Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room has advised the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) to create more awareness on locations of newly created polling units, ahead of 2023 general election.
The coalition said this in a statement jointly signed by Ene Obi, its convener and Asma’u Joda and James Ugochukwu, co-conveners in Abuja on Tuesday.
It said the call was imperative to ensure that voters were able to vote at the right polling unit on Election Day.
The group said that it monitored INEC’s mock accreditation and made some observations and recommendations to ensure a hitch-free 2023 General Election.
“Situation Room observed that some voters were reassigned to new polling units without their knowledge and so could not be accredited in their previous voting unit when they showed up for accreditation.
“This report was received from several states including Rivers, Edo, Gombe, Bauchi, Jigawa and F.C.T.
‘’These redirection of voters to new polling units without their knowledge could cause significant disruptions ahead of the general elections if INEC does not find a way of communicating the new fact to registered voters.’’
It said the mock accreditation was conducted in a largely orderly and peaceful manner across the states and observers noted the effective use of BVAS in several areas.
‘’The Situation Room observes a huge improvement with the use of the BVAS from the last off-cycle Governorship elections in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun.
“The generally observed time used in accreditation ranged from one to two minutes for each voter.
“There were even instances where the BVAS could not accredit some voters through the fingerprint and facial recognition options.
‘’Situation Room observers also received reports and witnessed BVAS failing to accredit persons whose physical features and appearance had changed from the time of first registration.’’
The group said that the turnout generally of voters for the test run of accreditation was low and blamed the situation on low awareness created by INEC.
‘’It is also important to say that the exercise took place against a backdrop of current social conditions in Nigeria including shortages of fuel and currency.
‘’We recommend that INEC needs to increase the training of staff and ad hoc staff to be used during the general elections and cascaded down to enable more staff to be trained.’’
It said the configuration of BVAS machines would need to be done much more efficiently and effectively.
‘’Situation room advises INEC to address the challenge of BVAS failing to authenticate voters who have valid PVCs but whose physical features may have differentiated from their original features at first registration.
“From the accreditation test run just held and a low turnout, it is quite clear that the constraints of cash crunch on individuals may impact on voter turnout.
“The Federal Government may need to work hard and significantly reduce the debilitating effect of the recent currency change.
“Indeed, the cash crunch may even begin to pose a challenge to free votes as politicians who are reported to have now developed capacity and access to cash from the banks could use it in furtherance of vote buying and inducement to a cash hungry voting population.’’
The group said that the right of duly accredited observers to observe the 2023 elections would need to be re-emphasised and widely disseminated by INEC in order to assure citizens of INEC’s commitment to organise free poll.
It said that security agencies should commit to respecting observers’ rights to observe elections and refrain from interference with these well-established rights.