A coalition of civil society organizations says the collation of election results at the recently held governorship elections in Edo state was the major weak link of the Independent National Electoral Commission at the poll.
The civil society groups under the aegis of Civil Society Situation Room (Situation Room), in assessing the conduct of the election, said, although voting ended early and the process ‘largely peaceful and devoid of any major acts of violence,’ the collation process was very slow and had to be suspended late in the evening, resuming the next morning.
According to the Civil Society Situation Room, with the interval created by suspension of collation by INEC, there was no way of confirming or verifying the integrity of election materials, ballots and results.
The civil society coalition based its interim report of the September 28 poll on field reports by its observers and other election observers network.
The group in the report said, ‘the gaps and challenges with collation of results certainly raises issues of transparency and integrity of the ballot and elections that INEC will need to resolve if elections in Nigeria is to be accepted as credible.’
They added that the delay resulted in reports emanating from some registration area centres and local governments of tampering with votes.
In its report the group said it received reports of ‘attempts’ to fiddle with the collation process by the inflation of voting figures in favour of a particular political party after process was concluded in Esan Central LGA.
The group observed that in addition to slow collation and the attendant challenges, there were reports from several local governments of security personnel not being available to protect ballot materials and to accompany electoral officials from the polling units to the ward collation centres and of their being absent at the different collation centres.
However, the group commended INEC for prompt arrival of election materials which made it possible for the early commencement of accreditation and voting in most polling units across the state.
The group in its recommendation called on INEC to show a greater determination to improve on the electoral process by better managing the collation of results.
The group said:
‘A situation where voting concludes at the polling units early during the day and collation begins so much late at night does not allow for transparency and credibility of the electoral process.’
In addition, the group urged INEC to take proactive steps to ensure that the secrecy of voting is protected and that political parties who buy votes are not placed in a position that they can verify the thumb printing of ballot papers.
Meanwhile, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) national caucus on Wednesday rejected the outcome of the Edo election describing it as a ‘charade’. Their meeting chaired by Senator Ahmed Makarfi also had in attendance Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT), Walid Jubrin, National Assembly members, governors and other members of the party.
The PDP national caucus however called on party members nationwide and in Edo State to remain calm and resilient with believe that justice will be served.