The Centre for Democracy and Development, (CDD), on Monday said 10 deaths and 129 cases of violence and electoral crimes were recorded in the just concluded polls in Kogi and Bayelsa states.
This is according to an analysis of the elections done by the centre’s Election Analysis Centre (CDD–EAC) who deployed observers as well roving journalists across polling units to the states.
“Elections which should have enabled citizens to express their democratic preferences were violently and crudely undermined by an unrelenting band of partisan outlaws. The magnitude of the violent assault on the sanctity of the ballot was shocking. The outcome of a process that was so criminally subverted should not be allowed to stand,” the report, which was signed by the group’s director, Idayat Hassan, read.
The report of the group shows that 10 deaths, 79 cases of violence and election malpractices were recorded by the group across the 21 LGAs in Kogi State.
These incidents include the hijack of electoral materials by thugs, the kidnap of INEC ad hoc staff, vote buying, attacks on observers, intimidation of voters, under-aged voting, widespread stuffing of ballot boxes, ballot snatching and multiple voting.
Specifically, violence and disruption of voting represented 66.21 per cent of the total reported incidents; vote trading constituted 28.38 per cent while under-aged and multiple voting constituted 5.41 per cent of total incidents reported.
Being LGAs with high number of registered voters, the report noted that these incidents were rife in Lokoja, Kabba-Bunu, Ijumu, Okene, Ajaokuta, Dekina and Olamaboro LGAs.
On senatorial districts basis, Kogi West, with a share of 55 per cent, topped the charts of areas with high violence rate. Kogi East and Kogi Central respectively accounted for 27 per cent and 18 per cent for the remaining cases.
The report also touched on the massive voter turnout in local governments like Okene.
Okene was said to have a total of 114,001 accredited voters, which is 87 per cent of the total registered voters. When compared to its 2015 figure of 35,143 accredited voters, “this marks an incredible, and unlikely, 69.1 per cent increase.”
While no death was reported in Bayelsa, CDD–EAC observers said over 50 critical incidents, which directly impacted on the credibility of the election, were observed.
Like Kogi, disruption of voting process accounted for a high 66.7 per cent of the total reported incidents. Vote buying with 22.2 per cent and underage voting and impersonation with 11.1 per cent are the other two rampant recorded incidents.
While LGAs like Southern Ijaw and Nembe had no access, the said incidents were mostly pronounced in Yenagoa, Ekeremor and Sagbama LGAs of the state.
‘Time for Buhari to act’
Being a beneficiary of a historic 2015 election where an incumbent relinquished power willingly, CDD called on President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently provide the leadership needed to rescue the nation’s electoral and democratic process from irreversible decline.
The group urged the president to take a cue from the electoral reforms initiated by late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
It said Nigeria’s electoral process requires “similarly bold and courageous leadership to chart a way forward and resolve the lingering challenges threatening to derail it.”
“President Buhari should not stand by and allow the continuous degeneration of our electoral system. He should proactively rein in his party, whose abuse of incumbency and desperation to win in both states, has been a key factor in the upsurge in electoral malfeasance.
“It is a serious indictment on our national capacity that two decades after the advent of the current democratic dispensation, we still cannot deal with the threats to the right of citizens to make their democratic preferences in an atmosphere devoid of fear and insecurity.
“The level of violence and coordinated disruption of the electoral process as seen in Kogi and Bayelsa point to the need for a fundamental re-organisation of election security. In Kogi and Bayelsa, large deployments did not translate to a better secured electoral space.”
A presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, failed to get back to PREMIUM TIMES, to respond when a reporter reached out to him, Monday.
Security agencies complacent
The group further blamed the security agencies for complacency. It said the agencies “gave hoodlums free hand as they moved freely, carrying out their nefarious acts against voters”.
Aside this, the group noted that fake news, misinformation and disinformation caused some of the violence recorded.
The group called for the creation of an Electoral Offences Commission which would have the sole mandate of holding to account all those who commit infractions against the process. It said key recommendations of the Justice Uwais Panel should be revisited.
It also said there is need to “internationalise the campaign for electoral accountability by invoking the principle of responsibility to protect as enshrined in the African Union Instrument on Democracy Elections and Good Governance, and in the International Criminal Court Statues.”
It urged the electoral umpire, INEC, and President Buhari to set up a public panel of inquiry to “unravel the immediate and remote causes of the failure of security in the build up and after the elections.”
“Civil Society Organisation and citizens at the grassroots should revive and step up mandate protection campaigns to enlighten citizens on how to protect their votes in the face of sustained hostility from the political actors,” the group advised.