The Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC’s) decision to extend the election voting deadline into Sunday has largely been blamed on accreditation delays caused by technical difficulties with card readers. On Our Radar reporters around the Niger Delta have today been investigating how efficient the card readers have been in their own communities.
Card machines are not working well
“The card reader machines are not working well,” reported Damasus Henry from Delta State. “The officials don’t even know how it is being used. Half an hour after the vote began in Rivers, the machines seems to be causing delays, rejecting people’s PVCs (Permanent Voters Cards).” This card reader, photographed by Henry, stalled the vote in Umuezui by several hours. “The card reader shut down. There are no spare batteries, and no electricity in the school,” Henry added.
A similar report earlier this morning from Isaac Cotterell, in Rivers State, showed widespread concern for the devices. “The card reader is dying. People have their PVCs but it is not working perfectly. The card reader isn’t fast and the thumb printer needs to print more than 5 times before it will show. People are not happy.”
Poor hand washing blamed for card reader failure
Initially, bizarre excuses were being made at one polling unit in Port Harcourt, with Glaad Amadi reporting that “INEC officials are blaming poor hand washing on card reader failure.” Reports also emerged in Rivers State that upon closer inspection the protective plastic film had not been removed from the card reader. In this last case, human ignorance and ill-preparation led to 3 hours of unnecessary delays.
In some areas, the glitches have, however, completely derailed the voting process. In Doris Egba’s polling station “so many cards are been rejected that they are going through a manual process.” In Delta Ward 6 voters were being sent home due to the faults. “The most painful part is being told to come back to vote at 1.30pm” Mary Okobi, interviewed by Damasus Henry, Delta.
In Erema, reporter Ahuju Eze James said the card reader hiccups added to a general sense of mistrust of the electoral procedure: “People are finding the card reader process difficult and are worried with the procedure at hand. As many were even unable to collect their PVCs, many are complaining of inadequacy.” This was echoed by Dibiya Michael in Bayelsa, where he said voters around him were complaining about the inefficiency of the card readers.
Functioning card readers a huge plus for democracy
In Bayelsa State, however, there have been reports from various stations that the card readers are actually operating, but slowly. Elizabeth Andaebi, said it was making queues longer than expected but remarked that “the elderly are being given preference.”
For some the election process was smoother as a result of the new system. Reporter Okonta Emeka interviewed voter Emma Ojogwu, in Delta State, who said “where I am the card is working well. That is a huge plus for our democracy.”