By Ononye VC
Caritas Nigeria has expressed “regret and total disappointment” at the behaviour and processes surrounding Saturday’s presidential elections.
In a hard-hitting post-national interim election assessment issued during the week, Caritas Nigeria’s executive secretary and CEO, Fr Uchechukwu Obodoechina, accused the national electoral body and public officials in some states of “sabotage and crass complicity” in conducting the general election.
Sabotage by some public officials
“It is with deep regret that we announce our total disappointment with the snail-pace deployment of sensitive and non-sensitive materials in more than 50% of the 176,606 polling units across the country. It is not only disheartening to imagine that after the declaration of curfew before the election and the accompanying empty roads and streets, INEC officials and security personnel were unable to reach more than 60% of the polling units nationwide before 12 p.m.,” Obodoechina observed.
He added: “While this happened, excuses from the INEC have been puerile and unjustified, with paucity of proactiveness on the part of the national commissioners responsible for logistics and voter education. As we noted in our earlier press briefing, there are reports signalling sabotage and crass complicity as some state officials made the arrival of materials difficult in others to gain political advantage for their parties,” he said.
Caritas Nigeria said the conduct of public officials in some states amounted to “sabotage of the highest proportion designed to derail the electoral process” and in some states, what happened amounts to “a crime of some sort.”
With the approval of the country’s Catholic bishops, Caritas Nigeria deployed 6,000 accredited observers across 36 states of the federation. This was in addition to over 10,000 other citizen observers—all continually feeding the organisation’s election situation room with information.
Unsatisfactory conduct of the INEC
Obodoechina said the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) displayed glaring incompetence and inefficiency. “In some cases, voting materials were delayed even for such short distances of 5 kilometres,” he noted.
“The Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BIVAS) in itself is good … indeed it is a very good innovation, and its introduction to our voter authentication is great. However, the unprecedented and evil manipulation of the system in more than 30% of the polling units indicate a systematic ploy by INEC to compromise the precedents set by well-meaning Nigerians,” asserted Caritas Nigeria.
Caritas Nigeria is disturbed, for instance, by the “deployment of one BIVAS machine in polling units having more than 2,000 voters who had waited for more than 5 hours in long queues without the sighting of INEC officials.” Presiding officers were sometimes given wrong codes and uncharged batteries for the BIVAS machines in most rural areas, observed Caritas Nigeria.
Maintain peace and wait for official results
Nevertheless, Obodoechina commended Nigerians for their patriotism and resilience and for conducting themselves peacefully, notwithstanding that INEC has not lived up to expectations. He asked them to continue maintaining the peace and patiently wait for the announcement of full results.
“This is not the path we have desired, having risen from the shattering wreckages done by the military rulership before 1999. Arising from this, therefore, we recommend, with immediate effect, that ballot audit, fresh conduct of elections in areas where overwhelming violence took the day, and the seamless overhauling of most of the commissioners of the INEC must happen to avert civil disobedience. We urge our fellow Nigerians not to be discouraged but wait patiently for the full results of the pool and go out for the next round of the elections come 11th March 2023,” said Obodoechina.