…blame FG for failing to tackle intimidation of voters
Irked by incidences of violence, vote-buying and other forms of election fraud in some parts of the country during the Governorship and State Assembly elections, more Nigerians have condemned the development while calling for probes and reforms ahead of future elections.
Local and International observers had condemned increased violence, voter intimidation and vote trading during last Saturday’s Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections.
Participants during PUBLIC CONSCIENCE, an anti-corruption radio programme produced by the Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development, PRIMORG, joined the long list of citizens and organizations frowning at the misconduct of the elections on Wednesday in Abuja.
Speaking on the credibility of the March 18 state polls, a Senior Program Officer, Kimpact Development Initiative, Oluwafemi Adebayo, stated that the elections fell short of the expectations of Nigerians owing to the violence that erupted mostly in the Southern part of the country.
Adebayo, while calling for an independent inquiry into the issues that undermined the credibility of the 2023 elections, emphasized that there is a need for a probe of the conduct of the exercise and activities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
“There should be an independent inquiry into these elections as regards the conduct of the elections. INEC, as an institution; there should be an independent inquiry into their processes, and I’ve been holding this back. Still, I think at a time like this, I support the aspect of holistic reforms, not just towards INEC. I think holistically. We need to look at the electoral system as a whole. There is a need to unbundle INEC”.
On election violence, he said: “For February 25, on the election day, there are 89 cases of violence that we (Kimpact Development Initiative) verified. In the March 18 election, there were 121 cases of violence recorded, and from what we have been able to confirm to date and on election day, we got over 97 of those incidents and with close to 121 victims.
“From our data, 87 percent of the violent attacks happened in the Southwestern part of the country, predominantly Lagos, Rivers”.
Adebayo, however, decried the failure of the Nigerian state to bring perpetrators of electoral violence to book over the years, which has continued to encourage violence and fraud during elections.
Reacting to the skirmishes and corruption that headlined the conduct of the March 18 state elections, a public affairs analyst, Sonny Akoh, condemned thuggery, bigotry and ethnic slurs that made their way into the 2023 general elections, lamenting that “Nigerians did not get the elections they deserve.”
Akoh hailed the resilience of the electorates in ensuring they participate in the elections and faulted the Federal Government for not doing enough to nip hate speeches, voter intimidation and threats of violence issued by associates of politicians on the board before and during state elections.
He noted that the system’s failure to punish electoral offences in the past had emboldened perpetrators of crime during elections.
Speaking on hate speeches and ethnic slurs that played out during the elections, Akoh said: “We have not seen any substantial arrest made in places like Lagos where it was more pronounced.
“We have seen cases where the Commissioner of Police said that somebody who has made a very strong statement that seems to be stampeding human rights was just “joking,” and for agencies like the Nigeria Orientation Agency, they have not been at their best.”
He called on the Judiciary to rise to the occasion ahead of a barrage of post-election litigations. As well as urging disenchanted Nigerians not to give up on participating in future elections.
“Nigerians shouldn’t give up. Are Nigerians tearing their passports? That’s the worst thing they should do; they should sustain this momentum,” Akoh stressed.
Nigerians who called into the programme decried the impact of violence and vote buying in the 2023 general election and joined calls for reform of the electoral system and for political offices to be made unattractive going forward.
Barr. Chidi Onwuekweikpe said: “The main problem we have is that politics in Nigeria is made very attractive. That’s why people kill to get there. We need holistic reforms so that whoever gets there will work. INEC should review their systems and make everybody vote on the same day.”
Project Assistant at Accountability Lab Nigeria, Mnenga Shiiwua, said: “The challenge is that politicians are ready to kill and maim just to get into office. The problem is monetary gain – this is the problem we should focus on.”
Public Conscience is a syndicated weekly anti-corruption radio program used by PRIMORG to draw government and citizens’ attention to corruption and integrity issues in Nigeria.
The program has the support of the MacArthur Foundation.