By Adeyemi Adeleye
INEC has rescheduled voting to Sunday in 10 polling units at Victoria Garden City (VGC), Lagos, to sort out disagreements over the relocation of the polling units.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that agitations followed INEC’s decision to move the 10 polling units to locations outside the gate of the VGC as against their original designated spots.
Voting had not started as at 3 p.m. as enraged arguments deepened between leaders of the Victoria Garden City Property Owners and Residents Association (VGCPORA) and INEC officials.
INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner in Lagos State, Mr Olusegun Agbaje, told newsmen after speaking with the residents that voting would now hold on Sunday between 8.30 a.m. and 2.30 p.m.
He said the residents had earlier been informed of the relocation of the polling units to spots outside the VGC gate following an alleged hostage-taking of INEC officials during the Feb. 25 presidential and National Assembly elections.
“We had an issue during the Feb. 25 presidential and National Assembly Elections when our corps member ad-hoc staff claimed that they were held hostage till about 4 a.m. on Feb. 26.
“Most of them were hesitant to come here today.
“Consequently, we sent a message to the estate leadership to inform them that today’s elections would be held in front of the gate.
“We mobilised and our officials were here before 8 a.m., but the estate’s leadership claimed that non-resident hoodlums might destabilise the process outside the gate. So, they did not feel secure,’’ he explained.
Agbaje added that statistics show that VGC has eight polling units at the VGC Park and two others outside the park, all designated by INEC.
He said also that statistics showed that there were 6,024 registered voters in the city, 5,624 of whom collected their Permanent Voter Cards.
“When we got here, we saw a different situation where it was even difficult for security operatives to contain.
“I had to inform INEC national headquarters about the situation and it was agreed that we should mobilise here tomorrow morning at 8.30 to conduct the election.
“We are still appealing to the corps members to come on Sunday, but if they don’t come, we shall mobilise our regular staff because they will be free after today’s exercise,’’ Agbaje said.
He assured the residents that INEC staff would be around to conduct the election on Sunday and stressed that their votes must count.
“The Commission’s decision and idea is that everybody should be allowed his or her votes; we don’t want to disenfranchise anybody,’’ he added.
Earlier, Mr Olumide Akpata, immediate past President of the Nigerian Bar Association and one of the leaders in VGC noted that INEC could not change venues of polling units without proper notification.
Akpata said INEC officially located the polling units at the VGC Park and not at the VGC gate, stressing that: “if we had been told that the gate is the official location of the polling units, we would have no choice.
“Just give us official communication to that effect for our executive committee to inform the rest of the community that the polling units have been officially repositioned by INEC.
“We are not illiterates; we know we cannot just go to any location to vote.
“INEC refused to give that kind of notification to the association. When we came out this morning, we were told to go to the gate for the election.
“When we got to the gate, we told INEC officials point blank that we would not be voting at an illegal location. It is not about being elitist or about being entitled. It is illegal; we are not to vote there.’’
Akpata noted that for the presidential and National Assembly elections, voting went on till around 3 a.m. in the area.
“Due to no fault of ours, voting has not started at the VGC now,’’ he lamented.
Akpata also faulted INEC’s allegation that some of its electoral personnel were held hostage at the VGC during the Feb. 25 elections.
“I totally contest that allegation. It is so preposterous. INEC officials arrived late that day and tried to leave early and we said they could not do that.
“Nobody held anybody hostage. We as citizens only demanded that the right things must be done,’’ he stressed.
NAN reports that the disappointed voters urged INEC not to announce the results of Saturday’s polls until after elections had taken place at the VGC. (NAN)