The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) says Nigeria’s democratic process is currently under threat and President Muhammadu Buhari must provide the needed leadership to stem the tide.
Speaking in Abuja, at a press briefing on its observation of the just concluded governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states, the group’s director, Idayat Hassan, warned that “the very foundation of Nigeria’s two decade old democracy was facing serious challenges”.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) conducted the elections on Saturday, which had the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) candidates emerging winners in the two polls.
Cases of widespread violence and electoral fraud, as reported by the press and independent observers marred the exercise in both states.
INEC has announced David Lyon of the APC as the winner of the election in Bayelsa.
Mr Lyon polled 352,552 votes to defeat Duoye Diri of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who polled 143, 172 votes.
Governor Yahaya Bello of APC was also announced winner having scored 406,222 votes to defeat his rival and PDP candidate, Musa Wada, who scored 189,704 votes in the election.
Presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, asked for the group’s statement before he could respond. This was sent to his known email address.
Mr Shehu is yet to respond as at when this report was eventually filed.
Condemning the violence and disruptions that characterised the polls, Mrs Hassan said many voters were disenfranchised as a result of threats to life.
“Elections which would have enabled everyday citizens express their democratic preferences were violently and crudely undermined by an unrelenting band of partisan outlaws.
“At the CDD Election Analysis Centre (EAC) in Kogi and Bayelsa from where we received field data and updates on the conduct of the polls, the sheer magnitude of the violent assault on the sanctity of the ballot was shocking beyond description. The outcome of a process that was so criminally subverted should not be allowed to stand,” she said.
Ms Hassan said the election claimed the lives of no less than 10 citizens whom she noted “died as a result of various shooting incidents and attacks across the state (s).”
She also said her organisation’s accredited non-partisan observers, including trained roving journalists, reported over 79 critical incidents in the Kogi State off-cycle governorship and the rerun senatorial elections held.
“In clear terms, these incidents combined to damage the credibility of the polls. The incidents ranged from hijack of electoral materials by thugs, kidnap of INEC ad hoc staff, vote buying, attacks on observers, intimidation of voters and under-aged voting.
“Other reported incidents, which call to question the credibility of these polls include widespread stuffing of ballot boxes, ballot snatching and multiple voting.”
Providing some data on the incidents that marred the conduct of the poll, the CDD director said violence and disruption of voting constituted 66.21 per cent of the total reported incidents.
“Vote trading which was also widespread across the state constituted 28.38 per cent of total reported malfeasance while under-aged/multiple voting constituted 5.41 per cent of total incidents reported.
“The intensity of the observed incidents was high in LGAs like Lokoja, Kabba-Bunu, Ijumu, Okene, Ajaokuta; Dekina and Olamaboro.
“In terms of senatorial districts, Kogi West topped the chart of incidents with 55 per cent. Kogi East and Kogi Central accounted for 27.0 per cent and 18 per cent of the total reported incidents respectively.
“This suggests that the incidents particularly violence was widespread but more pronounced in certain locations particularly areas with high number of registered voters.”
The centre noted that in the face of these violations of the electoral process, “there was an urgent need for the President to show leadership in order to restore the sanctity of the ballot”.
“CDD calls on President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently provide the leadership needed to rescue the electoral process, and by extension the entire democratic system from imminent collapse.
“This call becomes imperative because Buhari was only able to ascend the presidency through the historic 2015 elections because the electoral process allowed the votes to count.
“That watershed was a culmination of the electoral reforms initiated by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. At the moment, Nigeria’s electoral process requires a similarly bold and courageous leadership to chart a way forward and resolve the lingering challenges threatening to derail it.
“President Buhari owes this duty to all Nigerians; he cannot stand by and allow the continuous degeneration of our electoral system,” she said.