Calls for independent inquiry into lapses, violence
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room has called for an independent inquiry into what it described as poor management of Presidential and National Assembly elections by Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The Situation Room, which is a coalition of over 70 CSOs working in support of credible and transparent elections in Nigeria, described last Saturday’s elections as a step back from the 2015 general election.
The Situation Room in a statement by Executive Director, Policy & Legal Advocacy Center, PLAC, called for actions to be taken to identify what went wrong and what could be corrected.
In a third interim statement it released, yesterday, the group said it was disappointed by “serious lapses observed with the conduct of Presidential and National Assembly elections,” despite initial postponement of the polls on grounds of logistics challenges.
It said: “Situation Room notes that INEC has not managed the election efficiently and significant shortcomings have been recorded.
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‘’The election has been a step back from the 2015 general election and actions should be taken to identify what has gone wrong and what can be corrected.
“Additionally, the election was marred by violence, security lapses and instances of over-reach. Other challenges include compromised INEC officials as well as partisan security operatives. Conduct of major political parties was disappointing.”
It noted that contrary to section 29(3) of the Electoral Act, which empowered INEC to request the deployment of Nigerian Armed Forces only for the purpose of securing the distribution and delivery of election materials and protection of election officials, reports were received of incidents involving the military in Rivers State.
Noting that in another incident, military personnel obstructed the passage of electorate into their polling units, the Situation Room stated: “Situation Room observed significant challenges with the smart card readers. Received reports showed several instances, which necessitated INEC officials resorting to manual accreditation.
“This was reported in Binji Local Government Area in Sokoto State and Owerri North Local Government Area of Imo State. States where card reader challenge was prevalent include Imo, Lagos, Ogun, Abia, Nasarawa, Kebbi, FCT and Kaduna.
“Situation Room urges voters and stakeholders to exercise restraint to avoid further loss of human life and to seek legal redress were aggrieved.
“That there should be an independent inquiry into the poor management of the electoral process by INEC with a view to determining the following:
“The underlining causes for logistics lapses with a view of itemising operational deficiency that led to the initial postponement of elections on February 16 and logistical challenges with the rescheduled elections on February 23, 2019.
“In addition to this, INEC is expected to inquire into the activities of its staff with respect to late arrivals to polling station; lack of understanding of processes by adhoc staff, and allegations of collusion between staff and politicians.
“The failure of the smart card readers in identified polling units should be interrogated with a special audit of the results of polling units where five per cent card reader incidence failure was recorded.
“The Situation Room calls on INEC and security agencies to ensure accountability for acts inimical to the integrity and credibility of the polls especially individuals complicit in the burning of INEC offices, election materials, snatching of ballot boxes and other electoral offences.
“Particular instances of contrived and voter suppression due to violence must be thoroughly investigated and perpetrators and their sponsors punished to the full length of the law. These allegations must be thoroughly investigated to restore faith in the process and address lingering social fractures that reinforce feeling of exclusion.
“The Situation Room calls on the Inspector General of Police to urgently investigate allegations into Police overreach in identified locations in the country. We ask that such officers be held personally accountable for infringing on the rights of citizens in the exercise of their franchise. In the same vain, Situation Room also calls on the IGP to carry out investigations on all political actors who have instigated or perpetrated violence leading to the needless loss of lives.
“Inter Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security should deploy security personnel in line with security risk findings taking into consideration major flashpoints in future elections.
“A major risk factor in this election has been impunity and rascality of the political class. INEC cannot deliver free and fair election without committed support by the political class.
‘’The level of violence, hate speech and general toxic political environment contradicts the commitment to the Peace Accord signed by political parties and candidates prior to the elections.
“Politicians should commit to respecting the rules of the election and under the current circumstance ensure that their followers do not act outside of the law with respect to election returns.
“Absence of robust enforcement of election rules incentivises impunity. Nigeria should urgently undertake the process of strengthening the framework for electoral accountability. The National Assembly should fast track the process of passing the Electoral Offences Commission Bill.
“Call on the international community to continue to lend their voices in defence of the integrity of the result.
‘’In particular we urge the United States and the United Kingdom to follow through on their earlier statement that they will sanction individuals whose actions undermine the election or have led to the death of citizens.”