Okwe Obi, Abuja
No fewer than 626 persons were reportedly killed across the country in the six months between the start of the election campaign and the commencement of the general and supplementary elections, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, the Coalition observer group disclosed when it released its final report on the 2019 general election in Abuja, yesterday.
The group made up of 74 civil society organisations (CSOs) said the number increased compared to the 106 killed in the 2015 general elections.
In the report, the group said the election was blighted by voter suppression, low voter turnout and other challenges. It faulted the decision by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to postpone the election a few hours to the start of the polls.
It said in spite of the postponement and assurance of improvement by INEC, logistical and operational challenges still undermined the electoral process.
“There were significant delays to the start of voting due to the challenges in deploying INEC officials and materials, and many cases where materials supplied to polling units were incomplete, perceived in some quarters as deliberate acts of voter suppression.
“INEC materials did not reach a significant number of polling stations across the country until 11 a.m as voting also ended late and marred the conduct of the elections.
The report listed the numbers of deaths per the six geopolitical zones in the country.
“Situation Room is deeply worried about the spike in politically motivated killings in the period leading up to the elections, At least, 626 people were said to have been killed between the start of the campaign in October 2018 and the final election in March 2019, ” the coalition observer group said.
The North-west region recorded the highest number of deaths with 172 killed during the elections, while the North-east followed with 146 fatalities.
The South-south and North-central had 120 and 111 fatalities respectively, while 63 and 14 were killed in the South-west and South-east respectively. Benue, Borno, Kaduna, Rivers, and Zamfara led with the highest casualties during the elections, the report said.
Meanwhile, its Convener, Clement Nwankwo, have urged the National Assembly to reintroduce the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, pass it and transmit it to Present Muhammadu Buhari for assent.
He insisted that only then problems pertaining to electoral fraud could be tackled headlong.
Nwankwo, who appealed to INEC to deepen voter’s education, appealed to the electorate body to work with credible election observer groups for a peaceful outcome, and suggested full implementation of the recommendations in the 2008 Uwais Panel Report.
“The Executive should commit to passing reforms proposed in the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill and also champion a credible implementation of the recommendations in the 2008 Uwais Panel Report,” he said.