The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has said thugs intimidated voters, election observers and journalists on a scale it said would affect the integrity of the governorship election in Kogi State.
In its first preliminary report on the election, CDD lamented the wide use of ammunition and ballot box snatching by political thugs in various local government areas.
“In Polling Unit 001 in Ward 4, Dekina LGA, CDD observers reported the sporadic gunfire. Violent disturbances caused by rival party thugs who battled each other over control of the polling environment was reported in Felele and Ganaja areas of Lokoja LGA, especially in Registration Area 08, Oworo, Felele Area, PU 004. In Ankpa 1 Polling Unit (PU) with number 2203-04-0 in Ankpa Local Government.
“There were also several reports of ballot box snatching. An example is PU 004 Ayingba (PMML Primary School, GRA) where the polling unit was attacked by thugs alleged to be ruling party supporters.”
The CDD also said government officials compounded the situation in parts of the state as security forces stormed a polling unit to arrest an agent of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
“CDD observers reported an incident wherein operatives of Federal Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) stormed the location of the polling unit and arrested the PDP party agent. This move disrupted voting, as thugs responded by throwing stones in a bid to release the PDP party agent.
“In many polling units, observers and journalists are being blocked from access and taking photographs in what appears to be an attempt to prevent the gathering of evidence of electoral malpractices,” CDD said.
The CDD noted its observation on vote-buying and added that the cost of votes ranged from N3000 to N5000
The centre said it observed that INEC officials arrived before 8.00 am in 55.2 per cent of the polling units in parts of the state observed by the group.
“Also, INEC officials arrived between 8.01 am and 9 am in 27.6 per cent of the observed PUs while at 9.1 per cent of the PUs, the arrival of INEC officials was between 9.01 am and 11.00 am.
“As at 11 am, accreditation and voting had started in 55.1 per cent of polling units to which we deployed observers in Kogi state. Of these polling units, 20.7 per cent began accreditation and voting at 8 am, 17.2 per cent started at 8.30 am while 10.3 per cent started at 9 am, and 6.9 per cent started as from 10 am.”
CDD condemned the late arrival of INEC officials at polling centres and added that it observed the use of fake news by parties to persuade voters against each other and de-legitimise the process.
“Some of the fake news circulated today include the disqualification of the PDP candidates, false results, fake images of thugs arrested and snatching of ballot papers. CDD fact-checkers were able to debunk most of these fake news items.
“The hoaxes are mainly intended at delegitimising the INEC and the process. Again, Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp are the leading platforms used to spread disinformation.”