*Says voters didn’t turn out because their votes in presidential, NASS polls didn’t count

By Joseph Erunke

AN election observer group, the Centre for Transparency Advocacy, CTA, said it saw a new dimension in vote-buying that characterised last Saturday’s governorship and State Assembly election outside the already known money inducement.

Officials count votes in front of voters during the presidential and parliamentary elections on February 23, 2019, at a polling station in Port Harcourt, southern Nigeria. – Nigerians began voting for a new president on February 23, after a week-long delay that has raised political tempers, sparked conspiracy claims and stoked fears of violence. Some 120,000 polling stations began opening from 0700 GMT, although there were indications of a delay in the delivery of some materials and deployment of staff, AFP reporters said. (Photo AFP)

This was as it attributed the low turnout of voters during the election to the frustration of voters because according to it,”their votes didn’t count” coupled with the fact that violence characterized the exercise.

CTA, speaking at a news conference, Sunday, in Abuja, through its acting Executive Director, Faith Nwadishi, on some of its observations during the election, insisted that vote-buying took the dimension of either cash or food items in the governorship and State Assembly elections.

“In some instances, electorates were seen collecting biscuit from candidates to influence their voting pattern.

“There was some example of polling unit 003 Ukwutia, Utwugwang North in Obudu Cross River State, Yammah Viewing Centre Unit Kwali Area Council (FCT), and Dutse Alhaji in the FCT where biscuits were shared to voters to vote particular candidates,” she said.

Nwadishi said the reason why many voters did not find it necessary to come out and perform their civic rights was that their votes in earlier elections did not count, hence they didn’t see the need to come out to cast their votes.

CTA which deployed over a thousand observers to various states of the federation, including the FCT to monitor the electoral process, also attributed the low turnout to irregular elections, especially in states where governorship elections were not holding at the moment.

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The group rated the exercise in most states as poor, lamenting that vote buying largely characterized the process.

“In some places, observers reported that husbands were voting for their wives and children voting for their parents. When these reports were brought to the attention of the security agents on the ground, they looked the other way, “she stated.

She said the election was marked by violence, the intervention of the military in some places, and killing of citizens who had come out to exercise their franchise.

“INEC offices in some states were burnt, citizens intimidated, in our opinion citizens felt they should not lose their lives for participating in the election, hence they stayed back at home, “she noted.

It, however, commended INEC for improvement in its logistical arrangements which it noted led to the early deployment of personnel and materials and early commencement of polls in most polling units.

“Security agents appeared to have conducted themselves well in many voting units; but in many voting units across the country, our observers reported that security agents, particularly officers of the Police Force and the Armed Forces, were involved in the disruption of the voting process, harassment of INEC officials and election observers.

“For example, there was the case of INEC officials and observers held hostage and their personal effects, such as phones, seized at Ward 7, Unit 14, in Oruk Anam, Akwa Ibom State. Our observers also reported that security agents raided a nearby polling unit. A CTA observer narrowly escaped being held by the marauding security agents.

“Our observers reported that there was the adequate deployment of security agents, though, in many of the units observed, they acted more like onlookers than law enforcement agents. They failed to act even when electoral crimes were committed in their presence.
There is a marked improvement in the welfare of the security personnel in terms of their transportation and early payment of their allowances”.

The group equally carpeted politicians for the role they play in undermining the electoral process in the country, saying it remains a concern to CTA because as the final beneficiaries of the electoral process they should be seen to help to maintain the credibility of the ballot.

“Party agents were seen on the field without the proper accreditation cards from INEC, they were the chief organisers of the vote buying and electoral fraud across the country, “she stated.

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