Coordinated Disruption of Bayelsa Governorship Poll Undermines Its Outcome
The CDD Election Analysis Centre (EAC) has released the preliminary findings on the conduct and key processes of the November 16, 2019, Bayelsa Governorship election. Speaking at the release of the preliminary findings, CDD Director, Idayat Hassan flayed what she described as a coordinated disruption of the voting process and the subsequent destruction of electoral materials by armed thugs.
Hassan noted that given the widespread scale of these systematic attacks of the electoral space, the credibility of the outcome had been called to question.
In a statement made available to NewsWireNGR, she said: “The very daring way and the manner in which the political thugs disrupted the voting and destroyed materials in such a planned and coordinated sequence, takes everything away from the credibility of the process and its outcomes. In large numbers of polling units, the voting environment was so hostile and unsafe, thereby scaring away eligible voters, who would only come out to vote at the risk of losing their lives.”
She said the number of critical recorded in the elections make it impossible for it to pass the minimum test for credible elections. She said the widespread electoral malpractices such as the theft of ballot boxes, the abduction of INEC ad hoc staff and subsequent hijack of election materials as recorded in several parts of the state, calls to question the integrity of the electoral process.
“Similar incidents were recorded in Otuan Ward 5 Southern Ijaw LGA, where the election was materials hijacked by unknown thugs. Voting was also disrupted after ballot boxes were hijacked in Yenizue Gene II, Polling Unit II in Yenagoa LGA. CDD EAC observers further reported incidents of sporadic gunfire in Opolo area of Yenagoa Local Government, just one person reported injured, while two persons were feared to have died after being shot.”
The CDD Director further informed that data from EAC observers spotted incident of disruption of voting at Epie III ward, polling unit 001, where the election had to be cancelled.
“The level of malpractices in this election was pervasive as reported by our CDD EAC observers on the ground. In Agbere community in Sagbama Local Government area, for instance, there were reports of a group of people thumb printing a significant number of ballot papers.”
Concerning INEC and the perennial logistics problems, CDD lamented in many polling units observed voting did not commence as at when due because of the very late arrival of election materials. In other cases, the delay in the arrival of election materials had to do with clashes between rival party supporters at the Registration Areas Centres over how electoral materials should move. Those clashes, in some cases, led to the destruction of the electoral materials.”
On the issue of vote-buying and trading, the CDD Director, widespread cases were recorded in Tombia Community; in Yenagoa LGA, the two dominant parties, APC and PDP matched each other with the PDP buying votes for N7000, while the APC paid N8000. In Sagbama, between two and three thousand Naira was offered to voters. PU 24, Ward 2. CDD EAC observers reported seeing voter buyers and sellers using code words and sign language to indicate where to meet for payment after the vote is cast.
“In the light of these findings, there is no mistaking the fact that we are degenerating to a gunpoint democracy, where the democratic choices of the voters do not matter, and where the desperation of the political actors would use every vile tactic available to undermine the democratic ethos. We, therefore, have a lot of work to do as citizens,” she said.
READ BELOW CDD Report on the: PRELIMINARY STATEMENT ON THE CONDUCT OF THE NOVEMBER 16, 2019 GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION IN KOGI STATE
Earlier today, voters across 21 Local Government Areas in Kogi State went to the polls to elect a Governor. In Kogi West, a rescheduled senatorial election also got underway following a court verdict cancelling the earlier vote.At the CDD Election Analysis Centre (EAC), we have been receiving reports from our trained and accredited observers deployed across the 21 LGAs of the state. This preliminary statement is an overview of our initial findings on the conduct of the election.
i. FINANCIAL INDUCEMENTS: In our report yesterday, we noted the extensive use of financial inducements to affect the outcome of the elections as election officials were offered $1,000 each to buy their conscience. Today, we noted direct financial incentives to voters who were offered money before and after voting;
ii. THUGGERY AND VIOLENCE: We indicate below systematic and coordinated violent attacks numerous at polling units and the carting away of voting materials;
iii. INTIMIDATION OF OBSERVERS/JOURNALISTS: In many polling units, observers and journalists are being blocked from access and taking photographs in what appears to be an attempt to prevent the gathering of evidence of electoral malpractices;
iv. VOTER SUPPRESSION: The use of violence in the campaign and open threats of more violence in the elections appears to be a voter suppression strategy which we see being played out today.
THESE OBSERVATIONS APPEAR TO INDICATE A PLANNED STRATEGY TO AFFECT THE INTEGRITY OF THE NOVEMBER 16TH ELECTIONS IN KOGI STATE.
1) Violent Disruption of the Electoral Process
It would be recalled that in the final build-up to the election, CDD had drawn the attention of stakeholders to the very volatile environment and the mostly lawless tactics employed by the partisan actors to win political advantage at all costs. CDD EAC observers reported coordinated disruption of voting across many polling units with hired thugs invading Polling Units, shooting sporadically to scare away voters, and in several cases carting away voting materials.
In Polling Unit 001 in Ward 4, Dekina LGA, CDD observers reported the sporadic gunfire. Violent disturbances caused by rival party thugs who battled each other over control of the polling environment was reported in Felele and Ganaja areas ofLokoja LGA, especially in Registration Area 08, Oworo, Felele Area, PU 004. In Ankpa 1 Polling Unit (PU) with number 2203-04-0 in Ankpa Local Government.
CDD observers reported an incident wherein operatives of Federal Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) stormed the location of the polling unit and arrested the PDP party agent. This move disrupted voting, as thugs responded by throwing stones in a bid to release the PDP party agent.
There were also several reports of ballot box snatching; an example is PU 004 Ayingba (PMML Primary School, GRA) where the polling unit was attacked by thugs alleged to be ruling party supporters. The t
The heavy presence of security was not enoughas a countermeasure to deter trouble makers bent on using violence to subvert the process. Observers and Journalists were all similarly harassed and attacked in several instances. A CDD observer was injured in Ayingba Ward 004 while our partner the Cable journalist was harassed and his phone seized for trying to take a picture off the APC senatorial candidate giving money to two older women who stood by his convoy.
Voters were also intimidated, followed into the voting cubicles and forcefully coerced, to vote for candidates against their wishes.
The coordinated disruption of the electoral process by hoodlums mobilised by the political parties undermines the integrity of the electoral process.
Notwithstanding that INEC enlisted the EFCC and the ICPC to assist in curtailing vote-buying, vote-buying was very rampant across the state. CDD observers reported that party agents in several polling units engaged in the financial inducement of voters to influence them to vote for the parties.The cost of a vote ranges between N500 and N3,000.
OPENING OF POLLING
KOGI: TIME OF ARRIVAL OF INEC OFFICIALS
As at 11.00 am, available data reveal that INEC officials arrived before 8.00 am in 55.2% of the polling units in Kogi state where CDD deployed observers. Also, INEC officials arrived between 8.01 am and 9 am in 27.6% of the observed PUs while in 9.1% of the PUs, the arrival of INEC officials was between 9.01 am and 11.00 am.
KOGI ELECTION: COMMENCEMENT TIME
Information received from CDD EAC election observersindicate that the Saturday, November 16, 2019, the election in Kogi State commencedbefore 9 amin some polling units across Adavi, Bassa, Dekina, Ibaji and Idah local government areas.
As at 11 am, accreditation and voting had started in 55.1% of polling units to which we deployed observers in Kogi state. Of these polling units, 20.7% began accreditation and voting at 8 am, 17.2% started at 8.30 am while 10.3% started at 9 am, and 6.9% started as from 10 am.
Further information reveals that a good number of the ad hoc staff are knowledgeable and familiar with the operation of the smart card reader in some of the polling units we deployed observers.
INEC and the Perennial Challenge of Poor Logistics
The late delivery of materials experienced in some part of the state was primarily due to logistics challenge and deplorable state of infrastructures like bad roads and difficult terrains experienced in the deployment of electoral materials to registration area centres (RACs) in some locations like Koton Karfe, Okehi, Okene Dekina, and Adavi local government areas.
2) Fake Newsand Disinformation
CDD preliminary observation indicates, as previously predicted that the political parties would use fake news to maximum effect as the election commenced. Some of the fake news circulated today includes the disqualification of the PDP candidates, false results, fake images of thugs arrested and snatching of ballot papers. CDD fact-checkers were able to debunk most of these fake news items. The hoaxes are mainly intended at delegitimising the INEC and the process. Again, Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp are the leading platforms used to spread disinformation.
Signed: Idayat Hassan, Director