THE Centre for Democracy and Development’s (CDD) Election Analysis Centre (EAC) has called for an end to “electoral impunity” in Nigeria in order for democracy to deepen in the country.
This is contained in the centre’s preliminary report on the supplementary gubernatorial elections that held in five states of the federation on Saturday, March 23.
The report showed that there were widespread instances of violence, vote buying, voter intimidation, underage voting, and harassment of journalists in several of the polling units where the supplementary elections were held across Bauchi, Benue, Kano, Plateau and Sokoto states.
“The CDD is immensely worried about the quality of elections, in particular, the renewed thuggery and brigandage being visited on the polity by the political class. These shameful acts are not just capable of truncating our democracy but importantly eroding the trust of the citizenry in the democratic process itself,” the report read in part.
“The ongoing elections have again pointed out the need for a broader electoral accountability framework and in particular the political will to pursue accountability. It is time for Nigeria and her partners to put an end to electoral impunity if democracy must be preserved.”
The centre said its observers reported incidents of violence and disruption of voting in Kano, Sokoto, Benue and Bauchi States.
“Evidence suggests a deliberate deployment of political thugs in the election, to suppress voters, intimidate officials and skew the polls in favour of some political actors,” the report read further.
“The new weaponisation of thuggery is extremely disturbing and disappointing following twenty years of uninterrupted democracy in the country.
“CDD will also want to point out that the way thuggery was instrumentalised in the elections queries the essence of the massive deployment of security agents to guard the polls. In several instances, the security (officials) was reported to have turned a blind eye to the act of brigandage perpetrated by these political thugs.”
The Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, had assured Nigerians of adequate security during the supplementary elections, but that assurance came to nothing as reports by journalists and election observers across the states show that violence were widespread.
In Benue, an INEC collation officer was shot in the leg while on the way to the commission’s headquarters with election results. The CDD reports that “polling materials for the Azendeshi ward (in Ukum LGA) were intercepted and burnt by political thugs, with election officials also injured”. Some 13,000 voters were disenfranchised as a result.
“In Minjibir LGA of Kano State, a journalist from the National Television Authority (NTA) was attacked, and his car was vandalised when covering the polling process. Similarly, we confirmed that political thugs harassed f Television Continental (TVC) crew covering the elections.
“A CDD Observer in Gama LGA, Gwagwarwa 5 centre, Polling Unit 010 A & B, Kano State, …was harassed by a mammoth crowd when he tried to take pictures of the voting process. In Gama LGA, KofarMazugal, Masaka Primary School centre polling unit 051… stones were thrown at our observers to prevent them from observing the polling processes.”
Vote trading was another electoral irregularity that featured prominently in Saturday’s supplementary elections, especially in Sokoto State and both the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) were involved in the menace.
“One of the voters s interviewed during the elections by our observer at the Katta Hakimii polling zone EC 30 B, Gidan Katta area of Illela in Sokoto State, alleged the vote was being procured for between N10, 000 and N15,000,” the CDD report read.
“According to the voter, before sliding your thumb printed paper into the ballot box, you will have to lift it for the agent to see and nod his head as a sign that you have fulfilled your part of the deal hence qualified for the payment.
“There is a need to emphasise that the act of vote buying and selling is an offence punishable under the law. It is unfortunate that despite its routine occurrence, none of the culprits has ever been punished or faced the wrath of the law.”
Similarly, underage voting was also witnessed at “a high level” in Plateau, Kano and Sokoto states, the report added.
The CDD also pointed out that “INEC is yet to match its words with actions on prompt payment, and adequate welfare for its ad-hoc staff”, adding further that the malfunctioning and deliberate none-usage of the smart card reader continues to hinder the smooth running of the elections”.