Over 70 CSOs demand independent inquiry into INEC’s poor conduct of 2023 general elections
In light of the serious shortcomings with the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections, over seventy Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) under the auspices of the Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room have called for an independent inquiry into the conduct of the 2023 Nigeria General Elections.
Situation Room Convener, Ene Obi, who made this call in Abuja, insisted that the independent inquiry must address among other issues, procurement, logistics management and abuse of electoral process by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security officials.
According to Obi, the step was urgently needed to identify challenges and make recommendations towards repairing the damaged credibility of Nigeria’s electoral process.
Obi said it was imperative to undertake a national debate to address all the critical challenges that still confront the nation’s electoral process, maintaining that the process will without doubt enthrone more transparency and help to build peoples’ confidence in the democratic process.
Presenting the body’s interim report on the conduct of the election, she said situation room observers reported that voting did not hold in some polling units in Benue, Zamfara, Kogi and Rivers States, adding that there were reports of late commencement of polls in a number of places, especially in Rivers and Lagos States.
“Furthermore, there were reports of no or insufficient supply of election materials in Gombe, Oyo, Abia, Borno, Delta, Yobe and Nasarawa States. For instance, in Polling Unit 022, Aluci Gincla Ward, Nasarawa Eggon LGA of Nasarawa State, Situation Room observers reported that the Governorship election result sheets produced were a photocopy while the original result sheets were provided for only the State Houses of Assembly election.
“In PU 060, Abuloma/Amadiama Ward 20, in Port Harcourt LGA of Rivers State, the commencement of voting was delayed because as at 10:17 am, the BVAS had not been reconfigured as it still had presidential election data.
“With regards to compliance with the electoral laws and procedures, the Situation Room observers note that assistive devices such as Braille ballot guide for the blind were provided only in 7.1 percent of the polling units visited. The observers also reported that in PU 041 Open Space by Magistrate Court, Ganaja Village, Ajaokuta LGA of Kogi State, temporary voter’s cards were used for accreditation in breach of the electoral law.”
On election security, she noted that despite the presence of security personnel in 91 percent of the polling units visited, the security officials did not live up to expectations as there were reports that security agents were compromised in some places.
“Situation Room notes with profound concern that several incidents of election-related violence were observed in many parts of the country.
“Situation Rooms notes that there is a persistent problem of election violence in Rivers State. However, the incidents of violence in Lagos State appeared to have surpassed its existing threshold.
“For instance, in Bishop Oluwole memorial primary school, Ward 005, Ifako Ijaiye LGA of Lagos State, voting ended at 2:30 pm but a fight broke out between the INEC officials and party agents during the counting of votes due to a voided ballot paper. In Polling Unit 069, Amuwo Odofin LGA, Lagos State, thugs attacked voters and vandalized vehicles and prevented people from voting in this Polling Unit by breaking people’s cars, fighting, and inciting violence.
“In addition, two Situation Room observers were harassed and obstructed from carrying out their duties in Enugu North and Igboeze North Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Enugu State.
“AIT reporters and cameramen were molested and prevented from covering the elections at some polling units in Eti-Osa, Ifako-Ijaiye and Amuwo Odofin LGAs by political thugs and hoodlums. An ARISE TV crew was attacked while covering the election in the Elegushi area of Lagos. A cameraman suffered facial injuries, while camera drones and other equipment were seized.
“In Ogun State, a reporter with the News Agency of Nigeria was among journalists molested in Itori Odo Area of Abeokuta South LGA where they faced mob attack by political thugs who equally reportedly assaulted INEC officials with axes and allegedly destroyed ballot boxes.
“Situation Room further notes that in Rivers, Lagos and Edo States there were reports that voters were denied access to polling units by political thugs. In PU 012, Nonwa Ward 7 in Tai LGA of Rivers State, thugs destroyed materials and beat up election officials.
“The Situation Room also received a disturbing report that 19 INEC ad-hoc staff who were on their way to seven different polling units in Ugbelie Ward 06 in Ideato South LGA of Imo State were abducted by unknown persons.
“There were reports of an attack on voting centres in an IDP camp in Uhogwa, Ovia North East LGA of Edo State by armed hoodlums.
“During the attack, one person was severely injured, and an INEC ad hoc staff was forced to take refuge in a nearby house, while voting materials were carted away. In addition, there were reports of voter intimidation, disruption of voting and destruction of election materials in polling units visited in Enugu, Imo, Sokoto, Delta, Niger, Gombe, Nasarawa, Akwa Ibom and Ogun States.
“The Situation Room notes that the principal actors and propagators of these acts of election violence are well known but have operated in an environment of absolute impunity for years. The Situation Room calls on the government to urgently address this persistent issue of election violence.”