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Bayelsa/Kogi election: Report raises alarm over arms stockpiling, recruitment of political thugs

A new report released by YIAGA Africa, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), on Tuesday warned of arms stockpiling and recruitment of political thugs ahead of the November 16 governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States.

Except there is proactive security intervention, the scheduled peaceful election may be marred with violence and irregularities, the report stated.

Hotpots identified include Okabo community in Ankpa Local Government Area (LGA), Okehi and Idah in Kogi State as well as Yenagoa, Sagbama LGAs in Bayelsa State.

The report is the second edition of the Watching the Vote (WTV)Election Observers Project of YIAGA Africa.

“The reports highlights possible threat to the peaceful conduct of the election with the observation of the presence of small arms and weapons in some LGA’s, LTOs identified a community called Okabo in Ankpa LGA, being used for the storage of ammunition and the recruitment of thugs,” the report states.

“Though, the ammunitions were discovered to have been stored prior to the 2019 General Election. Other reports of recruitment of political thugs were from communities in Yenagoa and Sagbama LGA in Bayelsa state and in Okehi and Idah in Kogi state.”

The ICIR had earlier reported the incident of vote-buying in at least one in every three local governments in both states.

WTV also highlighted cases of violent physical and verbal attacks during political activities ahead of the poll.

These are prevalent in locations such as Southern Ijaw, Yenagoa, Brass, Nembe and Sagbama in Bayelsa state and Kabba/Bunu in Kogi.

Moreover, incidents of clashes among political party supporters over the issues of lecturers being partisan and supporting a particular candidate have been reported.

“With the emerging trends, the election campaigns are becoming more competitive and fiercely contested,” the report added.

YIAGA Africa has therefore recommended that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) t develop effective communication and practical dialogue for a credible poll.

Other recommendations include better engagements with security agencies, tackling violation of electoral codes – buying and selling of PVC and voter inducement and electoral violence indicators.

The security agencies also are urged to investigate and manage the report of recruitment of thugs and stockpiling of arms.

“Security agencies should investigate and arrest people engaged in buying and selling of PVCs, and any form of voter inducement, to serve as a deterrent to others.

“Security agencies should engage in active engagement and communications with citizens on the principles regulating security deployment and its operations ahead of the election.”

According to the INEC, there are 45 gubernatorial candidates in Bayelsa, eight LGAs, 105 electoral wards, 2,244 polling units, 923,182 registered voters, 889, 203 Permanent Voters Cards (PVC) collected and 33,874 uncollected PVCs.

In Kogi, 23 candidates are contesting for the governorship seat in 21 LGAs, 239 electoral wards, 3,508 polling units, 1,646,350 registered voters from which 1,485,828 PVCs have been reportedly collected and 160,522 uncollected.

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