Stakeholders urge violence-free guber polls in Bayelsa, Kogi States
Twenty-three days to the November 16 gubernatorial elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States, the Nigeria Police have identified the imposition of candidates and flagrant disregard to electoral laws, as some of the main reasons for election violence in the country.
This is just as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been reminded that much of the difficulties in its electoral mandates, such as security of election materials and transportation can be addressed easily by working in statutory collaboration with state and Local Governments on the exchange of data on population growth movement.
The Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria Women Trust Fund (NWTF), Mufuliat Fijabi, made the observation while presenting the report on women’s participation in the 2019 General Election at Koltol Gust House, Ibadan, Oyo State.
She enjoined the security agencies to re-strategize on how to assist the election management bodies to curb both vote trading and electoral violence, stressing that there was a need to bring those who indulge in vote trading to book, so as to de-monetize the electoral process.
Also speaking at the occasion, the INEC chairman, Prof. Yakubu Mahmood said the commission was conscious of its responsibilities and expectations of all Nigerians, assuring that the commission is determined to ensure that free, fair and credible elections are conducted at all times.
The INEC chairman, who was represented by the chairman of Outreach and Partnership Committee, Dr. Adekunle Ogunmola, declared that working with relevant stakeholders, INEC carried out several awareness creation efforts among women in the electoral process, remarking that it intends to sustain the effort going forward.
Speaking at a stakeholders’ meeting organized by the Nigerian Police, the Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG) in charge of zone Five, Dibal Yakadi, also identified unemployment and illiteracy as some other factors fueling electoral violence.
The stakeholders’ meeting that involved traditional rulers, party leaders, the civil societies, candidates of political parties and community leaders, was held at the Police officers Mess in Yenagoa.
The AIG said everyone has a role to play in order to archive a violence-free, fair and credible election, adding: “The increasing prevalence of electoral violence in our society today is a cause for security concern. Crime and violence in Nigeria today undermine the social fabric of our societal value by eroding the sense of safety and security
“The stakeholders meeting organized by the Nigeria police today is centered on the need to create a peaceful atmosphere for, during and after the forthcoming Bayelsa governorship election.
“It is always a tradition for the Nigerian police at the commands and zonal level to call stakeholders for such an important meeting during election especially now that election is gathering momentum in Bayelsa and Kogi states
“There was a need for us to meet and discussed and create a good atmosphere for all political parties and their supporters. Police and other security agencies are usually tasked with the peaceful conduct of an election, but peace cannot be achieved without collaboration and synergy with other stakeholders.”
He reiterated that the aim of the meeting was to create peaceful environment and atmosphere for a free, fair, credible and violence-free election, since according to him, “we want to discuss and outline the roles of INEC, the community, the community leaders, security agencies, the state government and the media, especially the social media.”
Yakadi listed some other factors that trigger electoral violence like poverty, get-rich-quick syndrome, loss of societal values, and proliferation of arms among other factors.
“It is estimated that $3billion dollars worth of small arms and light weapons are transported illegally across national borders every year with figures increasing in geometric proportion.
“Availability of arms and light weapons has contributed to youth involvement in crime and election violence. Other factors includes easy access and consumption of illicit drugs, illiteracy and lack of access to education, lack of manpower and logistics support for law enforcement agencies,” he added.
The AIG also decried the imposition of candidates by political parties against people’s wish, flagrant disregard to free and fair election by politicians and other stakeholders, maintaining that inadequate voter-education, corruption, lack of internal democracy among critical parties inhibit free and fair elections.
“The fear of losing power in the face of uncertainty and abuse of electoral laws such as rigging, votes buying, multi registration,” he said, disposes political actors to violence.
While urging INEC to make sure that the forthcoming elections meet and satisfy international best practices, the Police boss said they can achieve that by partnering security agencies as well as educating both voters and the political parties to guarantee credible election.
Earlier, the Chairman Bayelsa State Traditional Rulers Council, King Alfred Diets Spiff, pleaded with those that might lose the election, to accept the outcome in good faith and not to engage in actions that could lead to loss of lives and property.
The monarch said, instead of violence, such losers should approach the courts to seek redress and get true justice, even as he appealed to the security agencies to always be at alert in case of an outbreak of the crisis.