By Lateef Adegbite And Elizabeth Chukwuma
Those who think that there were technical hitches with the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, deployed by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, under the Chairmanship of Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, during the February 25, 2023, Presidential and National Assembly elections, would may have to do a rethink.
This is because the same BVAS, that were deployed during the elections,were still used during the just concluded governorship and House of Assembly elections on Saturday, March 18, 2023, though with minor reconfiguring. Note that the federal government had spent more than N300 billion to acquire the technology for the conduct of elections in Nigeria.
Many believe that the malfunctioning of the technology during the just concluded Presidential and national Assembly elections was a clear case of the incompetence of the electoral officials, sabotage and plot by the politicians who want to ensure that the results were never uploaded to the INEC ReV, in order to give the impression that it is ineffective and encourage the government to phase it out.
Aware that INEC officials and the ad-hoc staff, have been properly retrained on the handling of the BVAS to upload results in real time for public viewing may have informed why the polical masters and their foot soldiers , have gone back to the drawing and which may be difficult to manipulate, may have informed why the politicians have gone back to drawing board on how to disrupt the elections through violence to rig the elections.
This is evident going by what happened in Lagos, the home state of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, a former governor of the state,and now the President –elect , whose victory is being challenged in the Presidential election Tribunal , Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, by Peter Obi, a former governor of Anambra state, and the flag bearer of the Labour Party, LP.
Musiliu Akinsanya, popular, MC .Oluomo, Chairman , Lagos Parks and Management Committee, may have known that since the officials of the electoral umpire have decided to play to the regulations and guidelines of the 2023, electoral Act, by uploading the results in’’ real time’’ the APC, Candidates, seeking elective office, including Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the party governorship Candidate, may not win the election, that he had warned the Igbo residents in the state coming out to cast their vote but not ready to vote for the ruling APC ,in the state to stay at home or risk being attacked. The police Authorities had debunked the comments credited to Oluomo, asking people to disregard it as a joke.
Idowu Owohunwa, the Lagos state Commissioner of Police, may have risen to the challenge as he was said to have deployed more policemen on election duty to strategic locations in the state to promptly respond to any distress call on election violence in any area in the state. That was how far he could go.
Given the state police Authorities assurance to voters that there was no cause for alarm, may have encouraged many voters to come out to exercise their Franchise. Thy got it wrong. This because Oluomo, who has large follower of Area boys, popular, Agberos, who is not someone who issue a threat without pursuing it to its logical conclusion was said to have concluded arrangement with his boys to strike.
It was not surprising why some of the polling units in the state were attacked to scare the voters and give the party thugs opportunity to do what they want with the collaboration of the INEC staff. Eye witness, account disclosed that no sooner had the voters started troopinging out around 11 am, to vote in their various polling units than for the Political thugs, believed to be symphatisers of the APC, to strike.
. The Value News online Magazine had watched the bizarre situation as reported by Channels Television, showing how the political thugs had arrived some of the polling units in the state. Going by the Channels report, the thugs were armed with dangerous weapons such as bottles, sticks, canes, and fierce-looking dogs, which were used to chase the voters around.
Voters had expected the security agencies personnel, particular, policemen, on election duty in the state assigned to the polling units to protect them and the electoral officers to be on ground, but they were nowhere to found. The policemen and INEC adhoc staff, were said to have disappeared with the BVAS,to unknown location when they sighted the thugs, thus leaving the voters to their fate.
The Channels Television, report, monitored by The Value News Correspondent at the FCT, on the governorship and state elections, shows that the party thugs, who may have had the backing of their political sponsors, in high places, may have had a mandate to forestall a repeat of what happened during the Presidential and National Assembly elections but ensure that Sanwo-Olu, of the APC, who is seeking re-election, is returned to office, on May 29, 2023.
A man who was come to vote in his polling unit at Oshodi –Isolo, local government Area , but could not say where his loyalty lies was flogged by the party thugs as shown on Channels Television, , forcing him to vote for the APC, governorship and the House of Assembly Candidate , for his LGA, also of the APC.
The fear by the Victorian Garden city, VGC, residents that hoodlums might disrupt the election process may have discouraged the INEC ad-hoc staff who did not feel secure to come with their electoral materials to the estate , which is around the Lekki Area of the state, because of the incident of February 25, 2023, during the Presidential and National Assembly elections when they were allegedly held hostage by the hoodlums.
This may have informed why the INEC, Authorities in the state were forced to postpone the governorship and state Assembly elections in 10 polling units at the VGC, which was said to have continued on Sunday, March 19, 2023.
In Rivers state, over 50 INEC adhoc staff were arrested , by Policemen from MOPOL19 on election duty on Sunday, March 19, 2023, a day after the gubernatorial and state Assembly elections in a private residence in Rumueprikon , PortHarcourt, allegedly thumb-printing ballot papers for the ruling PDP, Candidates, in the state as the election was said to have been disrupted by thugs , thus leading to low turnout of voters during the state elections.
Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of Rivers state and immediate past minister of Transportation had accused political contractors of Nyeom Wike’s Administration of being behind the electoral violence in the state. Addressing Journalist after casting his vote at Ward 8, polling unit 14, , Ubima Community, in Ikwerre , LGA, the former Rivers state governor , who could not hide his feelings had described the conduct of the elections , in the south-south state as a ‘’complete failure of governance’’, which was an indictment on Wike.
He had said that ‘’the situation in the oil state had led to voter apathy as most people had failed ’’to show up for the polls for fear of being eaten by the thugs’’. The murder of Chisom Lenard, the Director General of the APC, Campaign in Ahoada West LGA, by yet-to be-identified gunmen in the afternoon of Saturday, March 18, 2023, during the governorship and state Assembly elections, bear eloquent testimony to the high level of electoral violence in the state.
In a related development, while casting his vote, in Daura, Community, in Katsna, hos home state, President Muhammadu Buhari, who noted that he is aware that ‘’the money is not there like before for people to sway their votes as they used to do’’, had advised voters that ‘’ if the politicians bring the money now, the people should pocket it and still vote for their conscience’’ .
But the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, under the close watch of Abdulaziz Bawa, operatives, on election duty,, across the country and who had put a close tab on politicians to guide against vote buying may not have cued into the Katsina state born Nigerian’s President’s advice.
The Commission Election Monitoring Team, in Sokoto state, were said to have intercepted bales of fabrics allegedly belonging to a Principal officer of the state House of Assembly seeking re-election, for distribution to voters in his LGA, Area, to sway their votes in his favour.
The antigraft agency personnel, may not have .allowed the items to get into the hands of the voters to forestall rigging.The Commission was said to have also in Argungu LGA, of Kebbi state, a vehicle, fully loaded with fabrics and other items suspected to be earmarked for voter inducement.
Even the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, could not spare the politicians, who had wanted to induce the voters, as the Commission was said to have arrested one Mahe Bello, with the sum of N38,00.00 cash, two Permanent Voters card, PVC, , one Automoted Teller Machine, ATM, and an infinix phone.
Another suspect, Musa Adamu, still in the custody of the ICPC, was said to have had in his possession CFA228,000, which was being offered to voters, meaning that some of the voters in the state , were not Nigerians.
Lt .gen. Farouk Yahaya, led Nigerian Army, on its part, who had been working round the clock to contain Terrorists , who were bent on disrupting the election process at the collation centres in the flashpoint states.There is no gain saying the fact that the Islamic Fundamentalist Group, BokoHaram and the Islamic State of West African Province, ISWAP, operating in the north eastern geopolitical region states of Borno and Yobe including the Bandits Group, operating in the north western states of Kaduna, Zamfara, Skoto, Katsina, and Niger, home state of Ibrahim Babangida, a retired Army General and former Nigerian military President are bent on disrupting process but for the troops being on the red alert at all times.
The Nigerian Airforce, under the close watch of Air Marshal Isiaka Oladayo Amao, was said to have carried out a major offensive against the bandits , killing scores of hem in multiple airstrikes in their hideout in Igu Village, Munya LGA, of Niger state to assist the ground troops .
The over 60 members of the ISWAP, who had attempted to infiltrate an Army base serving as a Collation centre for the March 18, 2023, state governorship and Assembly elections, would never forget their experience in a hurry as they were said to have met their waterloo, in the hands of Nigerian troops.
Reports , from military sources shows that the Insurgents had stormed Mafa in gun trucks and motorcycles on the early hours of Sunday, March 19, 2023, and headed towards the military base where the Collation of votes for the LGA, was ongoing.
Security experts had said that without the aggressively executed counter-attack operation which was supported by Operation Hadin Kai air Tskforce fighter jets that was said to have been dispatched to the scene which bombarded the fleeing terrorists, killing a large number of them, they would have disrupted the exercise at the Mafa Collation centre and other Areas of Borno, home state of Kashim Shettima, a former governor of the state and now, Vice President-elect, on the ticket of the APC.