The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has condemned the level of violence and disruption perpetrated by political thugs at the ongoing governorship election in Bayelsa State.
The organisation in a press statement made available to PREMIUM TIMES on Saturday said the “coordinated disruption” at some of the polling units would undermine the outcome of the election.
CDD has been monitoring elections in Nigeria with the aim of promoting the values of democracy, peace and human rights.
According to the preliminary findings from the CDD Election Analysis Centre (EAC) on the conduct and processes of the Bayelsa Governorship election, the organisation warned that the activities of political thugs may jeopardise the result of the election in the state.
CDD Director, Idayat Hassan, said the organisation observed a coordinated disruption of the voting process and destruction of electoral materials by armed thugs.
She said the election was marred by a widespread systematic attacks of the electoral space, thereby putting the credibility of the outcome into question.
Ms Hassan said “The very daring way and the manner in which the political thugs disrupted voting and destroyed materials in such a planned and coordinated sequence, takes everything away from the credibility of the process and its outcomes.
“In large numbers of polling units, the voting environment was so hostile and unsafe, thereby scaring away eligible voters, who would only come out to vote at the risk of losing their lives.”
She said the widespread electoral malpractices such as the theft of ballot boxes, the abduction of INEC ad hoc staff and subsequent hijack of election materials as recorded in several parts of the state, calls to question the integrity of the electoral process.
“Similar incidents were recorded in Otuan Ward 5 Southern Ijaw LGA, where the election was materials hijacked by unknown thugs. Voting was also disrupted after ballot boxes were hijacked in Yenizue Gene II, Polling Unit II in Yenagoa LGA. CDD EAC observers further reported incidents of sporadic gunfire in Opolo area of Yenagoa Local Government, just one person reported injured, while two persons were feared to have died after being shot.
“The level of malpractices in this election was pervasive as reported by our CDD EAC observers on the ground. In Agbere community in Sagbama Local Government area, for instance, there were reports of a group of people thumb printing a significant number of ballot papers.”
PREMIUM TIMES had also earlier reported violence in some of the polling units in Bayelsa.
Ms Hassan also raised concern over INEC and its perennial logistics problems. She said in many of the polling units observed, voting did not begin as at when due because of the very late arrival of election materials.
She said the delay in the arrival of election materials had to do with clashes between rival party supporters at the Registration Areas Centres over how electoral materials should move.
“Those clashes, in some cases, led to the destruction of the electoral materials.”
She also noted that there was a widespread case of vote-buying and trading especially in Tombia Community; in Yenagoa LGA.
“The two dominant parties, APC and PDP matched each other with the PDP buying votes for N7000, while the APC paid N8000. In Sagbama, between two and three thousand Naira was offered to voters.”
Ms Hassan said in the light of the preliminary findings, there is no mistaking the fact that Nigeria is degenerating to a gunpoint democracy where the democratic choices of the voters do not matter, and where the desperate political actors would use every vile tactic available to undermine the democratic ethos.
”We, therefore, have a lot of work to do as citizens,” she said.