A Coalition of civil society groups on Monday said desperation by politicians and massive deployment of security operatives contributed to the lapses witnessed during the 2019 election.

In a reports which was unveiled on Monday, the CSOs faulted attempts by politicians to put the blame of the hitches witnessed during the elections solely at the doorsteps of the electoral body.

The report which is summary of the 2019 election by the coalition of CSOs, led by the Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA) claimed there was an institutional conspiracy by political class and state actors to sabotage INEC’s preparations and processes.

The report identified vote buying, violent attacks on perceived opponents, intimidation and abduction of INEC officials, snatching and destruction of ballot boxes and papers to burning up of INEC offices and electoral as some of the ways the political class ruined the election.

The report stated in part, “The politicians, their agents and thugs constituted the greatest menace in the conduct of the 2019 general elections. From brazen acts of vote buying, violent attacks on perceived opponents, intimidation and abduction of INEC officials, snatching and destruction of ballot boxes and papers to burning up of INEC offices and electoral  materials in Plateau, Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Imo, Benue and Abia states, the political parties and politicians showed their desperation for power.

“The resultant losses of  lives and property in such places as Lagos, Rivers, Kogi, Plateau and so on and the widespread violence that attended these were recorded by our observers as perpetrated by politicians and their political thugs.

“The recruitment of thugs by the political class from one part of the country to another before the elections evidenced by the arrest of
young men travelling enmass at Uyo was as never seen in the history of our elections.

“The violence that followed the elections was as a result of the hate speeches by the political class at campaigns and the conduct some of the party primaries ended in  violence.Most political party agents seen on the field did not have proper identification tags from INEC, the parties printed their own tags for their agents. It has become a  recurrent problem of the political parties not following the guidelines for party agents accreditation.

The report said under such circumstances, there was little the INEC could do since it doesn’t control the security apparatus and other relevant institutions such as Nigeria Air Force, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) which are key stakeholders in the electoral process.

“What happens when politicians suborn state institutions to  sabotage INEC and its carefully laid out plans and preparations at the  last minute, which was exactly what happened leading to the  postponement of the Presidential and National Assembly election that  was supposed to be held on Saturday, February, 16 2019?

“Some ad-hoc staff became suborned by politicians, considering that they are not permanent staff of the Commission and with a lot of them susceptible to the temptation of immediate gratification for a day’s work without consideration for the consequences,” a segment of the stated.

On the role of security during elections, the report stated that in many places, the security personnel deployed for the election turned a
blind eye to breaches by overzealous party agents and their thugs.

It states that in both elections, the number of security agents deployed per polling unit was inadequate and in terms of their response to incidences that occurred in their Polling Units, they were grossly inefficient.

In her address during the unveiling, CTA acting executive director, Faith Nwadishi commended some INEC staff from their courage and refusal to be bought over by politicians.

She said, “Of course, we did not expect that the political class would accept INEC’s exercise of its independence without a fight, but what shocked Nigerians was the extent they could go to undermine INEC.

“The brazen manner the security services were used to intimidate INEC officials in their offices and on the field was terrible. Yet, INEC officials nationwide refused to be intimidated by threats and violence unleashed on its officials and ad-hoc staff. Indeed, INEC’s brave conduct may have saved our nation from conflagration because it was obvious that elements of the political class, including elements of the ruling class, were bent on mayhem if they didn’t get their way.”

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