The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has urged the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) to ensure free, fair, and credible elections in the six states where the process was declared inconclusive and polls rescheduled for Saturday next week.
It also called on President Muhamadu Buhari to revisit the report of the Justice Muhammadu Uwais Panel on electoral reform with a view to addressing observed lapses in this year’s elections.
The congress said this in a statement signed by its acting President, Amechi Asugwni, and made available to Premium Times on Thursday.
NLC lamented the various problems that affected the two days of elections in many parts of the country, in spite of the shift of the polls by one week from the original dates of February 16 and March 2.
“The public expectation after the postponement was that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would put its acts together and ensure that the conduct of the elections on the postponed dates was impeccable,” the NLC said.
“Unfortunately, that was hardly the case as the elections were blighted by perennial tardy logistics such as late arrival of election materials to polling units, failure of data capture machines in some polling units and poor knowledge of election rules by many INEC ad hoc staff,” he said.
“Furthermore, desperate politicians with an agenda to manipulate the electoral process to their own advantage played out the script of ballot box snatching, intimidation of election officials, waylaying of collation centres and general perpetration of violence”.
It, however, said the INEC should be commended for insisting on the use of card readers for elections in every part of the country.
“Despite the fears expressed by Nigerians with respect to the deployment of the military during elections, soldiers were deployed presumably to preempt ballot box snatching, destruction of voting materials and arrest any drift to widespread violence.
“While the deployment of the military was helpful in preventing skirmishes from different local hotspots from degenerating into society-wide brigandage, the conduct of some soldiers deployed in some parts of the country to maintain public order left a lot to be desired”.
The NLC described the deployment of military personnel to harass political rivals as “a new low in the electoral history”, and added that it presents a serious setback to recent electoral reform gains.
It called on “the military high command to investigate these infractions and bring the culprits, whoever they are, to book as a deterrence to others.
“Going forward, there is need for serious national conversations on critical areas of improvement in the conduct of elections in Nigeria.
“We also call for a sincere revisit of the Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Report especially as it relates to reinforcing INEC’s independence, unbundling of INEC and creation of Elections Offences Commission.”
It urged President Muhammadu Buhari to show commitment to implementing aspects of Uwais Report which relevance is validated by recent developments in our electoral space.
“We also demand that INEC must ensure free, fair, and credible elections in some states where the process was declared inconclusive and polls rescheduled for 23rd March 2019”.
The congress said efforts must also be re-doubled to develop a new national civic culture that venerates the rule of law.
“The trend where politicians consider themselves successful to the extent that they are able to manipulate our electoral laws, maim and kill their fellow citizens, bribe voters and perpetrate all sort of electoral shenanigans must be put to a stop.
“INEC shares some responsibilities in the shortcomings witnessed during the last general elections”.
“We call on INEC to completely outlaw the use of manual accreditation for voting. We also call for continuous audit of the voters roll.”
It urged Nigerians to take advantage of technological advancement and work with all relevant stakeholders to deploy technology in a way that minimises to the barest human interference with the electoral process.
“INEC must stick to early planning and adequate training of personnel deployed on election duties”.
“Finally, in the spirit of the peace accord signed by the major political parties prior to the 2019 general election, we urge all persons aggrieved by the conduct of the elections to refrain from self-help”.
It advised those with genuine grievances to resort to the legal process for redress.
“As patriots who are committed to nation building, we have no other option but to collectively work towards the sustenance, Improvement and deepening of our democracy.”