• Says journalists, observers victims
From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) has said the major drawback of the state election remains the widespread violence that permeated through the states of the country.
In a statement by its Chairman, Auwal Rafsanjani, TMG noted that cases of disruption of polling processes by political thugs were reported as they were seen to snatch ballot boxes and destroyed electoral materials across the country, and in extreme cases resulting in deaths.
TMG, which deployed 768 roving observers across 768 local government areas, added that political thugs also perpetrated voter suppression and intimidation, in most cases in the presence of security agencies. “Journalists, and observers were also victims of intimidation and attacks; for instance, a TMG observer was physically attacked in Kano,” it said.
The group noted that the failure of the police to respond to voter intimidation in the build up to the state elections emboldened political thuggery and election violence that permeated the governorship election in Nigeria.
It noted that the police have the authority to stamp out the individuals no matter who they are connected to. It recommended the police must move to arrest those individuals and bring them to justice to serve as deterrent in future elections.
It also recommended all arrested electoral offenders must be prosecuted in public knowledge while investigations continue to arrest those not in police net yet.
Furthermore, it said the sponsors of those thugs who unleashed mayhem on innocent Nigerians who only sought to express their constitutional guaranteed rights must be fished out and prosecuted in public knowledge.
TMG noted that votes trading reared its ugly head again in the state elections and took even more severe dimensions than recorded in the presidential election.
“In states like Kaduna, Kano, Cross River, Ogun, Ebonyi and Bauchi, open display of vote-buying pervaded the conduct of the election. In some instances where officials of the Economic Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) moved to arrest culprits, the officers were attacked.”
It recommended that EFCC and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) should continue with their good work to reduce the commercialisation of vote-buying and arrest both the enablers, middlemen, and receivers during the upcoming elections.
The group commended INEC on lessons learnt from the presidential poll which were brought to improve the state elections.
It, however, recommended that INEC must review all evidence of electoral malpractices presented before it.
“As seen from the efficient logistic deployment and functionality of the technological introductions, Nigeria’s electoral system has the potential to bring about credible elections, it is to the extent which the commission is allowed to independently manage the elections that hinders credible elections in the country. INEC must strive to eliminate human interference, especially with result management.
“As seen from the March 18 election, the credibility, freeness, and fairness of elections in Nigeria are beyond the management of the commission alone. Security agencies must play it roles optimally to ensure electoral violence do not remain a tool for election manipulation in the hands of politicians.”
Huge lessons have been learnt from the 2023 general election, the commission must begin to rally stakeholders towards improving the system ahead of the off-cycle elections in Kogi, Edo and Imo states.
“TMG also commended the commitment of domestic and international observers as well as the media for its professionalism without interfering with election procedures.”