By Chibuike Nwabuko
Abuja (Sundiata Post) – The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has expressed displeasure over the disturbing trend of vote buying in Nigeria’s electoral process.
The Executive Secretary of the Commission, Chief Tony Ojukwu expressed the concern on Sunday in his preliminary statement of the 2023 gubernatorial and State Assembly election held in 28 states and 36 states of the Federation respectively.
According to Ojukwu, the Commission noted that vote buying was reported in 14% of polling units monitored by NHRC monitors. The monitors also reported 192 incidents of vote buying. He said the Commission received reports of vote buying from Imo, Zamfara, Cross River and Kano states. The Managing Director of Kano line was allegedly arrested for vote buying at Masaka polling unit, Kofar-Mazugal ward, Dala- LGA, Kano State. It has also been reported that operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency arrested vote buyers in Ogun and Kaduna states respectively, the NHRC boss said.
On the issue of Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), the Commission noted that it was generally successful as most voters were accredited using BVAS, with only 6% of registered voters not accredited in some polling units. Commendably, using BVAS for uploading to IRev was successful in many areas monitored.
Ojukwu however, expressed dismay that INEC officials at Victor Olaiya/Idahosa Aguda polling unit in Surulere, Lagos, insist that results won’t be uploaded at the polling unit based on instructions from INEC. This he stressed amounted to double standards and capable of creating an atmosphere of mistrust in the electoral process.
The preliminary report further noted that there was low voter turnout and participation in Saturday’s election compared to the Presidential election in ststes like Niger, Kwara, Benue and Kogi, adding that turn out was abysmally low in almost all the south eastern states. This he said, is not unconnected with the hitches and irregularities recorded in the Presidential election as well as threats of violence prior to the elections.
He commended the electoral officials for the early arrival of personnel and logistics, saying that the overall report from the monitors showed that INEC officials and materials arrived relatively early across the country. This aided early accreditation and voting between 7:00 am and 9:00 am in most polling units, with 58% reporting that the voting process had begun during this period.
The NHRC Scribe who decried increasing rate of violence said the monitors reported incidents of violence, including cases of assault, vandalism, destruction of election materials, polling units and killings. According to him, “There were reports from Rivers state of hoodlums attacking the INEC officials and stealing the BVAS device and election materials. There were also reported cases of abduction of INEC Officials in Isu LGA of Imo state and attack on INEC officials in Odoakpu Ward 7, Onitsha in Anambra state. There were also various reports of attacks on polling units from Lagos, Rivers, Nasarawa and Enugu states. In Kano state there was a report of violence in Rogo ward of Sabo Gari Local Government Area that led to the death of one person. The Commission also received reports of disruption of elections in Ogbia Constituency 2 in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa state. This resulted in no elections in 4 wards and 94 polling units. There was also a report of ballot box snatching in Enugu East LGA, he added.”
The Commission charged Nigeria Police Force to arrest and prosecute all verified cases of political violence including attacks and snatching of ballot boxes and materials and urged all relevant authorities to ensure that future elections are free, fair, and peaceful.
On hate speech, the Commission said it will invite all persons identified to have been involved in hate speech during the election, including but not limited to M.C Olomo and Yahaya Bello of Kogi State.
Sundiata Post recalls that the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria, as part of its mandate to promote and protect human rights deployed 600 staff Human Right Monitors across the 36 states for the Gubernatorial and House of Assembly elections. The Commission during the elections process monitored among others issues relating to the conduct of law enforcement and security personnel, hate speech, election related Sexual and Gender based violence (SGBV) and vote buying.