By Samuel Oyadongha
Yenagoaâ€”Bayelsa State Independent Electoral Commissionâ€™s handling of last week’s council polls in which the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, clinched all the eight local government councils, yesterday received a knock from an advocacy group, Stakeholder Democracy Network, SDN.
SDN, which insisted that the participation of the people in elections was crucial to empowering them to hold their elected officials at all levels of government accountable, decried what it described as the obvious fraud and apathy that greeted the exercise.
The State Independent Electoral Commission, SIEC, a body saddled with the conduct of the elections, the group lamented, went ahead to declare winners in areas where election never took place.
SDN said theÂ election umpire, in spite of its nomenclature,Â â€œindependentâ€Â was not independent.
â€œBYSIEC, in reality, is an appendage of the PDP government in Bayelsa State, and did not pretend about this,â€ declared the SDN, which monitored the polls alongside other civil society organizations, such as Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development, CEHRD.
The Inemo Samiama-led Stakeholder Democracy Network, in its report on the polls, said apart from the inherent lapses observed on the election day, the level of awareness among the population about the election was limited.
â€œThere was very limited information on the location of polling zones and the time for the elections.
The organizing agency, BYSIEC, did not use popular media outlets to publicise and disseminate information about the elections.
â€œOnly government media organs such as NTA and the Bayelsa State radio were used to pass information about the elections. All through our stay in Bayelsa before, during and after the elections, we did not see any party manifesto from any of the political parties on what they intend to do or provide for the people.
â€œBeside, there were credible reports about lack of funding for BYSIEC and its inability to provide personnel, election materials and equipment to all the regions of the state. BYSIEC personnel for the elections, including supervisory polling officers, polling officers, and collating officers, were still at the premises of the BYSIEC on the morning of the election, trying to find out if their names were on a list pasted on a wall.
â€œSome election materials were still at the premises of the BYSIEC on the day of the elections. They were apparently leftover materials, despite the fact that there was shortage of result sheets, polling cards and other election materials in some localities,” the group said.