Chinelo Obogo, Lagos
A coalition of civil society election observer groups has called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to cancel the recent Bayelsa governorship election over allegations of widespread violence.
During a press conference in Lagos on Thursday, the chairman of the organisation, Olufemi Lawson and the Secretary, Ologun Ayodeji, both said that the high rate of violence and the killing of innocent people are enough reasons for the electoral commission to cancel the election.
They said that if the election is allowed to stand, it would be setting a bad precedence for future elections where politicians would get more daring if they know that there would be no consequences for their actions. He said all the election observer groups that are members of the coalition, witnessed the violence firsthand and that some of their members were injured.
The group stated
“There were reports of attacks on some journalists and election observers during the election. For instance, our observers were prevented by armed thugs, under the watchful eyes of policemen, from entering Nembe town in the morning of the election. This was amidst report from some voters in the town that election materials are being diverted from the RAC to the house of a chieftain of a political party in the local government.
“There were also attacks by thugs on observers in Ekeremor, Opolo in Yenagoa metropolis and Opume in Ogbia during which an observer’s phone was stolen. It is observable that there was unrestricted movement of political thugs in many parts of the state. There were widespread incidents of vote buying across the state with a systematic approach by politicians aided by security agents, particularly the police. These occurred in about 60 percent of the polling stations where we observed in the state.
“The large presence of security officials did not deter thugs from instigating and perpetrating violence. We witnessed politicians come to polling units with masked thugs who instantly snatched the ballot boxes and chase voters away.
“In what was anticipated as a result of pre-election attacks which led to the death of several people including a police officer, violence on election day became very real. In Southern Ijaw, one Mr. Woyintonbra Dickson was shot by thugs who were in company of Mr. Preye Oseke at Ogboinbiri, Apoi ward 15. He is presently receiving treatment in a hospital in Yenagoa.
“We are miffed at the inability and failure of security agencies to intervene or try to stop hoodlums from perpetrating violence especially in the snatching of ballot boxes and disruption of collation process at polling units, as most security personnel ran away, leaving the voters. INEC officials were left at the mercy of rampaging mobs,” they said.