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Promoting Good Governance.

Massive voter apathy, vote buying characterise elections across Nigeria

REPORTS coming in from across the country show that Saturday’s governorship, state assembly and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Area Council elections have so far been characterised by poor voter turnout and incidents of vote buying.

From the FCT to Benue State in the North Central, to Kaduna in the North West, to Imo in the South East, to Lagos in the South West, the issue of voter apathy appears to cut across.

Polling units visited by The ICIR in the FCT had very few voters and INEC ad-hoc officials, as well as security operatives, were seen discussing in groups for lack of something to do.

This was a sharp contrast to what obtained during the presidential and national assembly polls held on February 23.

Polling unit 004 to 006, Wuse Zone II primary school, Abuja, during the presidential election of Feb. 23 (above) and the FCT Area Council election of March 9, 2019 (below).

As at 12:50 pm, at the Wuse Zone 6 Ward, The ICIR  saw no single voter, rather INEC ad-hoc staff just chatting amongst themselves.

Tokunbo Oladipupo, a resident of Trademore Estate in the Lugbe axis of the FCT, blamed the low turn-out of voters in Abuja on the lack of awareness and campaign from the candidates. He said he just came to the polling unit but does not know any of the contestants.

“I personally, don’t even know any of the chairmanship or councillorship candidates. That’s why the turnout is very low. People don’t even know the candidates,” Oladipupo said.

But another voter, who gave his name simply as Nonso, told The ICIR that the people were apparently disappointed that their votes did not count during the presidential election.

“They were clamouring for everyone to get his voter’s card the other time. They were shouting one-man-one vote, your vote is your power, and all that, but in the end, INEC did what it wanted and called the result it wanted,” Nonso said.

“That’s why people felt there’s no need to waste their time any longer. My brother, our votes don’t count anything.”

Empty polling units in Abuja as tweeted by Chioma Agwuegbo.

A Twitter user, Adewale Fajana, wrote: “Very low voter turnout at my Polling unit today at FCDA/Army Quarters Kubwa. Took me about 3 minutes to be accredited and to vote. Took me about an hour two weeks ago.”

The story is the same in many other states of the federation as was reported by journalists and civil society organisations monitoring the elections.

In Daura, Katsina State, where President Muhammadu Buhari voted, Hadra Ibrahim, a correspondent of Channels Television, reported that voter turnout was way lower than how it was two weeks ago during the presidential elections.

In Bayelsa, Governor Seriake Dickson blamed the low turnout on the “militarisation of the election”.

“In Kaduna: Scanty voter turnout at PU 029, Kigo Road, Kaduna North LGA. A voter, Donatus Eze, said people did not turn out because their votes didn’t count during the February 23 elections,” TheCable reported.

“In Rivers: Voter turnout also low in units 23 and 24, ward 10, Port Harcourt LGA. “People are really scared of the army’s brutality, and that’s why many of them didn’t come out,” a political party agent told journalists.

Vote buying

Despite efforts by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to curb vote buying across several states of the federation, there have been reports that political party agents still engage in the act of voter inducements.

In Nyanya, a suburb of the FCT, The ICIR noticed that voters were being paid to cast their votes for a particular party.

“They were sharing money in the open just few minutes ago. if you have PVC and want to, you get N5000,” a party agent told an ICIR reporter not knowing he was talking to a journalist.

The ICIR also spotted a group of party agents discussing with a woman who then led them into a compound where more women were gathered.

Security operatives prevented the media from taking pictures.

Women cluster close to a polling unit sharing money. Photo by The ICIR

“We will just go to another polling unit. PDP don carry this one. Just carry one cartoon of Maggi and come and give these women you will see all of them come out and vote,” said a party agent of another party.

The ICIR also observed that security operatives were seeking some kind of incentives from the party agents. They first asked who the party agents were and invited them over to their cars.

A similar pattern was noticed in Oyo State where some party agents were seen taken down the name of voters who agreed to vote for their parties, with the intention of rewarding them financially afterwards.

The EFCC said operatives of the commission intercepted bags of cash at the North Bank Area of Makurdi, Benue State, saying that the cash was meant for vote-buying.

“In an attempt to arrest the culprit, some thugs attacked operatives and vandalised the bus used for patrol,” the EFCC tweeted.

The cash allegedly intercepted by EFCC operatives in Benue.

Similarly, operatives of the EFCC Ilorin Zonal Office, Kwara State arrested one Abdulkareem Abdulsalem for allegedly sharing money to voters on election day at Unit 7, Kwara State College of Education, according to another tweet by the anti-graft agency.

In some places, thugs were seen harassing voters and threatening to harm anyone who voted for any party other than the one they ordered them to.

Underage voting

Underaged voters were seen in Bauchi, Nasarawa and Plateau States fearlessly casting their votes with INEC officials and security operatives doing nothing to stop them.

 

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