By Emmanuel Oloniruha
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it will take drastic measures against proven irregularities in Saturday’s governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections.
Festus Okoye, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, expressed the commitment at a news conference at INEC National Situation Room, Abuja on Sunday.
He said that the Commission did not take the patience of citizens for granted, pledging to take steps to protect the integrity of the votes and consolidate the progress made so far in the electoral process.
Okoye said that in line with the commission’s promise to have improved state elections, most polling units nationwide opened on schedule and citizens were attended to promptly during the elections.
He said there was improved voter authentication using the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) while the uploading of Polling Unit results to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) witnessed remarkable improvement.
Okoye said that INEC left no stone unturned as far as the processes and procedures under its control were concerned.
“However, for difficult and unforeseen circumstances outside the Commission’s control, we did our best to respond, especially where processes were disrupted by actors over whom we have little or no control.
“Such diabolical behaviour did not only affect citizens but also impacted on the Commission’s officials and processes.
“INEC staff, both regular and ad hoc were victims of violence. Some of our staff were abducted, harassed, intimidated, hospitalized and in one case killed.
“Nevertheless, where we could not deploy to enable citizens to vote, the Commission took the decision to remobilize to such places to enable citizens to exercise their franchise.
“Unfortunately, we could not extend the same to areas where voting was disrupted, and election materials destroyed.
“We are keeping our eyes on those areas and would not hesitate to remobilize where the outcome of the election is affected.”
Okoye said that at the moment, collation of results and declaration of winners for the 28 Governorship and 993 State Assembly elections were ongoing nationwide.
“We are committed to the sanctity of the process and will not hesitate to take drastic measures against proven irregularities.
“Allegations of voter inducement, harassment and manipulation of results will be reviewed and addressed,” Okoye said.
He decried the invasion of the commission office in Obingwa Local Government Area office in Abia during the collation of results for the Governorship and State Assembly elections.
“In contention was the collated result from the Registration Areas for the Governorship election in that Local Government Area.
“The intention was to force the collation of these contentious results.
“The behaviour of these thugs is unacceptable and there will be a thorough review of the results,” Okoye said.
On the last presidential election, Okoye said, “the commission did not deploy to all the 176,846 polling units during the presidential and National Assembly elections.
“We explained to Nigerians that there were polling units that had zero registered voters and consequently, the Commission deployed to a total of 176,606 polling units.
“Not only that, there were places where elections did not take place and there were places where the deployment did not take place.
“So in those areas one does not expect any result to be uploaded to the INEC Results Viewing Portal for such areas,” Okoye said.
He said while the commission had secured data on the national elections on its reconfigured BVAS, it had been providing political parties the needed data for the prosecution of litigations in court.
On the Commission’s findings on glitches encountered in uploading presidential election results on IReV, Okoye said there had been improved performance of the portal in terms of uploading of polling units’ results in real time.
“You can also notice that there was improved performance in terms of voter identification and authentication.
“What that means is that the commission is making progress and also making efforts to overcome whatever challenges were recorded during the Presidential and National Assembly elections.
“But I believe that in the fullness of time, when we are done with all the elections as an electoral management body, we will still sit down, do both internal and external review of our processes and procedures.
“There is a possibility that during that time, we may come up with more measures or more actions to make sure that the type of glitch we experienced during the Presidential and National Assembly elections does not reoccur,” he said.(NAN)