A civil society organisation, Connected Development (CODE), has raised the alarm on significant developments highlighted by its observers during the Saturday’s off-cycle governorship elections in Bayelsa and Imo States.
CODE restated its commitment to empowering marginalized communities through information, technology, and social media, using its election intelligence tool – UZABE, to monitor the elections in the three states through thousands of its volunteer observers.
Addressing reporters at CODE’s situation room in Lokoja, the Kogi state capital, the head of deployment, Emmanuel Njoku, acknowledged the positive efforts of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), security operatives, and the people in ensuring a commitment to a free and fair electoral process.
He, however, raised concerns about impediments faced by observers, including instances where they were restricted from taking pictures. Njoku also said there were delayed voting in specific locations due to the absence of party agents, and incidents of vote buying were highlighted. He listed areas in which Uzabe observers have identified some concerns that demand attention.
He said, “In Ajaokuta LGA, at 2nd 200 Community Open space borehole PU 043, Kogi state, our observers were impeded from taking pictures by security personnel, infringing upon observers’ freedom during the process.
“Bayelsa witnessed delayed voting in Kanabiri comp Ward of Sagbama LGA due to the absence of party agents, and late arrival of INEC officials at Yenogoa-Fankpo Square Ward. “An incident in Ekeremor LGA (Azidekeoreyeine Square Ward), involved an individual attempting to abscond with INEC materials, but citizens resolved the situation without injuries. This stands as a testament to the collective power of the masses.
“At Eke-mbutu Market Square Ward of Mbaitoli LGA, Imo state, the BVAS machine malfunctioned and displayed Chinese language, causing a delay that was much later rectified. “While we cannot conclusively speak to voter turn out at this time, Low voter turnout has been reported in some parts of these states. like we observed at Owerri North at Okwu Uratta Primary School Ward.
“Disturbingly, in Bayelsa, Market Square Ogia Town Ward of Ogbia LGA, verified reports of vote buying have surfaced, with amounts going as high as N20,000. This was also observed at Ama-Ukwu Umuawaka Square Ward, of Njaba LGA, Imo state where votes were traded for as low as one thousand naira. This practice is disturbing and must be halted.”
On his part, the Chief Executive Officer of the CODE, Hamzat Lawal, called on all stakeholders, including security personnel and INEC officials, to ensure the peaceful ongoing electoral process. He also urged INEC to prioritise the electronic transmission of polling unit results, emphasizing transparency and timely collation.