Two major election observer groups in Nigeria have called for the total cancellation of Saturday’s governorship election in Kogi State.
The Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room and YIAGA said the election was marred with violence, votes buying, voters inducement, intimidation and harassment.
Governorship election was held across the state while a senatorial rerun was held in Kogi West Senatorial District.
The Situation Room, a coalition of prominent civic groups, said the Kogi election represents a major dent to Nigeria’s democracy.
The Situation Room is one of the accredited observers for the election.
The convener of the situation room, Clement Nwankwo, announced the group’s stance in a press conference in Abuja on Sunday.
According to him, if this election is allowed to stand, 2023 and Ondo State election next year will be a bloodbath.
”Situation Room is disappointed with the procedure the two governorship elections that held in Kogi and Bayelsa States and worries that the elections fall below the standards expected for a free, fair and credible elections, ” he said
He said the governorship elections conducted in Kogi and Bayelsa States represent a major setback for Nigeria’a electoral democracy while noting that the two elections have proved to be a disappointment.
”Election day turnout was however marred by violence and activities of political parties and security agents leading to disruptions of polls in several areas, ” he said.
Security agencies ignores violence
Mr Nwankwo also lamented that security personnel were watching incidents of ballot box snatching, violence and abuse of the electoral process.
”The claimed overwhelming numbers of deployments by security officials should ordinarily provide enough security for the elections.
He said security forces failed to provide details of names of it’s personnel that it deployed for the elections, raising questions about the claims on the number deployed.
Speaking on vote trading, Mr Nwankwo said the commercialisation of Nigeria’s elections appear to have reached unprecedented height.
”Political parties and their agents operated openly and with impunity distributing money in purchase of votes and it appeared that there were no efforts to stop them. Sums paid at the polling units ranged from N500 to N6,000.
He also alleged that there were open exploitation of Persons with Disabilities (PWD’s) by politicians who cash-in on the level of their poverty to buy their votes.
He said there was low voter turnout of PWDs in both states.
Establishment of Electoral Offence Commission
The civil societies asked INEC to interrogate the elections in Bayelsa State with a view to identifying the high incidences of malpractice that took place and reflect the genuine vote of the people.
“In the light of the security failures, thuggery and general abuse witnessed in the elections, Situation Room calls for an urgent passage and implementation of an Electoral Offence Commission law to address all issues related to electoral abuse.
YIAGA condemns poll
YIAGA Africa, a public policy think-tank, also said violence and malpractices challenged the proper conduct of the Kogi governorship and senatorial elections.
The Board Chair, YIAGA AFRICA, Hussaini Abdu, said the group received a total of 69 incident reports with cases of election infraction, snatching and stuffing of ballot boxes and papers, including reports on voter suppression manifesting in the form of denying voters access to polling units by political thugs.
He said the challenges in the Kogi elections were caused by the failures of security agencies, particularly the police, political parties, the major candidates and the state and non-state accomplices.
“The stakeholders deliberately worked to undermine the election; they appeared to be more concerned about electoral victory than the credibility and legitimacy of the process,” he said.
He also asked INEC to conduct a thorough investigation of the conduct of the Kogi governorship and senatorial elections and to conduct a new election that gives voters a genuine opportunity to exercise their right to vote.
”We are deeply worried and concerned about this emerging trend in electoral manipulation and the deepening culture of impunity. Failure to institutionally and decisively act could undermine our democracy, ” he said.
Speaking on transparency, he called on INEC to make public the list of polling units where elections were cancelled.
Executive Director, YIAGA AFRICA, Samson Itodo, said the group planned to verifify INEC’s result using its Parallel Voter Tabulation method .
Mr Itodo however said due to election malpractice, YIAGA AFRICA would not release its PVT results data as the PVT estimates could not reflect the preferences of Kogi voters because some stakeholders compromised the process.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the Kogi State election was characterised by the late arrival of electoral materials, violence and intimidation of voters. The election was, however, also peaceful and efficient in some other areas.
A total of 24 candidates are taking part in the gubernatorial election.
Although the registered voters in the state are 1,646,350, about 1,485,828 (90.2 per cent) collected their PVCs and are thus eligible to vote in the 21 local government areas of the state.