Guber poll: CODE condemns violence, voter suppression

CONNECTED Development (CODE), a non-profit organisation monitoring the 2023 Governorship and State Assembly elections, has released its observations across the country.

The Chief Executive of CODE, Hamzat Lawal, who gave an update on the election in Abuja, bemoaned incidents of voter suppression and electoral violence in a number of polling units.

He disclosed that one of the organisation’s observers was also brutally attacked by political thugs for voting her preferred candidate.

The ICIR had reported how one Uzabe observer was attacked and beaten by thugs for refusing to vote for the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ebonyi State.

Speaking on the incident, Lawal  said, “First, let me iterate that we condemn in strong terms the attack and suppression of voters in a number of polling units. For example, in Ebonyi State, one of our own, an accredited Uzabe field observer, Uzodimma Lucy Ogodo was brutally attacked for refusing to vote for a particular party.

“This is unacceptable and against the tenets of democracy which we strive so hard to maintain as a nation. The democratic contract of our country dictates that we as citizens have the exclusive right to determine who our leaders are and we must protect this right, and this is why we are again calling on security agencies to act swiftly and ensure justice is served.”

He stressed that there were ‘pockets of violence’ in numerous polling units according to the Uzabe observers.

“Also, based on the reports of our field observers, we can say categorically that there are other pockets of violence that have surfaced in numerous polling units across the country.

“For example, in Lagos State, Ojo/Iba LCDA Local Govt Area, Polling unit: Princess Eneni Street, Victory Estate, Polling unit code: 091, was attacked by party hoodlums. In fact, the pregnant wife of our Lagos State Lead was attacked and is currently recuperating. We will not relent until justice is served.

“When we set out to deploy the Uzabe technology for election observation, our goal was to provide citizens the opportunity to partake in the process that brings about their leaders. This was our unique approach to ensuring accountability in the process.”

He noted that they deployed 20,000 citizen observers that populate their database with reports from various polling units across the country.

In the same vein, Lawal also applauded the Independent National Electoral Commision, INEC, for the upgrade in the functionality of BVAS, adding that CODE observed early arrival of INEC to the polling units translating to 79 per cent of areas covered by Uzabe observers.

“Despite all of these faults that we have observed we cannot say that the commission has not done well in some areas for example we observed that we recorded the early opening of polls in 79% of polling units observed by CODE as opposed to the less than 30% in the February 25th general elections. We must commend the functionality of the BVAS in this election. This indicates the commission’s commitment to embracing this new technology in our electioneering process.

“Officially all polling units across the country are closed even though voting is still ongoing in some polling units. We want to remind INEC of their promise of electronic transmission of results for the gubernatorial elections. While we still debate the issues around the February 25th Elections it is not too late for INEC to redeem itself. We would like to remind INEC that they set these standards for themselves and asked us to trust them in executing them.

“Because we observed in the morning at the junction of Odogbolu/Iyarere, PU: 093, Aguda, Surulere area of Lagos, where at the opening of polls the presiding INEC official announced that there would be no uploading of results. Our observer at this polling unit has just updated us that counting, sorting and announcement of results have been made, and the INEC staff lived up to their earlier warning by refusing to upload. While citizens insisted they upload, the Nigeria Police put them in their cars and drove off. 

“We must, however, commend INEC on the uploads of results on the IReV. we have noticed that as of 3:30 pm this afternoon, some results from various polling units have already been uploaded on the IReV portal. We are watching this progress very closely. 

“We are on the precipice of monumental change in our democracy right now. The dynamics of our voting pattern and our electioneering processes are improving significantly and we must NOT allow logistical failures to thwart necessary change. 

“The people have done their part, they are out there either still voting or counting their votes, and following the results, it is time for the commission to do its part as well.”

Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: umustapha@icirnigeria.com. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M

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