Staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) confirm ballot papers for house of representatives during the electoral preparation at a local office of INEC in Port Harcourt, southern Nigeria, on February 22, 2019, a day before postponed voting day.Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP
Agence France-Presse

As collation of results in Saturday’s Presidential and National Assembly elections progresses, Faith Nwadishi, the Executive Director, the Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA), one of the accredited election monitoring groups, has alleged partisanship on the part of some military personnel.

Nwadishi, who raised the allegation, noted that the group was concerned over the reported killings in parts of the country by soldiers, particularly that of Rivers, Bayelsa and Yobe states.

She said the military did not only abandon their primary responsibilities, but were found wanting in responding to security breaches, a development that made some of the citizens resort to self-help.

Addressing the media at its situation room, on Sunday morning, in Abuja, the CTA’s Executive Director said preliminary report from the group’s observers deployed across the country, showed that there were cases of men of the armed forces preventing election observers from performing their legitimate duties even after proper identification.

She said in some cases, especially in riverine areas, voters were turned away from accessing their polling booths by the military, whom she alleged, blocked their access roads.

“The conduct of men of the Armed Forces deployed to flash points to ensure the security of lives and property leaves much to be desired.

“In many instances, men of the Armed Forces left their primary responsibilities and became participants in the electoral process. Cases of such involvement in the electoral process were reported in places like Rivers, Bayelsa and Yobe states.

“Also there were cases of men of the Armed Forces preventing Election Observers from performing their legitimate duties even after proper identification.

“In some cases, we had reports of voters being turned away from accessing their polling booths as was reported in the riverine areas of Delta State where water ways were blocked.

“We observe that in many cases security agencies were slow in responding to security breaches. This led to situation were citizens were left with no option than to resort to self-help. This is a call to anarchy,” she said.

Nwadishi, however, lauded Nigerians for turning out en mass to exercise their franchise, saying their enthusiasm and resilience to vote despite what she described as “challenges encountered and the initial postponement of the elections.”

“In spite of the challenges encountered and the earlier postponement of the elections, voters turned out in large numbers with determination and enthusiasm. It was heartening to see that irrespective of their political views, voters took this civic duty seriously. Nigerians once again showed their determination to ensure the sustenance of democracy,” she said.

Nwadishi added, “Reports from observers deployed by CTA across the country indicate that the elections were still marred by challenges ranging from late arrival of materials and personnel, malfunctioning card readers, shortage of sensitive and non-sensitive materials, pockets of violence in some states resulting in killings and disruption of voting, missing names of registered voters from the electoral register, poor management of RACS on the polling day.

“However, despite these challenges, observers noted the determination and enthusiasm of voters to participate and exercise their franchise,” she stressed.

She, however, gave the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) thumbs up for displaying dedication in the assignment even as she said it regretted that the commission staff were still grappling with a basic understanding of their roles.

“While INEC generally displayed dedication, we observed that some of them were still grappling with a basic understanding of their roles as well as the capacity to operate the card readers. We also note with concern, few cases of INEC officials conniving with politicians to sabotage the electoral process.

“For example, in parts of Imo State, INEC officials connived with politicians to withhold electoral materials thereby preventing the elections from holding. We commend the quick response of the INEC Chairman in arresting the situation and ordering the arrest of the erring officials,” she added.

She noted “with concern the unrelenting desperation of the political class and political parties in undermining the electoral process.”

“The penchant for the use of political thugs, vote buying, the predilection for compromising the security agencies have all combined to pose serious threats to the political process by the political class/political parties,” she added.

Speaking further, she said, “We also note with concern, the reported killings in parts of the country. There were reports of killings by soldiers in Rivers, Bayelsa and Yobe states. Other cases of killings were also reported in Kogi, Bornu, Ebonyi, Delta, Zamfara and Oyo states.”

“We commend the majority of Nigerians who peacefully, painstakingly with determination and enthusiasm came out in high numbers to perform their civic duties. We also commend INEC for the simultaneous accreditation and voting which in no small measure contributed to the electoral exercise.”

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