CSOs Situation Room Berate INEC, Security Agencies Over Poor Conduct of Polls

The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room has expressed disappointment at what it described as poor showing by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the various security agencies during last Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections.

The body, which said it received field reports from more than 8,000 of its deployed observers and networks, across the country, regretted that despite expectations that the presidential poll would be better organised after the initial postponement, the exercise was marred by serious lapses on the part of the electoral umpire and security agents.

Giving an update on the casualty figures recorded during the polls due to election-related violence, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room stated that no fewer than 39 Nigerians lost their lives in the last 48 hours of the elections.

The breakdown of the dead are: Borno State– four; Bayelsa State – four; Rivers State – 16, Yobe State- two; Kogi State-Two; Ebonyi – Two, Lagos – One; Oyo- One; Delta- Two; Zamfara – One and Taraba State- Four.

In Lagos State, it said there were reports of disruption of voting by suspected political thugs, who shot in the air in some places and set ballot boxes and papers on fire in places like Okota, Isolo and Oshodi suburbs of Lagos.

The Situation Room also said that it had documented cases of 260 politically motivated deaths from the beginning of political campaigns in October 2018 to February 23, 2019.

While presenting its report to journalists in Abuja on Monday, the Executive Director, Policy & Legal Advocacy Centre and Convener, Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, Mr. Clement Nwankwo, said that apart from delays in the commencement of voting in some places, there were reports of serious lapses concerning the conduct of some INEC officials and security agencies.

He said the delay in commencement of polls was especially pronounced in some states across the South-east and South-south geopolitical zones of Nigeria, adding that there were even reports of polling commencing at 4pm in some areas such as PU 001, Ward 5, Methodist Boys High School, Oron, Akwa Ibom State.

It said: “Situation Room is, however, disappointed by the serious lapses observed with the conduct of the presidential and National Assembly elections held on Saturday 23 February 2019. Despite the elections being conducted against a background of an earlier postponement on February 16, 2019, on grounds of logistics challenges, it still suffered from major logistic lapses.

“Additionally, the election was marred by violence, security lapses and instances of overreach. Other challenges include compromised INEC officials as well as partisan security operatives. Conduct of major political parties was disappointing.”

The Situation Room noted that despite the police’s stated preparedness with deployment and adequacy of security, there were shortfalls and gaps, with the attendant implications for election security.

It, however, singled out members of the National Youth Service Corp as among the shinning lights during the elections, saying that they were exemplary in their work under very difficult conditions.

The observer group suggested that INEC’s logistics capabilities, including its ability to carry out timely procurement may have been overwhelmed by factors connected with the sheer number of political parties contesting the elections.

As a way forward, it suggested that there should be an independent inquiry into the poor management of the electoral process by INEC with a view to determining the underlying causes of persistent shortcomings during elections in the country.

As part of efforts to ensure that the right things are done by INEC, the body said the international community should continue to lend their voices in defence of the integrity of the result.

The Situation Room particularly urged the United States and the United Kingdom to follow through on their earlier statement that they will sanction individuals whose actions undermine the election or have led to the death of citizens.

In addition, the Situation Room urged the Inspector General of Police to urgently investigate allegations of police overreach in identified locations in the country.

It said officers found culpable must be held personally accountable for infringing on the rights of citizens in the exercise of their franchise.

The Situation Room also asked the IGP to carry out investigations on all political actors, who instigated or perpetrated violence leading to the needless loss of lives.

The Commonwealth Group of Observers has condemned what it described as election-related violence, which marred the elections in some states, saying the loss of lives in those places was deeply troubling.

Also, the international observers in the elections, comprising the International Republican Institute (IRI), National Democratic Institute (NDI), and African Union Observation Mission (AUEOM), have called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to expeditiously release the results of the polls.

The observers also called on political gladiators to ensure that the processes are concluded in a peaceful atmosphere.

This is coming as the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) has also highlighted serious operational shortcomings during the elections, which it said put undue burden on the electorate.

The Chairperson of the Commonwealth Group of Observers, Dr. Jakaya Kikwete, made the group’s submission yesterday, while addressing journalists on the group’s observations and assessment on the general election.

Kikwete noted that violence has no place in a modern democracy, adding that those responsible should be held accountable.

He also called on political parties to honour their commitments to the National Peace Accord and reject violence.

The electoral process was characterised by violence in some parts of Rivers, Lagos, Delta, Osun, Nasarawa and Enugu States.

The observer group noted that in spite of the difficulties and challenges surrounding the elections, many Nigerians had the opportunity to express their will and exercise their franchise.

Kikwete, who was a former President of Tanzania, also expressed optimism that the final stages of collation and announcement of results which began on Monday will be handled in a transparent and credible manner.

The Commonwealth Observer Group was deployed across Nigeria from February 13, covering Benin City, Enugu, Ibadan, Jos, Kaduna, Kano, Lagos, Port Harcourt and the FCT, where it met INEC officers, civil society groups, the political parties, police and the media.

The group similarly observed reservation that about 11.2 million Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) were not collected, noting that represented over 13 percent of registered voters who could not vote.

It also identified problems with the Smart Card Readers in a number of polling units, saying the shortcoming caused further delays as polling officials awaited technical assistance or replacement.

In addition, it highlighted delays in the distribution of materials, resulting in the late opening of polling units, saying that although INEC later authorised extended voting hours for polling units that had opened late, the information was not communicated effectively and not followed by all polling staff.

“Observers noted, however, that many would have benefitted from more comprehensive training in polling procedures. In some places, the layout of polling units, including the positioning of voting booths, potentially compromised the secrecy of the ballot. Incorrect labeling and failure to seal the ballot boxes correctly were also noted. Lack of signage within polling units also caused some confusion,” Kikwete said.

Kikwete also lauded the invaluable contribution of the NYSC members to the electoral process and the passing of the Not Too Young to Run Bill as a significant step that will enable youth participation in all elective offices.

He said the group did not observe cases of vote buying and under age voting, which were notable features during bye elections in some states last year and during the 2015 general election.




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