The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Friday said it was satisfied with the peaceful conduct of Wednesday’s elections in Sierra Leone.
A National Commissioner in the commission, Prof. Anthonia Simbine, who led the commission’s delegation to Sierra Leone to monitor the elections, commended the measures put in place by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) of Serial Leone.
In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Freetown, Simbine said the process of the election put in place by the NEC, the patience and peaceful conduct of Sierra Leoneans during the election day was commendable.
“I think the election has gone well. Honestly. I am aware that you cannot have an election that will not have minor issues here and there.
“But if you compare where they were a few month back, few weeks back, even the anxiety that attended the preparations for the elections, I think the election went smoothly.The most important thing for me is patience.
“I think when we got to the polls, there were very long queues, but in few places election officers arrived late to the polling centres but in many of the places they were actually there and they were setting up.
“ Many of them started, five or 10 minutes after the scheduled, which was 7 a.m. So they were on time.
“The surprising part of it was that even before 7 a.m. the queue were already long but the citizens were very patient . I think that is what any country can learn from their example,’’ Simbine said.
Asked if INEC was looking forward to emulate Sierra Leonean style where registered voters without his voting card were allowed to cast their votes with other means of identification, Simbine said the process in the two countries were different.
The National Commissioner said that Nigeria already gone beyond manual accreditation of voters to use of technology which include Smart Card Readers and Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs).
“In the Sierra Leonean case it is possible to do what they have done; as long as you can be identified by some people or you use your other identity card, because it is manual.
“The truth is that you saw that they are not using biometric, we have gone ahead, we are now using biometric, the smart card readers.
“Without permanent voter cards and the card readers, we have already decided that we will not allow for voting. People cannot use whatever identification they have with the smart card reader.’’
She also commended the special arrangement made for special voters: the aged physically challenged and lactation mothers, whereby special voting line was created for them.
She said that INEC was already doing something similar but in different ways, saying INEC also allowed that.
“It is just that unlike here, we don’t have a separate queue for these categories of people.
“But we have trained our poll observers to know that whenever they see people like that they should give them the opportunity to vote first. We have already key into that.’’
On possibility of voting by military and people on essential duties on election date, Simbine said that was not easy to do now in Nigeria.
“Certainly people who are week, either they are old, physically challenged, or nursing mothers, we actually give them priority.’’
The National Commissioner said that experience from learn from the elections would in one way or the other be useful in the preparations and conduct of Nigeria 2019 general elections.
“There is no experience that will not be useful but to a large extent I think the processes are a bit different particularly in the use of biometric and smart card readers.
“However, with regards to many other things, delivery of sensitive and not sensitive materials, the hearing of polls officers I think we have a lot to learn from these elections.’’
Other members of INEC delegation were National Commissioner, AVM Mohamed Muazu; Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr Asmau Maikudi; Director of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), Mrs Ngozi Ogwuma and Electoral Officer and Deputy Director Charles Ibiapuye.
NAN reports that the NEC on Thursday issued an official statement stressing that ‘Data entry is underway and accuracy will take precedence over speed.’
The NEC statement, signed by Chairman Mohamed Alie-Conteh also reiterated that it was the constitutionally mandated body that is responsible to deliver election results and is the only authority in doing so.
The electoral body called for patience and continued commitment to peace as it continued to receive results and tabulate them.