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Nigeria is all set for the gubernatorial elections on Saturday

17 March 2023
Reading time: 5 minutes

Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials, political party representatives and security operatives have spent most of Friday, March 17, adding the final touches at polling units across the country, checking safety and security measures and arranging transport for people registered in local government areas so that they can vote in Saturday’s gubernatorial elections.

The Borno State resident electoral commissioner had also assured voters that the problems encountered using the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machines and the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portals had been resolved, adding that staff members had received further training on how to use them correctly.

Political parties and voters were furious because the BVAS and IReV machines had not worked properly in various areas around the country for the presidential elections on February 25, meaning ballots had to be manually, instead of electronically, collated.

Because of this, many people had viewed the elections as flawed and said they were not free and fair. Some even suggested that the elections should be declared void and held again once the machines were working properly. There had also been some security issues.

However, the Borno State chapter of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps told RNI reporter Ummi Fatima Baba Kyari on Friday that everything was set for peaceful elections.

Superintendent Bukar A Bukar said: “We will ensure we protect people’s lives and properties during the elections. We will also be checking that the BVAS machines and IReV portals are well secured to stop thugs from causing chaos or vandalising state property.

“We are all set and prepared. Strict security measure are in place. I call on the public to please abide by the government’s rules so that we can ensure a peaceful election on Saturday.”

Muhammad Ibrahim Magaji, INEC’s resident electoral commissioner in Borno State, said election campaigning had been stopped on Thursday and final preparations at all registration centres in local government areas would be completed on Friday.

“Voters must produce their permanent voters cards [PVCs] for verification. If they do not have a PVC they will not be allowed to vote. Ballot papers are being delivered to polling units on Friday. The BVAS machines and IReV portals will be in place on Saturday.”

In Maiduguri, RNI reporter Nana Hadiza Mustapha watched as vehicles provided by the Borno State government arrived to take people to the local government areas where they were registered. INEC staff members, carrying electoral equipment, were among those being transported. Security convoys had been deployed to accompany the vehicles.

Vehicles headed for the Gwoza, Bama, Magumeri, Guzamala, Kaga and Abadam local government areas had left already.

Alhaji Modu, the returning officer for the Alhajiri polling unit in Benisheik in the Kaga Local Government Area, said: “We are collecting all electoral items from INEC so that they will be in place for voting tomorrow.

“Because we encountered issues with the BVAS machines during the presidential elections, we organised special training for our staff members so that the same issues do not occur during Saturday’s elections. Our staff members are well trained and we are ready to conduct successful elections throughout the country.

“In the presidential elections, most people cooperated with officials and kept to the rules, enabling us to conduct successful elections. We hope people will do the same for the elections for governors.

Zara Muhammad, originally from Bama, said: “We were running late and by the time we got here the vehicle transporting people to our local government area had already left. We don’t know if another vehicle will come. There are quite a few people from Bama. We hope we will still get the chance to vote.”

Abubakar Bilyaminu, a community leader in Gwoza, said he was worried because not everyone had been picked up and transported to the local government area.

“We are just waiting here. We hope there will be another vehicle going our way. We are all set to vote and we are praying for peaceful elections.”

While preparations were ongoing, INEC received a report about an explosion in Gwoza in the early hours of Friday. It said one person was killed and three others were wounded.

The news concerned residents because during the presidential vote two weeks ago insurgents fired several gunshots at voters from the top of Mandara Mountains, wounding two women and three men.

When they heard about the explosion on Friday, some residents feared it was another attack by insurgents.

But Usman Idris Ngoshe, a resident, told RNI that the explosion had occurred at the local scrap metal dealer. “It sounded as if a gas cylinder had exploded.”

Mohammed Ali Ndume, a senator representing Borno South in the National Assembly, told the Hausa version of the BBC that the explosion occurred in a car park close to the scrap metal dealer’s workshop.

“We suspect scrap metal collectors picked up explosive materials in the bush by mistake and these triggered the explosion.”

He confirmed one man had died and said the three wounded men were being taken to the Maiduguri Teaching Hospital.

He said the explosion was an accident and had nothing to do with insurgents.

“I call on the public to be calm and come out to vote. They do not have anything to fear. Everyone eligible voter must cast their ballots. We have very good security in place. By the grace of God, the elections will go smoothly and peacefully on Saturday.”



About the author

Aisha Sd Jamal