By Victoria Ojeme
European Union Election Observation Mission, yesterday, said it witnessed increased interference by party agents and cases of vote-buying in the re-run election.
In a statement, yesterday, the mission said it deployed teams to each of the five states that held supplementary governorship elections on March 23.
According to the statement, “a total of 20 observers followed polling, counting and collation of results. Extensive electoral security problems were observed in some areas, with groups of men with weapons intimidating and obstructing the process, and security agencies ineffective at protecting citizens’ right to vote.
“In particular, parts of Kano were largely inaccessible to EU observers and citizen observers and journalists were also obstructed. EU observers also witnessed increased interference by party agents and cases of vote-buying.
“Party leadership did not appear to take any steps to rein in their supporters. Given the high stakes and the reduced electorate involved, supplementary elections are systemically vulnerable to parties strategically pressurising voters and disrupting the process.
“In the polling units that could be fully observed, there were improved logistical arrangements and procedures were mostly followed, although there were problems with the secrecy of the ballot.
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“In the area of electoral security, the mission observed extensive electoral security problems, particularly in parts of Kano where polling became inaccessible to EU observers in some areas.”
“The environment was intimidating and not conducive to voters’ free participation in the election. Party leadership, locally and centrally, did not appear to take any steps to rein in supporters and prevent evident violence, intimidation or other misconduct.
“Throughout the day, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, did not comment on electoral disturbances, despite its overall responsibility for the election and security arrangements.
“In Nasarawa LGA in Kano, which accounted for approximately one-third of all registered voters for the supplementary governorship election, EU observers witnessed organised intimidation of voters.
“For example, groups of youths with clubs and machetes patrolled the streets, and people with party agent tags harassed voters. During collation in Kano, EU observers saw that several INEC polling staff had been attacked. Large groups of men with weapons were not contained by the police.
“Due to intimidating crowds and disturbances, EU observers in Kano could not access or continue observation in polling units in Dala and Nasarawa LGAs. The electoral process in Kano was further compromised by the harassment and obstruction of citizen observers, and journalists from BBC Hausa, the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, and TVC. This compromised scrutiny of both polling and collation of results in the affected areas.
“Isolated violent incidents also disrupted voting and counting in other states. In Bauchi, EU observers witnessed around 50 people with clubs disrupting counting in one polling unit. In Benue, election materials were burnt, resulting in the cancellation of polling affecting 13,000 registered voters, and a collation officer carrying result sheets was shot in the leg.”
Polling and collation procedures
“Of the 40 polling units that EU teams could fully observe, agents were present in all and in five cases were seen interfering in the work of polling officials, in Benue, Plateau and Sokoto.
“EU observers in all five states also saw party agents trying to influence voters, assisting voters or voting on their behalf. Supporters and agents were sometimes present in polling units in excessive numbers, resulting in overcrowding.
“EU observers also saw vote-buying in Sokoto by both the leading parties and indications of vote-buying in Kano. Citizen observers also reported party agents involved in vote-buying and bribery of polling staff and police.”