Despite repeated assurances by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that smart card readers will function optimally and that there would be no recourse to manual accreditation or use of incidence form, the device malfunctioned massively in the ongoing governorship election in Anambra State.
Also contrary to the commission’s promise to rectify the challenges of the newly introduced Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) at a runoff election in Delta State two months ago, the new technology also failed to capture voters just like the smart card readers.
INEC had explained that BVAs would be more efficient than smart card readers as it enables human recognition through a biometric verification mechanism, using both fingerprint and facial recognition of voters.
But as both devices largely failed in many polling units in the Anambra poll, many voters were left stranded with some, after several trials and waiting under the sun, left the centres.
At polling units 003 and 004, ward 3 in Uruekwo primary school in Enugu-ukwu, one of the major towns in Njikoka, the smart card readers failed to capture fingerprints of many voters with INEC staff still contemplating on using manual accreditation.
Many of the voters could be seen struggling on the queue waiting for them to be captured by either the card readers or the BVAs.
An elderly voter, Kenneth Eze, was about to leave the centre for home when he was accosted by our reporter.
He said he could no longer wait under the scorching sun, blaming INEC for its ill preparation for the election.
Some INEC staff at the centre said they will call the situation room to confirm the next line of action to take, especially in whether to start manual verification.
While casting his votes earlier at Enugu-ukwu, the state Deputy Governor, Nkem Okeke, had hailed the process.
“Before my fingerprints used to have issues with the smart card readers but in this election, it was smooth and everything went seamless”, he said.
But upon his arrival at the Uruekwo polling centre where there has been a challenge with smart card readers and BVAs, the deputy governor acknowledged that the challenge is “everywhere.”
“It is affecting everybody and it is happening everywhere, not just here”, he told the weary crowd of voters, urging them to remain calm and exercise patience while INEC found a way to sort out the challenge.
Our observers also captured a video of PDP candidate, Valentine Ozigbo, being rejected by the card reader even after several trials.
At PU 005 in St. Peters’ primary school 2, Amawbia 2 in Awka South LGA, the exercise is currently on hold due to card read failures.
At about 11:55 in PU 04, Ufuma Primary School ward 2, Orumba North LGA, INEC staff are resorting to manual verification with the failure of the card readers and BVAs.
This challenge was also evident in many other polling units we observed in Njikoka, Dunukofia, Awka North and South LGAs, Orumba North and South among other places.