Tasks Police on Protection of Voters, INEC Officials
Election observer group, Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA) has expressed concerns with the high rate of violence ahead of the November 16, Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections.
In a statement signed in Abuja by the CTA Executive Director, Faith Nwadishi, the group urged the security agencies, especially the Nigerian Police to secure the citizens, election observers, and INEC staff during and after the elections.
According to her, “We are alarmed at the rate of violence being witnessed in the two states which in our opinion will lead to serious security breaches, a replay of the 2019 general elections scenario if not curtailed now”.
She explained that the reason for the concern of the election observer group is that Kogi and Bayelsa states are hot zones during elections, stressing that the incidence of violence may hamper the preparedness of the election if not quickly addressed.
The CTA boss recalled that on assumption of duties in 2015, the first major task undertaken by the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmud Yakubu was the conduct of the governorship election in Kogi state on November 21, 2015, and that of Bayelsa state on December 5, 2015.
She also recalled that the level of violence unleashed during both elections was unprecedented especially in Bayelsa state, leading to the two elections being declared inconclusive.
She said, “Based on the antecedents of election violence in these two states; CTA is raising these concerns emanating from eye witness reports from our observers and monitoring of media reports following the activities of politicians in the two states.
“CTA observed during the party primaries, that political parties traded on the deliberate disruption of party primaries by means of violence especially by the two dominant parties, PDP and APC. There were equally, alleged manipulations and trading of party nominations by other parties across the states to the highest bidders. The rancorous primaries by the two dominant parties, PDP and APC, were laced with, and disrupted by violence.
“The September 3, 2019 Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship primaries in Lokoja, held at the Lokoja Confluence Stadium, was brought to an abrupt halt with sporadic shooting by unknown gunmen. The accreditation of the delegates and voting had gone smoothly until about 1:45 am when some unknown gunmen invaded the stadium and started shooting sporadically. This was unfortunate and a cause for alarm.
“The PDP primaries for Bayelsa state which also held on September 3, 2019, was reported to have ended in violence. Aside from some delegates receiving false bank alerts for inducement leading to the National Chairman of the party issuing warnings to aspirants to desist from doing that, the Bayelsa PDP party primaries started on a peaceful note on the night of September 3, 2019, through the early hours of September 4. The peace was shattered when during the election there was a shoot-out between Police and Cultists/political mercenaries that led to the death of one person, and another injured by a stray bullet.
“As for the APC, on the 2nd of September 2019, a High Court set aside a previous order that stopped APC from holding direct primaries in Bayelsa state. APC eventually conducted direct primaries in Bayelsa state to beat the INEC deadline. The APC party primaries in Kogi state on August 29 was not rancour-free among aspirants, who grumbled about what they considered as ‘the undue advantage given to the incumbent governor’.”
Furthermore, Nwadishi said that the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmud had expressed worry and concern at the rate of reported violence and voter inducement before the election in separate meetings with stakeholders in Kogi and Yenagoa.
She stated that CTA is bringing to the attention of security agencies, especially, the Nigerian Police, the accusations and counter-accusations by politicians especially in Kogi state alleging that some politicians are sewing police and army uniforms to be used by cultists and thugs for the purpose of intimidating citizens, harassing both Domestic and International observers during the election.
Also, she noted that in the same manner, Bayelsa state is not isolated from a similar scenario, as it has been alleged that militants might be used to disrupt and rig the elections to the benefit of their sponsors.
She cited reported clashes in Igbogene and Yenagoa, Bayelsa state as well as similar happenings in Ankpa town in Kogi State when the two dominant parties’ members clashed on their way to campaign venues.
Nwadishi said it is important that politicians become circumspect in their speeches and at this time, should eschew hate speeches or comments that might trigger violence.
“This is not the time to make inflammatory speeches that will impact negatively on the elections,” she concluded.