By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
Ahead of the Bayelsa and Kogi gubernatorial election on November 16, 2019, Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, Friday, tasked the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to conduct free, fair and credible elections.
This was contained in a letter addressed to the National Chairman, INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, and signed by Convener, Concerned Nigerians, CN, Prince Deji Adeyanju; Convener, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy & Constitution, CDNDC, Ariyo-Atoye Dare; and Convener, Free Nigeria Movement, FNM, Adebayo Raphael.
The letter titled ‘Bayelsa and Kogi States: An Urgent Appeal’ was submitted at the Commission’s headquarters in Abuja, urged INEC to restore its image locally and internationally as the elections will be its first outing after the 2019 general elections, which reports from various quarters adjudged to fall below the minimum standard as far as credible elections are concerned, and that the Commission should brace up by ensuring all mechanisms being put in place to conduct the two elections
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The letter reads in part, “We write to express our concern on the forthcoming governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States and to equally state emphatically that these scheduled polls offer the commission a great opportunity to right the wrongs of the 2019 general elections, correct the mistakes of the past and improve on the gaps identified by local and international observers.
“This is INEC’s first outing after the last general polls which fell below the minimum standard for conducting a credible election in our estimation and as confirmed in the post-election reports of notable organizations. Hence, we wish to encourage and task the commission to put in place strong mechanisms that will make the two elections to be adjudged as free, fair and credible.
“We have read multiple media reports on your concern that thugs have been heavily mobilized to disrupt the forthcoming Kogi and Bayelsa States governorship elections.
“While we commend the honesty of the commission in its risk assessment report on the forthcoming elections, we must strongly urge the commission to be firm and unbiased in dealing with any form of electoral misconduct or violence by any of the political parties during the forthcoming elections.
“Furthermore, we would like to urge the commission to cancel the ballot at each and every polling unit where violence erupts in the forthcoming elections. We believe this would serve as a strong deterrence to politicians and political parties who are bent on using violence to undermine our elections and subvert the will of the people.
‘We wish to also ask the commission to develop a monitoring and feedback template for deploying Police officers, so as to be able to hold to account any unit that fails to act in preventing any form of electoral malpractice. It is important that the Police are mandated to also do a ward-by-ward report of their activities on Election Day.”
On the issue of the card reader and manual accreditation, the group said the commission should make its position clear on the use of any of these in order to promote transparency and acceptable results.
“It is equally important that the commission declares its intention on the use of card reader and manual accreditation for the forthcoming elections. This is crucial as it would show the commitment of the commission to transparency and accountability, as well as help, reinforce trust in the electoral process”, it said.
It also stated that those who are eligible voters but are currently displaced by flood in the two states should be considered for them to exercise their franchise.
“Finally, we would like to urge the commission to stay true to its promise that Internally Displaced Persons will not be disenfranchised during elections in Nigeria. To engender inclusiveness in the electoral process, it is important that the IDPs in Kogi and Bayelsa States are allowed to vote in the forthcoming governorship elections.
“Whilst looking forward to peaceful, credible and inclusive elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States, we sincerely hope that these two elections would return Nigeria to the path of electoral redemption”, it added.