…As Int’l observer group decries violence in Nigeria’s election***
A coalition of over 70 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) has urged the United States and the United Kingdom to actualize their threat to sanction any politicians whose actions undermined the Nigerian general elections.
The CSOs, under the auspices of the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, also called on the international community to continue to lend their voices in defence of the integrity of the results of the polls.
The Convener of the group, Mr Clement Nwankwo, made the call at a news conference on the third interim statement on the Feb. 23 Presidential and National Assembly elections in Abuja.
The United States and the United Kingdom had warned that Nigerian politicians, who incite or execute violence during the general elections, would have their visas banned and seized.
For the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ms Catriona Laing, apart from the possibility of having their assets seized in the United Kingdom, the politicians could experience a worst case scenario of prosecution.
“In particular, we urge the United States and the United Kingdom to follow through on their earlier statement that they will sanction individuals whose actions undermine the elections or have led to the death of citizens,’’ Nwankwo said.
He said in the light of the issues that emanated from the Feb. 23 elections, an independent inquiry should be set up to look into the poor management of the electoral process by INEC.
“The failure of the smart card readers in identified polling units should be interrogated with a special audit of the results of polling units where 5 per cent card reader incidence failure was recorded,” he said.
The convener also called on INEC and security agencies to ensure accountability for acts inimical to the integrity and credibility of the polls especially individuals complicit in the burning of INEC offices, election materials, snatching of ballot boxes and other electoral offences.
“Particular instances of contrived and voter suppression due to violence must be thoroughly investigated and perpetrators and their sponsors punished to the full length of the law.
“These allegations must be thoroughly investigated to restore faith in the process and address lingering social fractures that reinforce feeling of exclusion,” he said
Nwankwo also called on the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to urgently investigate allegations into police overreach in identified locations in the country.
“We ask that such officers be held personally accountable for infringing on the rights of citizens in the exercise of their franchise.
“In the same vein, Situation Room also calls on the inspector-general of police to carry out investigations on all political actors who have instigated or perpetrated violence leading to the needless loss of lives,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), says it is very concerned that after six consecutive elections, electoral violence remains a feature of Nigeria’s electoral landscape.
Mr Rupiah Banda, former President of Zambia and leader of the EISA Electoral Observer Mission (EOM), said this on Monday in Abuja at a media conference on the organisation’s preliminary assessment of the 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections.
According to him, the mission observed all Election Day’s procedures in 54 polling stations in Abuja, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Kaduna, Kwara and Ondo.
Bandah said that in elections, security was very important; with security operatives playing a role to secure both the processes and the actual voting and enable citizens exercise their democratic right.
According to him, the team observed that there was no widespread military deployment across the country on election day, except in the North East where the threat of terrorism remains high.
“Elections were not observed in some of the local government areas (LGAs) that experienced violence and terror attacks due to some of the security risks and threats ensuing in the Nigerian political environment.”
He added that the incidences of arson, thuggery and destruction of property in the build up to the election raised doubts about the capacity of the security agencies to effectively secure the electoral process.
“These doubts were further heightened by the fire outbreaks at three Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) offices just before the elections.”
Commenting on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill that was not assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari, Banda said that the non-enactment of the provisions of the Bill was a missed opportunity.
He added that the legal framework in Nigeria does not provide for independent candidature and out-of-country voting.
“Silence of the law on such provisions remains a gap in the legal framework which impacts on the right to stand and the right to vote.”
While commending Nigeria on the increased number of registered political parties, he said that it was indicative of a more competitive democratic space, but was not accompanied by the institutionalization of political parties.
He added that the parties remain largely driven by personalities rather than ideologies and that the increase could also be attributed to stifled internal party democracy following the acrimonious party primaries that left many aspirants disgruntled.
“In addition, the high pricing of nomination for electoral candidates, excludes some qualified aspirants who may not have such financial means, especially women and young people, from seeking nomination within political parties.”
According to him, of all the political parties, only the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), have nationwide outreach and presence.
This, he said, made political parties and individuals treat elections and elective positions as commodities to be purchased by the highest bidder.
Bandah also said that women were continually marginalised within political party structures and in general political and electoral processes in Nigeria.
He added that the nation ranked 181 out of 193 in the global Women in Parliaments ranking with only five per cent women representation in its outgoing National Assembly.
Giving the organisation’s recommendations, he said security agencies should investigate the fire incidences that occurred at INEC facilities and give account to the public on the causes of the fires.
He also said that they should investigate incidents of violence reported on Election Day and bring perpetrators to book.
He, however, commended Nigerians on their resilience even in the face of the postponement of the election from the initial scheduled dates and urged them to remain peaceful throughout the final stages of the process.