An election observer and monitoring group, the Independent Service Delivery Monitoring Group (ISDMG) has said politicians should be held responsible for the violence that marred thatsenatorial election rerun in Rivers state.
The group said INEC officials were in some instances exposed to threats, attacked and abducted in Polling and Collation Centres in full glare of security officers who allowed looked on helplessly even when they were not supposed to.
In a press statement signed by ISDMGDirector of Mobilization & Communication,Ms Faith Nwadishi and Director Legal & Documentation, Ohazuruike Tochukwu Esq, the group said reports from its field monitors indicated that there where violence and malpractices recorded in Gokana, Akuku-Toru, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, Andoni, Tai and Khana LGAs during the election.
It said incidents of violence ranging from dynamite explosions, intimidation of election officials, ballot box snatching and death of party agents and at least a senior Police officer, marred the election in some polling units.
It however said whereas INEC has shown enough improvement since the last two elections in Edo and Ondo states, the threat of security breaches and actual violence in the Rivers state re-run election delayed deployment of men and materials by INEC.
According to the ISMDG, in some recorded incidents, INEC mobilized from the Local Government Areas straight to the Polling Units because thugs made it impossible for them to first deploy to the Registration Area Centres (RACs).
The statement reads in part, “The build up to this election was characterized by the highest display of irresponsibility from politicians in the major Political Parties in Rivers state. Their unguarded utterances and callous call for breakdown of law and order is out rightly condemnable.
“Their utterances heightened the tension in the state ahead of the rerun polls and imminently discouraged many voters from exercising their civic rights over concerns of violence and abuse of the process.
“We hope that part of the much needed reforms of the electoral process will include the institution of a reprimand process that deters undue and reprehensible heating up of the polity either through actions or rhetoric.”
It said incidents recorded by its monitors showed that in Etche LGA, hoodlums prevented INEC staff from deploying personnel and materials to the following areas; Afra ward with 20 PU’s and 3441 registered voters; Mba ward 18 with 14 PU’s and 4503 registered voters; Udofor ward 8 with 8PU’s and 2373 registered voters; Ogwi/Obiro ward 6 (had result sheets snatched); Obite Ward 10 with 6 PU’s and 1866 registered voters; Ulakwo ward 13 with 21 PU’s and 5420 registered voters; Obibi/ Akwukabi ward 9 with 12 PU’s and 2444 registered voters.
It called on the security hierarchy to investigate thoroughly the involvement of its personnel in the violence that characterized this election, on the backdrop of its stance that the men captured on electronic media are not its men and make their findings public.
It said, “The Independent Service Delivery Monitoring Group (ISDMG) however uses this medium to call on politicians, for the umpteenth time, to desist from desperate acts which are capable of over-heating the polity and which most times, only bring about destruction of properties and senseless loss of precious lives. Specifically for Rivers State, we believe that political gladiators must show more maturity in their conduct and desist from the politics of do-or-die.”
The group said as citizens, Nigerians must insist that the electoral process be transparent and devoid of violence and deliberate disenfranchisement of citizens by action of thugs or their sponsors or through active connivance of any sort by security personnel.
It said the security agencies must not only be nonpartisan but alive to their duties of providing security and protection of lives and property.
It said, “At this point, we call on INEC to deepen public engagement. Communication with the public must be intensified so as to enable Nigerians understand the challenges the Commission faces and to properly situate the responsibilities.”
The group however, called on INEC to commence a full scale investigation on the extent of culpability of identified staff in some of the abnormalities that shadowed the Rivers rerun elections.