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Vote buying, violence, intimidation of journalists rife in Kogi election—CDD

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AS the results of the governorship and senate re-run elections in Kogi State held on Saturday are being collated, the Centre for Democracy Development (CDD) says there was prevalence of vote buying, violence, intimidation of journalists among other irregularities during the elections.

The CDD in its preliminary statement on the conduct of the election sent to The ICIR said there were direct financial incentives to voters who were offered money before and after the voting.

“Notwithstanding that INEC enlisted the EFCC and the ICPC to assist in curtailing vote-buying, vote-buying was very rampant across the state,” it said.

“CDD observers reported that party agents in several polling units engaged in the financial inducement of voters to influence them to vote for the parties. The cost of a vote ranges between N500 and N3, 000.”

On Friday, the Centre raised the alarm in a report, about the extensive use of financial inducements to affect the outcome of the elections, noting that election officials were offered $1,000 each to buy their conscience.

In the statement, it pointed out that there were systematic and coordinated violent attacks numerous at polling units and the carting away of voting materials.

According to the statement, the coordinated disruption of the electoral process by hoodlums mobilised by the political parties undermines the integrity of the electoral process.

It said that observers reported an incident wherein operatives of Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) stormed the location of the polling unit and arrested the PDP party agent.

“This move disrupted voting, as thugs responded by throwing stones in a bid to release the PDP party agent.”

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On the intimidation of observers and journalists, CDD said observers and journalists were blocked from access and taking photographs at many polling units which it described as an attempt to prevent the gathering of evidence of electoral malpractices.

CDD said one of its observers was injured in Ayingba Ward 004 while a journalist with the Cable was harassed and his phone seized for trying to take a picture off the APC senatorial candidate giving money to two older women who stood by his convoy.

“Voters were also intimidated, followed into the voting cubicles and forcefully coerced,  to vote for candidates against their wishes.”

In addition to this, it lamented the use of violence in the campaign and open threats of more violence in the elections which the centre said was a voter suppression strategy.

“These observations appear to indicate a planned strategy to affect the integrity of the November 16th elections in Kogi state,” CDD said.

Reacting to the time voting commenced, CDD said “As at 11 am, accreditation and voting had started in 55.1 per cent of polling units to which we deployed observers in Kogi State.

“Of these polling units, 20.7 per cent began accreditation and voting at 8 am, 17.2 per cent started at 8.30 am while 10.3 per cent started at 9 am, and 6.9 per cent started as from 10 am.”

It added that a good number of the ad hoc workers were knowledgeable and familiar with the operation of the smart card reader in some of the polling units it deployed observers.

Voters across 21 Local Government Areas in Kogi State on Saturday went to the polls to elect a governor. In Kogi West, a rescheduled senatorial election also got underway following a court verdict cancelling the earlier vote.

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