Bayelsa, Imo, Kogi governorship election: We‘re worried by rising spate of violence – INEC

 

Preparatory to the off-cycle governorship elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi states, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has raised the alarm over what he called “disturbing reports of clashes between opposing parties with claims and counter claims of innocence or culpability.” 

INEC Chairman Prof Mahmood Yakubu stated this at a meeting with leaders of political parties Tuesday in Abuja, and directed the parties to call their supporters to order.

He said the use of thugs during elections to harass election officials, intimidate voters and disrupt processes; sometimes resulting in the destruction of election materials or even worse must be addressed.

He acknowledged complaints from some political parties that the power of incumbency is used in some states to refuse some parties and candidates  access to public facilities for media campaigns and outdoor advertising through exorbitant fees or outright denial.

Yakubu said the situation often leads to the mutual destruction of advertising materials such as billboards, resulting in altercation and violence involving supporters of opposing political parties. 

He said the matter would form part of the agenda of the next meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) scheduled for Friday this week.

“I also appeal to party leaders for similar introspection on the conduct of your candidates and their supporters. 

“The use of thugs during elections to harass election officials, intimidate voters and disrupt processes, sometimes resulting in the destruction of election materials or even worse must be addressed. 

“Campaign in public by parties and candidates in the three states commenced on 14th July 2023 as provided in the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the governorship elections. Sadly, there are already disturbing reports of clashes between opposing parties with claims and counter claims of innocence or culpability. These claims help no one. Call your supporters to order.

“At the same time, I must also acknowledge the perennial complaints from some political parties that the power of incumbency is used in some states to restrain some parties and candidates from access to public facilities for media campaigns and outdoor advertising through exorbitant fees or outright denial.

“This often leads to the mutual destruction of advertising materials such as billboards, resulting in altercation and violence involving supporters of opposing political parties. This matter will be discussed at the next meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) scheduled for Friday this week,” he said.

2023 polls

Reviewing the preparations for the last general elections, the INEC boss disclosed that  “the Commission also printed identity cards for 1,642,385 polling and collation agents nominated by political parties to represent them at polling units and collation centres.” 

He also appreciated political parties for the role they played in deepening democracy in the country. “For the 2023 general election, political parties played a leading role in the election and the electoral process.

“Collectively, they sponsored 36 presidential candidates and their running mates; 837 governorship candidates and their running mates; 1,100 senatorial candidates; 3,127 candidates for federal constituencies (i.e. House of Representatives) and 10,231 candidates for state assembly constituencies.” 

He further said: “Following the conclusion of the election, seven political parties won senatorial seats, eight parties in the House of Representatives and nine parties in the State Houses of Assembly.

“While the Commission is working on the electronic register of election results as provided by Section 62(2) of the Electoral Act 2022, a comprehensive list of elected candidates for the 1,491 constituencies distributed by name, constituency, political party and gender will be uploaded to the Commission’s website this afternoon (yesterday) for public information.

“The commission appreciates the role of political parties through the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) in voter education within the limits of available resources both during off-cycle and the general election. Your robust engagement with the National Assembly contributed a lot to the 4th and 5th alterations to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the enactment of the Electoral Act 2022. 

“Working in partnership with us, political parties also supported the expansion of voter access to polling units and many innovations introduced by the Commission, including the online pre-registration of voters, nomination of candidates and the accreditation of party agents. 

“You also supported the Commission’s effort to deepen the use of technology in voter accreditation and result management as well as the provision of assistive devices in aid of persons with disability during elections.”

The INEC chairman expressed the  hope that “at the end of the review process, a comprehensive report will be prepared that will serve as a basis for further engagement with stakeholders focusing on specific actions necessary for the improvement of future elections and electoral activities.”

 IPAC

Also speaking, Chairman of Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) Engineer Sani Yabagi said, “IPAC carried out a dispassionate review of the EU/EOM report as well as listened to the views expressed by all stakeholders in the Nigerian democratic process and has since referred them to the IPAC 2023 Elections Review Committee set up to unearth all immediate and remote causes surrounding the conduct and the outcome of the election.

The IPAC chairman noted that “the findings and recommendations of the IPAC 2023 Review Committee will assist in engendering dialogue amongst all stakeholders on electoral, legal and administrative reforms necessary to achieve improved democratic practices in Nigeria.”

“Mr. Chairman, as we approach the off season elections in Imo, Bayelsa and Kogi states in November, all hands must be on deck to ensure the Resident Electoral Commissioners and Returning Officers are not pressured by some governors and INEC itself to falsify results in their states. 

“The Adamawa state 2023 governorship election result declaration saga and the embarrassment caused INEC and the nation at large is a case in point. The prosecution of the Adamawa REC in court by INEC is highly desirable and commendable. 

“Equally desirable is action by all relevant security agencies to check the misuse of state resources in violation of the Electoral Act 2022 which prohibits “the use of state apparatus to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate” (section 92(2)).

“Finally, IPAC understands that there are so many other factors that affected the conduct of the 2023 election, such as obvious ethnic profiling, religious sentiments, voters’ suppression, ballot snatching, hate speech, etc, which are beyond the Commission, hence the need for all the key stakeholders to work in harmony”, the IPAC chairman said.