AS different reactions continue to trail the conduct of the February 25 presidential election, the Catholic Church and Society Department, has said the failure of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to upload results of the 2023 presidential election to the IReV portal in real-time from polling units, was a significant setback which jeopardized the credibility of the election.
The Director, Church and Society Department and National Secretary, JPDC, an organ of the Catholic Church, Rev. Fr. Uchechukwu Obodoechina, said this at the launch of its observation report on the 2023 general elections, on Friday, in Abuja.
He said that the Church and Society department, including Caritas Nigeria, had, during the elections, deployed trained observers for the 2023 general elections and concluded that the elections were greeted with a myriad of irregularities.
“One of the greatest flaws of the 2023 Elections was the inability, unwillingness, and outright refusal of INEC to upload results from Form EC8A to the IReV portal in real-time from the PUs as was severally promised before the conduct of the election. Laws are made to be obeyed and in a situation where INEC obeyed its enabling law in breach, it calls for serious inquiries and demands answers as to why”, he said.
“There were widespread and very embarrassing displays of unpreparedness and/or incompetence on election day by the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC] whose Staff and Personnel turned up at their polling units very late with incomplete equipment in most cases.
“The logistics arrangements for transportation and other issues that would have aided the smooth movement of officials and materials to the polling units were very poorly coordinated; thus, polling officials and materials arrived very late in most polling units. especially during the Presidential and National Assembly Elections.
“The presence of Security Officials at the polling units was grossly inadequate to maintain orderliness and guarantee the protection of people and electoral materials. Where they were available, some looked the other way as hoodlums ransacked the polling units and vandalized sensitive election materials. In fact, Security personnel in some cases aided the commission of infractions on the integrity of the electoral processes during the Elections.
“There were incidents of electoral malpractices, intimidation, violence, and other irregularities in Lagos, Rivers, Delta, Imo, and Ebonyi States during the elections. There were manifest recourse to identity politics, deferential citizenship, ethnic profiling, failure of consequences; complicit and partisan actions by some Resident Electoral Commissioners; monetization of the electoral process, curious judicial pronouncements, and misuse of the power of incumbency.”
Speaking on the way forward, among other things, Obodoechina, said: “Proper training should be given to INEC officials on the use of election equipment and the roles expected of them for future elections
“Adequate logistics arrangements should be put in place for the orderly movement of Personnel and materials from the LGAS to the Registration Area Centre and the polling units.
“INEC should do an in-depth analysis and review of the performances of its Officials during the polis to hand out sanctions to those who deliberately brought the work of the Commission to ridicule during the elections. The widespread incidents of failure of consequences should be tamed to avoid impunity.
“Security Agencies should also examine their Personnel during the elections. This should be done by looking at many video footage that were recorded during the elections. The attitude of “protecting our own” associated with the topmost echelon of the Security architecture should be done away with 6. All reported cases of election-related offenses should be investigated and charged to court to serve as a deterrent to others.
“We are of the view that further efforts should be made by INEC as permitted under the law to push for complete electronic voting during elections. It would reduce to the barest minimum the obvious infractions being experienced during elections in Nigeria.”