In Anambra peaceful elections despite voter apathy, operational hiccups



…Gunmen invade polling unit in Ezinifite
…Youths block INEC officials in Nnewi South over uploading of results

National Light reporters, Chuka Nnabuife, Rose Oranye, Uche Kalu,Nkechi Ikenwoke, Emeka Nnadozie, Nkiruka Ezedinugwu, Ruth Orji, Ifeanyi Ndukwe, Izunna Okafor, Chinwendu Uzoatu, Ijeoma Ekwowusi and Uchechi Okani in their tour of polling centres across Anambra State during the Saturday, March 18 legislative elections found a trend of voter apathy, some incidents of vote-buying but an encouraging development of early deployment of voting items and election workers. They report :

The House of Assembly Elections in Anambra State, though nearly marred by low turn out of voters and vote buying by agents of major political parties, was generally peaceful in various parts of the state.

National Light’s reporters who monitored the elections noted that unlike previous elections, INEC officials and materials arrived early enough and there was no report of violence.

At Polling Unit 04-07-022, ARROMA Junction 3, INEC officials arrived as early as 7am, but voters were no around for the exercise.

As at 9.21am, only four voters have been accredited, while the INEC officials were seen relaxed waiting for voters, while party agents and observers who were around could not believe it was the same polling unit filled with people during the February 25 presidential and National Assembly Elections.

According to the acting presiding officer of the unit, Andre Odinamkpa, there’s nothing they could do rather than wait and see what will happen before the closing time

The story was the same at ARROMA 1 and 2 as at 9am when our reporter visited the polling units.

Voting started at about 8:30am at polling unit 008 ARROMA Junction, with low turnout of voters. Everything was seen working well including the BVAS machine.

Other polling units, including Awka 3, Unit 002 within the same location were yet to commence the election as the electorates were not seen to exercise their franchise.

In an interview, a Labour Party agent, David Adeleke said that there is very poor turnout of voters probably as a result of the outcome of the presidential election.

“The turnout is not much and a lot of vehicles are running around as if people are not interested in voting. People may be disappointed probably as a result of what happened during the presidential election. But we should all know that at the end of today, a leader must emerge. I encourage people to come out and vote in order to select their choice leader”, Adeleke said.

There was also voter apathy in Agulu Awka Ward 5, which has the highest number in terms of numerical strength in Awka.
Although the INEC officials arrived earlier with their materials but voters were not around as at 10am.

At the central place of the Ward 5, with polling units 01,02,027,028,029,030, about two voters were seen around but the INEC officials were complete, including the security agents, who arrived since 8:am.
According to one of the community leaders, Emma Nwobu, the voter apathy is as a result of the abysmal conduct of the INEC in last two weeks’ election, as people’s hopes were dashed.

At Adebebe Amawbia Ward 2, Unit 015 and 008,there was impressive turn out of people.

The party agents of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and Labour Party (LP) expressed their satisfaction on the progress of the election, adding that it has been peaceful and commendable as no challenge from INEC has been witnessed.

Speaking to the journalists during the election, the PDP party agent, Ester Kamsiyochukwu Onuora said that regardless the peaceful election, she witnessed canvassers from certain parties on ground, writing names of electorates.

Meanwhile, security agencies were seen on ground to maintain peace and avoid violence.

At Polling units within Real Estate, Agu-Awka Wards and Aroma Ward 008, low turnout of voters was witnessed around 12noon.

Charles Oboh, a resident of Awka, observed a very disturbing rate of voter apathy which caused the low turn out witnessed today. This could not be far from disappointment with the last presidential election as their expectations were not met.

At Real Estate Primary School 1, Polling Unit 011, voting started as early as 8:40 am.

Mr Uzochukwu, the presiding officer said that the BVAS and all other materials are working fine.
He also said that the number of registered, voters is 796 but so far, about 100 voters have been accredited and they have voted.

On her part, the presiding officer at Real Estate Primary School 2, Ward 12, who pleaded anonymity, mentioned that they have witnessed low turnout, unlike the previous election where voters were out in their numbers

At Umuenechi Polling Units 026 and 043, Awka South Local Government Area, INEC officials arrived quite early.
Accreditation and voting started around 9am as BVAS functioned optimally. Also security agents were on ground.

At Government Technical College (GTC), Awka, Polling units 023, 024 and 025, INEC officials were on ground for the day’s business but voters were coming out slowly.

At Umubele Agulu Ward one with six polling units, voting started by 8 am with low turn out of voters.

However, in these polling units, vote buying was the order of the day as party agents openly share money to voters while compelling them to vote for their party.

Speaking to National Light, a voter, Mrs Nneka Nwankwo said that people were not coming out because they feel their votes may not count because of what happened on February 25 presidential election.

She noted that people were being beckoned from their houses to come and vote.
According to her, “there is need for serious enlightenment for people to accept to come out, because they believe their votes will not count.

Another voter, Mr. Okechukwu Onuora attributed the low turnout of voters to lack of trust on INEC, as they believed that their coming out to vote is not important as INEC will declare whatever results they like.

At Ward 8, Agu Oka, some electorates reluctantly came out to vote at the different polling units.

In the Polling Unit 004, which has 748 registered voters, only a handful of voters were present.
Voting started by 8am but the voting arena was scanty.

Speaking to pressmen, a PDP agent, May Adebanjo expressed dismay over the incident.

“The turnout is very poor. The people are not happy. I appeal to INEC and the Nigerian government to do the needful by ensuring implementation of certain standards to encourage voters and chart a better course of the future of the nation.

In Polling Unit 002, which is located close to Anambra State Ministry of Lands and Survey, the turnout of voters was equally low. The 002 PU boasts of 790 eligible voters. According to the Polling Officer, Desmond( surname withheld), voting started by 9am. He said everything was calm and orderly as the voters were cooperative.

An electorate, lkechukwu Offie said he was happy the process was calm and peaceful but lamented that the turnout of voters were poor. He encouraged all eligible voters to come out en masse and exercise their franchise.

In PU 018, an APGA party agent , Pastor Emmanuel lfeanyi Adibe groaned over the poor response from the masses. He reiterated the need for the people’s mandate to hold sway if they duly elect the candidate of their choice.

At Nkpor Ward 1, Polling Unit 009, there was impressive turn out of voters, with party agents glaringly engaging in vote buying.

In Nnewi South Local Government Area, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), for the first time, arrived the venues of election in various communities earlier before the scheduled time for election commencement.

When our reporter started visiting some of the various polling units across the local government area at about 7:49am, it was observed that the INEC officials and materials were already on ground and set, waiting for 8:30am given time to start accreditation and voting. Some officials said they were instructed to start at exactly 8:30.

Upon return at the polling units, it was observed that voting had already started, while electorates were trooping in and out the venues to exercise their franchise, in a calm and serene atmosphere, with the BVAS machines functioning effectively as expected.

However, a dramatic scene erupted at Amichi community in Nnewi South Local Government Area of Anambra State as youths of the community blocked the officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) insisting they must upload the election results on INEC portal before leaving the area.

The INEC officials were said to have concluded their major election duties, announced and recorded the results in the result sheets, and were set to go back to the local government headquarters in Ukpor, before Amichi youths blocked their vehicle and insisted they must upload the results on the commission’s portal.

When interviewed by our reporter, a concerned youth of the community, Nzewi Chukwudum, said they did so to ensure that their votes count this time, to avoid being manipulated or tampered with.

Some of the INEC officials were seen sweating under pressure as they were trying to upload the results on the INEC portal, amid network frustration. They pleaded to be released and assured they would upload the results when they get to the local government headquarters in Ukpor.

At Ezinifite community in Nnewi South Local Government Area of Anambra, unknown gunmen reportedly invaded some voting centres in the community.

The heavily-armed hoodlums were said to have invaded the area at about, with some gunshots released into the air to announce their arrival.

According to an eyewitness who pleaded anonymity, the hoodlums came on motorcycles, while the electorates and the officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) took to their heels, upon the hearing of their ear-splitting gunshots.

The source further revealed that the gunmen ‘scattered’ the cubicles and the tables used by the INEC officials, after which they also carted away some motorcycles belonging to the voters.

The source further alleged that the hoodlums carted away some (yet-to-be-identified) election materials abandoned by the fleeing INEC officials.

Some of the centres reportedly invaded by the gunmen include Etiti 1 & 2, Umuerimanwa, and others.

It would be recalled that communities in Nnewi South Local Government Area and its environs have been major flashpoints of insecurity in Anambra State.

This notwithstanding, no single security official was also seen accompanying or guarding the INEC officials, election materials or even protecting the electorates at the various polling units in the area, as no security officials was stationed at any voting centre during the election.

Howbeit, security officials, such as the
Nigerian Army, the Police, and the DSS were separately seen patrolling the area at intervals.

In Ihiala LGA, election did not hold in Ebenesi communities which includes Ubuluisiuzo, Mbosi, Lilu, Orsumoghu, Iseke and Azia due to security reasons, even as no violence was recorded in other parts of the area where the election was held.

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