As a Presiding Officer for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) during the 2023 general election, I experienced what I can only describe as the worst day of my life. The experience was grueling and nerve-wracking, to say the least.
The day started on a bad note when the transportation logistics provided by INEC was inadequate. We were left stranded for hours at the pick-up point, waiting for buses that never arrived on time. When we finally got on the bus, the driver was not familiar with the route, and we got lost, wasting precious time.
We eventually arrived at our polling unit, but it was already several hours behind schedule. As a result, we were under immense pressure to perform our duties efficiently and ensure that the voters were not disenfranchised. We had to set up the polling unit in record time, and the long queues of voters waiting to cast their votes only added to our stress.
As the day progressed, we encountered several challenges, including the inability of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) to transmit results at the polling units. This made it seem like we were at fault, and we had to explain to party agents and calm them down.
The worst part of the experience was when the polls closed, and we were abandoned at our polling units. INEC did not provide any transportation to take us back to the Registration Area Centre (RAC) with the election materials not to talk of our welfares. We were left stranded for hours, in fact some Corp members had to trek back to the RAC, carrying the election materials on foot.
Poor payment many POs and APOs including me will not risky their life in upcoming Governorship and State Assembly election, the fact that Presiding Officers (POs) and Assistant Presiding Officers (APOs) play a crucial role in ensuring the integrity and success of Nigeria’s electoral process. All POs/APOs lack of support from INEC, insufficient compensation and general well-being.
You may agree with me that, poor payment can be a frustrating and demotivating and it can be especially challenging when the worker is putting in long hours and hard work, yet the pay is not commensurate with their efforts.
Though, the election was a success in my polling unit 24-11-10-045, thanks to the hard work and dedication of my Assistant Presiding Officer I, Damilare, and Assistant Presiding Officer II, Favour. We did our best against all odds, but it was disheartening to see how poorly INEC treated its staff, especially considering the risks we took to ensure a successful election.
Despite all the challenges we faced, I am proud of myself and my fellow Corp members, especially those in Ikeja. We worked hard and did our best, and that is all that matters.
However, I hope that INEC will do better in future elections and provide adequate support and logistics to its staff to prevent such a terrible experience from happening again.