By Angela Atabo
Abuja – AFRICA has urged National Assembly to hold public hearing on the Bayelsa and Kogi election to document alleged electoral impunity, violence and malpractice that characterised the poll.
Dr Hussaini Abdu, Chair, Watching The Vote Working Group and Mr Samson Itodo Executive Director, YIAGA AFRICA who co-signed a statement on the Kogi re-run senatorial election said the call was imperative to salvage Nigeria’s democracy.
Abdu said the public hearing would foster accountability and ensure reforms to the electoral legal framework, while also accelerating consideration of the electoral amendment bills and ensure their quick passage.
According to him, the call was based on YIAGA findings on the observation of accreditation, voting, counting of ballots, announcement and pasting of results at the polling units, and collation of results at Local Government Area (LGA) collation centres.
He said that politicians were becoming threats to Nigeria’s democracy due to the spate of electoral violence witnessed at the just concluded Kogi and Bayelsa election.
He said that the group received a total of 25 critical incidents, which were around vote-buying, vote suppression and community collusion to undermine the election from 52 polling units in the seven LGAs and collation centres.
“We are deeply worried and concerned about this emerging trend in electoral manipulation and the deepening culture of impunity and failure to institutionally and decisively act could undermine our democracy.
“Our politicians, political parties and security agencies have become important threats to our democracy and we must work to hold them to account.
“The Nigerian political class should be recognised as such and placed in the right plinth for interrogations, increased engagement and be exposed for local and international sanction,’’ he said.
Hussaini said the group observed that voters were intimidated, harassed or assaulted in some of the polling units during accreditation and voting adding that women were specifically intimidated, harassed or assaulted.
He said that some party agents attempted to influence voters and INEC polling officials in some units and in some wards voters who already had indelible ink on their fingers were allowed to vote.
He said that the group witnessed voter suppression and vote buying in some wards as party agents openly distributed money.
He said YIAGA AFRICA called on INEC to investigate polling units where Smart Card Readers were not deployed and where there were incidences of over-voting.
He said that the investigation should be properly structured to ensure that officials found to have willfully acted in breach of electoral guidelines were prosecuted.
Abdu called for the conduct of a special audit on the result collation process, especially for polling units where zero votes were recorded by the collation officer in the Nov. 16 election.
He urged INEC to release complete details of the cancelled polling units, reasons for cancellation and the results for cancelled polling units where results were collated.
He said YIAGA AFRICA called on security agencies to investigate report of officials who compromised and commence the prosecution of all electoral offenders arrested during the conduct of the first round and supplementary election.