The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has issued a second interim report on the March 9 governorship elections in the country.
In a statement by the chairperson of the NBA Election Working Group, Afam Asigwe, the association lamented “the high rate of vote buying, voter intimidation and violence it observed in the elections”.
It accused the military of aiding electoral offenders.
The NBA said it deployed observers to the areas covered by its 125 branches across the country for the election.
It said it received reports from its member-observers through its Toll-free lines and other social media platforms.
The NBA listed a number of states, local governments and communities where its observers recorded “strong cases of electoral malpractice” and added the military were present at the various scenes, and “were complicit,”.
Part of its report reads:
“The political parties had a field day inducing voters with money, food items, soaps and various other items to vote for their parties’ candidates. These acts of inducement right before security agents within the voting precincts has the propensity to destroy the citizens’ confidence in the entire election process. Specifically, this was observed in Kano, Abuja FCT, Lagos, Bayelsa, Anambra, Imo, Akwa Ibom, Oyo and Kwara States.
“There were several reports of electoral violence from all over the country. Party thugs and hoodlums had a field day invading voting centers to snatch polling materials, destroy voting materials, harass, molest and intimidate voters and, in some instances, INEC officials.
“Suspected political thugs, accompanied by security operatives particularly officers and men of the Nigerian Army, hijacked materials, destroyed materials, harassed, interfered with the voting processes, prevented the counting of votes at some voting centers, hindered voting, intimidated and prevented some people from voting, chased away some party agents and observers from polling units and collation centers.
“For instance, in Polling Units 5, 6 and 7, of Ward 4 in Ogbomosho South Local Government Area of Oyo State, political thugs forced voters to show their ballot papers after voting before depositing same in the ballot boxes.
“In Abia, Kogi, Ebonyi, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Imo, Katsina, Osun (Ile Ife, East and Central) Sokoto, Kano and Benue states, the elections were marred by violence. In Abia State, armed thugs invaded and unleashed violence at Ekiri Elu Central School, Aram Umuahia, forcing the INEC ad-hoc staff to abandon the election and run into private residences for safety.”
Unbridled violence, military complicity
The NBA presented further details of violence observed by the association in other parts of the country.
“Armed men stormed some polling units in Imo State and snatched election materials. In Ganaga/Township, PU: 09, Ajaokuta LGA, Kogi State, persons believed to be political thugs, aided by some security operatives, disrupted the counting process at the PU and destroyed both the ballot boxes and papers. In Polling Units 04 and 07, Kuchi Ward, Kebbe LGA of Sokoto State, voting was disrupted by thugs who attacked the polling unit and beat up both INEC and police officers.
“In Kaura Namoda, Kyam Baruwa Ward, violent scuffle among part agents led to the destruction of election materials and an attempt on the lives of some security personnel.
“In Ile Ife east and Ife Central of Osun State, there was intimidation of voters by thugs and security agents. Voters were also compelled to vote for a particular political party and those who refused were prevented from voting.
“The outbreak of violence in Oba Akoko in Akoko South West Local Government Area of Ondo State forced the state government to impose a curfew on the community. It was reported that no fewer than two persons lost their lives when security agents and some political thugs engaged in a shootout consequent upon the attempt by the security agents to prevent the thugs from gaining entrance into the collation centre in the town.
“In Akwa Ibom and Rivers States, political thugs accompanied by Nigerian Army officers, reportedly hijacked materials. In Rivers State in particular, a policeman and three others persons were reportedly killed by gunmen while a chieftain of a political party, Mrs Emilia Nte, was reportedly kidnapped. Ballot box snatching, destruction of voting materials, prevention of vote count at polling units, prevention of party agents and observers from accessing collation centers, vote buying etc were rife in these two States.
“Surprising in most places where these dreadful acts were recorded or reported, security agents were either complicit or indifferent. Yet again Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Kogi states ranked high in this regard,” the NBA said.
According to the NBA the many cases of violence also resulted in the deaths of some Nigerians in Ondo, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Enugu and Ebonyi States.
“These acts of election violence and malpractice led to deaths in Ondo, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Enugu and Ebonyi States. The development discouraged voters from casting their votes as many either refused to come out to vote or returned to their various homes after initially coming out to vote.
“In parts of Imo State, party agents reportedly forced voters to vote for particular candidates.
Five (5) cartons of ballot papers meant for governorship election were intercepted by security agents on election duty at Giginyu Ward of Kano state. A female NYSC member and some others persons were reportedly arrested. In Katsina, Katsina State, gunmen reportedly killed security officers and abducted INEC’s staff.”
The association said the secrecy of votes was not sufficient and that led heightened intimidation of voters. It accused military officers of leading some acts of intimidation of the voters during the elections.
“In fact, at polling unit 006, Ward 12, Ogba/Egbema Ndoni in Rivers State, it was reported that a policeman with Force number 442884 was seen compromising the voting process by telling people which party to vote for.”
Harassment of reporters
The NBA also noted the many cases of observer intimidation, citing the abduction of PREMIUM TIMES journalist, Kunle Sanni.
“Sanni, a Premium Times journalist was reportedly abducted in Plateau State and forced to delete photos that he had taken from his phone. He is believed to have been released. A TV reporter was also reportedly beaten by security agents in Akwa Ibom State.
“In Yobe State, soldiers barred journalists from covering the election. All these acts occurred despite INEC guidelines which make it clear that all accredited observers and journalists have a right to access polling units and collation centers.”
Illegal accreditation process
The NBA alleged the use of photocopies of election materials in Imo State during Saturday’s governorship elections.
The NBA also said it noticed manual accreditation of voters, despite the availability of functional card readers in Bauchi State.
“We received reports from Bauchi LGA, Bauchi State about manual accreditation of voters even though the card readers presented no issue. This is rather curious or instructive given the earlier announcement by INEC that the use of card readers for the elections was compulsory.”
The NBA said it would soon issue another detailed report/analysis on the polls.