployed nationwide for the first time, has been functioning optimally in most parts of the country.
“We are hearing fewer complaints about the functionality of the BVAS.”
He linked the inability to commence the election at 8.30 a.m. in some polling units to the perennial problem of logistics and insecurity.
Yakubu, however, assured Nigerians that no voter would be disenfranchised because of that.
“Based on the reports that are received from the various states of the federation and our office in the Federal Capital Territory, some challenges were identified."
“One of which is the inability of the commission in a number of places to open the polling units at the appointed time of 8:30 a.m.
“Some of the polling units opened late, but in line with our policy, any Nigerian in the queue will have the opportunity to vote no matter how long it takes, until the last person on the queue before 2.30 p.m. votes, no matter how long it takes.”
Yakubu added that the perennial problem of logistics and security challenges also led to the late commencement of voting in some places
He said the security challenges include thugs' attacks in the Delta and Katsina states and banditry in Niger.
He said there were also unfolding situations in Abia and Imo states.
“In Abia, the deployment is taking place late to the polling units.
“The commission is aware, and we are assuring voters in Abia that no matter how late we deploy to the polling units, if voters are on the queue before 2:30 p.m., they will vote no matter how long it takes.
“We are also aware of the situation in Imo in respect of four LGAs—OOkigwe, Oguta, Osu, and Orlu."
“There were issues in all 11 wards in the whole of Osu." In the whole of Orlu, six wards out of 11 In the case of Okigwe, five out of 11. "In the case of Oguta, it is more widespread,” Yakubu added.
Yakubu said he had a discussion with the Inspector-General of Police and the military to escort INEC officials to all four locations.
“I take it that voting would have commenced in some of these difficult places.
“But if it doesn’t, I will assure voters in those locations that elections will hold and they will not be disenfranchised.”
Yakubu said INEC has been observing and receiving reports on the election nationwide and was determined to ensure that the elections held and are credible.
He said the commission would continue to brief Nigerians on the elections until the collation of results commenced.