Women groups decry electoral violence, laud INEC
Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF) and Gender and Election Watch (GEW) have lamented the violence that marked the recent governorship and House of Assembly elections across the country.
They noted incidences of violence in Lagos (thuggery, voter inducement), Rivers (threats to observer), Kano (destruction of ballot boxes) and Adamawa, where a political protest was organised and security operatives fired teargas to dispel the crowd over delayed announcement of the results.
NWTF and GEW Room reportedly deployed 350 observers across the country. Working from a gender perspective in Adamawa, Kano, Lagos, Oyo and Rivers as well as House of Assembly elections in Anambra and Kogi, they observed that the polls were relatively peaceful, except in Lagos, Kano and Rivers, where there were reported cases of violence and destruction of poll materials, which affected the turnout of women and their participation in the polls.
Speaking on behalf of the groups, NWTF/GEW President, Mufuliat Fijabi, said the opening of polls was on time during the governorship and House of Assembly elections, compared to the presidential and National Assembly elections, as over 70 per cent of polls observed, opened before 9:00a.m.
“However, there were some instances of late opening of polls. For example, in Rivers’ PU 32-07-08-006, School Hall Green Iwoma II, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials experienced logistic challenges due to low tide of the river. This resulted in the late opening of this polling unit,” she said.
Fijabi added that voter apathy was also observed, as most voters stayed away from the polling units because of insecurity. She added: “In some states, she said women turnout was lower compared to the already low turnout recorded in the presidential election. In Lagos, the Oro traditional festival in some parts contributed to voter apathy. However, in some states, a sizeable number of women came out to participate in the elections. In most states where GEW observed, there were no queues and priority voting was not observed because of the low turnout of voters.”
The delayed announcement of the results of the Adamawa gubernatorial elections, in which a female contested, gave the women concern. “This is also not encouraging for women, who contested political positions and a negative indication for inclusive democratic practice which Nigeria should aim at.”
According to them, security personnel and party agents in some polling units intimidated some GEW observers. “Also, the security situation during the March 18, 2023 elections was poor, compared to the February 25 elections, as there were security breaches, which could have been avoided with intense security action and coordination.”
Commending INEC on significant improvement with regards to logistics and opening of polls, Fijabi noted the incitement of violence, disruption of polls and burning of poll materials as unacceptable and called for more accountability, arrest and prosecution of electoral offenders.
She also urged INEC to hold its partners in the planning and conduct of elections accountable for failure to deliver on their agreement, describing the banning civil society observers by incumbent governors as a bad practice, which should not be encouraged, especially when INEC had accredited them to observe elections.