March 23, 2023

Suppression of voters, violence, others marred Gov, Assembly polls – TMG

Suppression of voters, violence, others marred Gov, Assembly polls – TMG

Foremost election observation group in Nigeria, The Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) has published its report on the monitoring of the March 18th Governorship and House of Assembly elections in the country.

A copy of the TMG report, signed by its Chairman, Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani) and made available to Vanguard on Thursday, noted that suppression of voters, violence, vote trading, padding among others marred the polls.

According to the group, in the build up to the elections, there were reports of voters’ suppression and intimidation with threats of consequences as issued by well-known loyalists of some highly ranked politicians in the country.  

Rafsanjani said the failure of the security operatives to apprehend and prosecute issuant of such threats, further emboldened them to unleash mayhem on citizens on election day.

He stated, “The gubernatorial elections were further challenged by incidents of voter apathy in many states across the country following diminished confidence in the electoral umpire as a result of the outcome of the presidential election.

“This becomes a major draw back on the nation’s electoral process considering the increasing spate of voter education in the country.

“TMG observed a sharp departure from the presidential election where identity mobilisation of voters along religious and ethnic lines were visibly noted. 

“However, voting patterns in the gubernatorial polls as observed in Kaduna, Cross River, Taraba, Delta, Adamawa and a host of other states were free from ethno-religious identity considerations. This goes to show that electoral campaigns and voter mobilization in Nigeria can be devoid of these elements.”

Rafsanjani added that TMG’s observation of the elections across the country spotlighted the issues of deployment of logistics, voter suppression, low turnout of voters, electoral violence, citizens and security agents engagement, functionality of the BVAS and IReV system, electoral security and vote buying. 

On the monitoring of the polls, Rafsanjani noted that TMG deployed 768 roving observers across 768 Local Government Areas in the country to observe the 18 March gubernatorial and houses of assembly elections. “It  also set up a central data centre to collect and analyze data observed from the field. TMG conducted its activities in compliance with the guidelines provided by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC),  in collaboration  with other domestic and international observers..

“TMG notes improvements by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) around logistics delivery and functionality of the BVAS. However, same cannot be said on election day security as it happened to be one of the most violence ridden elections in its recent history,” he added. 

Recommendations for subsecquent polls

1. The failure of the police to respond to voter intimidation in the build up to the state elections emboldened political thuggery and election violence that permeated the governorship election in Nigeria. The police have the authority to stamp out these individuals no matter who they are connected to. The police must move to arrest those individuals and bring them to justice to serve as deterrent in future elections.

2. All arrested electoral offenders must be prosecuted in public knowledge while investigations continue to arrest those not in police net yet. Furthermore, the sponsors of those thugs who unleashed mayhem on innocent Nigerians who only sort to express their constitutional guaranteed rights must be fished out and prosecuted in public knowledge. 

3. INEC must review all evidence of electoral malpractices presented before it

4. EFCC And ICPC should continue with their good work to reduce the commercialization of vote buying and arrest both the enablers, middlemen, and receivers during the upcoming elections.

TMG commends INEC

TMG, however, commended INEC, saying the lessons learnt from the presidential poll was brought to improve the state governorship and assembly elections. 

He stated. “As seen from the efficient logistic deployment and functionality of the technological introductions, Nigeria’s electoral system has the potential to bring about credible elections, it is to the extent which the commission is allowed to independently manage the elections that hinders credible elections in the country. INEC must strive to eliminate human interference especially with result management.

“As seen from the March 18th election, the credibility, freeness, fairness of elections in Nigeria are beyond the management of the commission alone. Security agencies must play it roles optimally to ensure electoral violence do not remain a tool for election manipulation in the hands of politicians.

“Huge lessons have been learnt from the 2023 general election, the commission must begin to rally stakeholders towards improving the system ahead of the off-cycle elections in Kogi, Edo and Imo states. TMG also commends the commitment of domestic and international observers as well as the media for its professionalism without interfering with election procedures,” it said.