The Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room has expressed disappointment over the holding of Saturday’s off-cycle gubernatorial election in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi states, describing it as a major setback in the democratic development of the nation.
In a statement on Monday in Abuja, Situation Room said that Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has failed to demonstrate that it has learned from the challenges it faced in conducting the general elections eight months ago.
“These elections represent a major setback in Nigeria’s democratic development,” it said in a statement signed by its coordinator, Yunusa Ya’u, and co-organizers, Mimidoo Achakpa and Franklin Oloniju.
The group said that “disturbing reports of high levels of falsification of results and other forms of electoral irregularities in the gubernatorial elections in the three states raise serious questions about the credibility of the elections and the future of democracy in Nigeria.
He therefore called on INEC to “completely review the elections in Kogi and Imo states to identify incidents of malpractice that took place and reflect the genuine vote of the people.”
He also called for an independent audit of electoral administration in Nigeria and INEC’s compliance with the electoral law.
“Without this, we are concerned that many improvements cannot be achieved,” he added.
The Situation Eoom said in its observation report that the elections were specifically marred by logistical challenges, delays in the start of voting, overvoting, violence and vote buying.
He said only 29 per cent of the polling units in Imo State had started voting at the official time of 8:30 am.
In Bayelsa, 66 percent of polling units started on schedule, while in Kogi states 86 percent did so.
The group reported that electoral officials failed to appear at several polling units in Ideato North and Ideato South LGAs and at some polling units in Orlu, Orsu, Okigwe and Oru East LGAs.
“INEC’s failure to get disenfranchised voters in the affected areas,” he said.
“Voting in Bayelsa State was affected by the capsized boat incidents in Southern ljaw LGA and the kidnapping of INEC Supervisory Chairman assigned to Registration Area 06 (Ossioma) in Sagbama.”
While the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) performed optimally in most electoral units, the group said it was concerned that INEC did not address reports of over-voting contained in the Electoral Law (2022).
“INEC’s inability to synchronize the BVAS accreditation record with the Results Viewing Portal (IReV Portal) in real time despite improved broadband internet access in Nigeria is questionable. By allowing circumvention of the BVAS, INEC has effectively set back the electoral reform progress recorded in recent times,” he added.
The group also condemned the commission’s management of results in areas where there were reports of results falsification.
It said: “INEC had acknowledged incidents with pre-filled result sheets before the commencement of elections affecting five LGAs in Kogi State: Adavi, Ajaokuta, Ogori/Mangongo, Okehi and Okene. Unfortunately, INEC has continued to compile the results of these LGAs without conducting any comprehensive investigation or making its findings public. “This is condemnable.”
In Imo State, the group said, INEC uploaded the results of polling units where voting did not take place on the Election Results Viewing Portal (IReV).
The group added that politicians attempted to exploit the weaknesses of INEC to alter the results in Bayelsa State, especially in Brass, Sagbama, Southern Ljaw and Nembe LGAs.
“These incidents call into question the integrity of INEC and the willingness and ability of the Commission to conduct credible elections. To determine the depth of the damage, Situation Room calls on the Commission to publish data on accredited voters registered in the BVAS and the total votes cast at the local government level in these states,” he said.
The Situation Room report also pointed out some pockets of violence recorded in the three states.
In Bayelsa State, she said, one of her observers was expelled from the Ward Collaboration Center in Ogbia township by Nigerian army personnel, while another observer from the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) was attacked and her phone confiscated by a match. agent at polling unit 003, Ogboloma Town Square, Ward 11, Kolokuma LGA without any intervention from security agents present at the polling unit.
The group said its partners also reported 19 incidents of violence as of noon on Election Day in the three states.
“These incidents of violence were recorded in Anyigba, Dekina LGA of Kogi State, Sagbama and Brass of Bayelsa State and Ikeduru LGA of Imo State,” he said.
The report adds: “It will appear that security agents deployed to carry out their electoral duties, instead of helping to secure the process and ensure its integrity, chose to collude with politicians and even, in some cases, protected politicians, allowing them to vote. purchases and other conduct that compromised the elections in these three states.
“The commercialization of elections in Nigeria appears to have reached unprecedented levels. Political parties and their agents operated openly and with impunity, distributing money for the purchase of votes without any effort by security agents to contain it.
“The sums paid at the polling units ranged from N1,000 to N30,000, along with cooked and raw food items. “There must be an effective mechanism to stop politicians from using poverty as a weapon to win elections in Nigeria.”