The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has reminded the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that Nigerians expect nothing short of error-free and transparent process for credible elections on March 28 and April 11.
This is contained in a statement by Mr Olisa Metuh, the PDP National Publicity Secretary, on Saturday in Abuja.
He said the admonition had become necessary because of the series of complains from Nigerians regarding reported lapses, experienced in the testing of card readers and the distribution of the Permanent Voter Cards (PVC).
Metuh said that the worrisome fall-out from the test carried out in some states of the federation, vindicated earlier widespread calls by stakeholders that the card readers should be thoroughly tested.
This, Metuh said, was critical to ascertain their workability for free, fair and credible elections before being deployed for the actual polls slated to commence on March 28.
He expressed worry over the reported lapses which included non-verification of voters’ fingerprints, even after authenticating their PVCs and slow accreditation process, resulting from poor internet server operations in some locations.
Other lapses the PDP spokesman said included apparent inadequate knowledge of the card readers by both INEC officials and voters.
He said that the facts speak for themselves, following the emerging problems and challenges from the testing of the card reader which commenced in parts of the country on March 7.
“The PDP and indeed all well-meaning Nigerians await INEC’s official response or its final decision after such defining challenges,” the PDP spokesman said.
INEC said it deployed 1,602 personnel for the demonstration of the Smart Card Readers (SCRs) held in 12 states on Saturday.
This is contained in the commission’s daily bulletin issued on Saturday in Abuja.
The statement added that 171,857 voters were involved in the exercise, that took place in 12 registration areas /wards across 12 states, two each from a geo-political zone.
The states are: Ekiti and Lagos, South-West; Anambra and Ebonyi, South-East; as well as Delta and Rivers, South-South.
Other are: Kano and Kebbi, North-West; Bauchi and Taraba, North-East; Niger and Nasarawa, North-Central.
The statement also listed the registration areas.
Voters who participated in Saturday’s mock test of the card reader machines in Port Harcourt, Rivers State expressed delight that the machines functioned well.
They spoke at Ward 1, Port Harcourt, where personnel deployed by INEC used the card reader machines to verify voters.
Mrs Hanchikaru Nyeche, who was accredited at Unit 14, located at Ezimgbu, Chinda Hall 1, said the card readers functioned well, adding that it took her less than one minute to verify her name.
“I just went in and I did my verification within a minute,’’ she said.
Mr Godwin Michael, who also did his accreditation at the same Unit 14, said the system was fast, compared to the previous method.
“The system is okay, if INEC wants to use it for the election. I believe it will help to eliminate fraud in the system,’’ he said.
Chief Chucks Adinusa, who did his verification and accreditation at Unit 23, said the exercise was smooth and recommended it for use during the forthcoming polls.
Adinusa, who said he was at the centre as early as 7 a.m. and INEC officers came to the units before 8 a.m., said that the exercise commenced on time.
Meanwhile, Mrs Arum Chika, INEC Presiding Officer at Unit 14 said the exercise went on well, although she observed low turnout of electorate at her unit.
Chika also commended the early turnout, adding that as at 10 a.m. when he visited the centre, 17 people had been verified successfully.
“The card readers functioned well, but there were some people the card readers could not capture their finger.
“What we did was to give them incidence form to fill,’’ Chika said.
Meanwhile, INEC National Commissioner in charge of Borno,Yobe and Bauchi states, Col. Mohammed Hammanga (rtd), described the outcome of the trial elections conducted in Jama’are , Bauchi State, as satisfactory.
Fielding questions from newsmen in Jama’are on Saturday, Hammanga said the main objective of the exercise was to test the Card Reading devices, adding that the outcome indicated that they could be used successfully.
“The exercise was satisfactory. No Card Reader failed. We are happy with the turn-out of voters. The success is an indication that it is possible to use the Card Readers and ensure free and fair elections.
“The same exercise was carried out in the Federal Capital Territory some time ago, which was also successful,” he said.
The Commissioner said that the only problem identified during the exercise was the rejection of finger-prints of some people by the device.
He said the problem was a minor issue which could be resolve by filling a form for the affected persons, after which they could vote.
Speaking in the same manner, INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner in charge of Bauchi state, Prof. Hamman Sa’ad, said the trial election was successful and an indication that the Card Readers, were reliable.
The field test of the card reader machines recorded large turnout of eligible voters in Kumbotso Local Government Area of Kano State.
Eligible voters turned out en masse to participate in the exercise.
Some of the polling units that witnessed large turnout of voters included Batakaye, Bubbugaje, Sheka Makaranta and Sheka Maidille, among others.
In most of the polling units visited, men outnumbered women.
Some of the voters expressed happiness with the arrangements put on ground for the exercise.
Malam Salisu Ali said that the field test had proved wrong some Nigerians who were pessimistic about the conduct of the forthcoming general elections.
“With this field test, one is confident that INEC is serious about the elections’’, he said.
Another voter, who simply gave his name as Usman, called on INEC to address the challenges encountered during the field test before the election proper.
In Ekiti, it takes a voter less than a minute to be verified.
The field test of the effectiveness of the card reader machine was also hitch-free.
Ambassador Thomas Oloruntobi, Oyo State Resident Electoral Commissioner, who also monitored the exercise, said the effectiveness of the machine had put all speculations to rest.
“Now that the machine has been tested, this will put to rest the mind of those who are doubting the effectiveness of the card reader.
“As you can see the field demonstration of the exercise has actually proven that the machine can perform creditably without any hitch.’’
A voter at Unit 002, Ward 9, Dalimmore Area of Ado-Ekiti, Mr Oluwafemi Adebobola, after the authentication of his PVC, said the process was fast.
“ I spent less than one minute to have my permanent voter card verified,’’ he said.
There was a high turnout of registered voters in Niger State.
Residents of Egwa-Gwada area of Shiroro Local Government Area started coming out as early as 8 a.m. to participate in the exercise.
Dr Chris Iyimoga, INEC Commissioner in charge of Niger, Kaduna, Kwara states and the FCT, told newsmen that the whole exercise was encouraging.
“The number of people coming out is good as of this early hour of the exercise. We have all the card readers in place with additional ones as backups.
“The pace of screening has been smooth. In some instances, where there were delays, it was not due to the machines.
“The reading may reject the fingers, because of blurred capturing. But, by and large, this has been identified and rectified,” he said.
Mr Nasir Ayilara, INEC’s Niger State Resident Electoral Commissioner, said the trial had been accepted by the people.
He said the sensitisation conducted by the Commission had paid off with the large turnout witnessed.
“We are happy that what we expected was achieved. Our people had carried out sensitisation in the last few days.
“The various challenges encountered here today (Saturday) will be used to refine the entire process of the card reader and other logistics details of the upcoming elections,” Ayilara said.
Twenty-two polling units were involved in the pre-election trial in the wards.
Some challenges encountered during the process included lack of proper handling of the machine by officers, non-compliance with machine instructions and the resultant waste of time.
The field test in Ebonyi State suffered a major setback as it failed to authenticate owners.
It was observed that the card reader, where effective, was only able to authenticate voters that registered in 2011.
Mr Lawrence Azubuike, INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner for Ebonyi State, said the authentication of the voters by the card reader was not smooth as it was poor in most units.
Azubuike said that a comprehensive report on the entire exercise would be made at the end of the mock election.
“The essence of the field test is to determine the ability and efficacy of the card readers and where there are challenges we devise an option to correct them.
“Rectification of the observed hiccups will be made by our head office in Abuja at the end of the entire exercise,”
Mr Maigari Dikko, the state Commissioner of Police and the chairman, Consultative Security Committee, said that security during the mock voting was tight in order to avoid any lapses.
“We shall beef up security on the election day proper. We cannot just leave anything to chances,’’ he said.
On his part, the State Commandant, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Mr Nathaniel Ubong, said that corps mobilised 48 of its personnel for the exercise.
“Three personnel each were posted to each of the 16 polling units.
“This is to ensure that security arrangement is spread through the length and breadth of all the units in the state,’’ he said.
The State Director, National Orientation Agency, Dr Emmanuel Abbah, said the exercise was going on smoothly except for the little challenges and unimpressive turnout of registered voters.
Abbah, however, called for more deployment of personnel to man the units in future exercise.
The accreditation started at 8 a.m. amid tight security by the Police, Army, Civil Defence, Directorate of State Security and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC).