The Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA) has commended the conduct of ad-hoc staff of the Independent National Elctoral Commission (INEC) in the face of the widespread violence that characterized Saturday’s governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states
In its preliminary report on observation of both the Kogi and Bayelsa poll, the CTA said the elections were marred by widespread violence, vote buying and selling, observer intimidation and harassment
In the statements signed by CTA Executive Director, Faith Nwadishi, the group said following the violence, the sincerity of purpose of the political class to contribute to the substance of the nation’s democracy is again called to question.
She said, “the widespread incidences of violence and vote buying clearly indicate that the main political parties are still committed to sabotaging our democracy. The level of desperation displayed in these elections show they do not respect the electorate.
“They seem bent on installing violence and vote buying as permanent features of our elections. After what our observers witnessed yesterday, the only conclusion we could come to is that the conduct of the political parties and their agents has cast a serious slur on the credibility of the elections.”
Nwadishi said votes were bought and sold between N500 and N5000 per vote and the buyers were seen with bundles of cash openly moving around the voting precincts, paying people who voted for their candidate.
The CTA boss commended voters turnout for the elections despite initial fears of violence. She said reports from Observers deployed by CTA across the states indicated that there was a good turnout of citizens in the early hours of the day.
On the role of the police, she noted that the number of policemen deployed were less than the four promised by the Inspector General of Police while some others had more than 4.
She said the police were mostly professional in their conduct “although, some of them turned a blind eye to vote buying, misconducts by party agents and even when these were brought to their attention by observers, nothing was done to stop such conducts.”
She expressed concerns on the inability and or failure of security agents to intervene or try to stop hoodlums from perpetrating violence especially in the snatching of ballot boxes and disruption of collation process at polling units, as most of them ran for their dear lives.
She said, “The level of electoral violence in the Kogi election was quite high. There was widespread violence throughout the state, but more especially so in areas of Ganaja, Lokoja, and Kogi West and Kogi East. At least, by the time of this report, six persons have been reportedly killed, 4 of them were killed during an attack at a Polling Unit located at Adankolo LGA Primary School in Lokoja.
“Also, seven persons were reported to have been grievously injured at Workers Village, Lokoja. Our observers were lucky to escape an attack in Ganaja when youths in the area blocked the highway to Ajaokuta and engaged in pitch battles with the security services. Earlier in the day, they had witnessed a battle between community members and thugs trying to snatch ballot boxes in one of the Polling Units in one of the villages near Ayingba. They had to turn back before actually getting too close to the incident because of the heavy gunshots they were hearing.”
On the performance and conduct of INEC Officials, she said the CTA notes with satisfaction, the tremendous performance of INEC during this election.
She said despite an atmosphere of fear occasioned by rumours of violence and impending violence, the INEC, concluded the training of ad-hoc staff, fully activated the RACs the night before the election and the distribution of sensitive and non-sensitive election materials went on smoothly.
She said, “we note that though INEC as an institution has shown the capacity for incremental improvement in the management of elections in Nigeria, it seems to be the only institution amongst the stakeholders committed to this, while all the others, including a huge section of the electorate, seem stuck in the ignoble past. Indeed, in many instances, they seem to have turned worse.
“The political parties are the biggest culprits in this regard. We are convinced that because there is generally no deterrence for electoral malfeasance, they have plunged new depths in electoral bad behaviour.”
On the Bayelsa poll, she said there were reported cases of threats, thuggery and gun violence in some Polling Units.
She said, “but in others, it was very peaceful and incident-free. A CTA observer at Otuogori in Ogbia LGA reported that a thug threatened him with a gun when he tried to take pictures of thugs disrupting the election at Otiogori. In Ward 14, Units 9, 10 and 11 in Yenagoa LGA, materials arrived late and a fight broke out between APC and PDP supporters leading to materials being destroyed.”
She also said vote buying and selling were not as visible or as prevalent as in previous elections, but observers witnessed few instances of voters being called aside after voting to be paid for voting a particular party.
The CTA boss recommended that INEC should continue to improve on the functionality of card readers.
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