Nigeria: Local observers on conduct of elections in some states

By Correspondent Chinyere Ogbonna – Local observer group in April 2011 polls in Nigeria, Project 2011 Swift Count has reported a higher number of incidents than the ones recorded during the Presidential election in Imo state in the South East and Delta state in the South-South of the country.

Briefing journalists in Abuja, the co-chair of the group, Comrade Moshood Erubami observed that the group cannot ascertain the authenticity of the result of the governorship election in delta state.

Comrade Erubami explained that some members of the group were intimidated and harassed in Delta State during the election and that has raised cause for them to doubt the authenticity of the result.

The group also insisted that the Independent National Electoral Commission was right to have called for supplementary election in Imo state.

The group also noted in their interim report jointly signed and read by Dafe Akpedeye, SAN, and Mashood Erubami, that a total of 937 critical incident reports were received from their mobile observers deployed in 34 states, which is an increase compared to 628 reports received during the presidential election.

“While observer harassment was expected to reduce during this election, it actually increased. Political party agents, local government chairmen, political thugs and community members intimidated and chased out Project 2011 Swift Count’s observers from many polling units and in some cases even pummelled and kidnapped the observers.

“It is particularly alarming that INEC and the security forces did not take heed of its previous recommendation to take all necessary steps to ensure accredited observers have free access to polling units.

The group also condemned in strong terms leaders of local communities, in particular local government chairmen, who have taken the law into their hands by depriving citizen groups, accredited by INEC, of their mandate to observe the elections.

It therefore urged the appropriate authorities, in particular the security agencies, to urgently bring to justice any culprit found compromising the integrity of the elections.

According to reports, the situation, particularly in Delta, Akwa Ibom, Imo and Rivers, pose a great threat to citizens franchise as it sets a negative template against the backdrop of a popular desire for credible elections in those states, where the observers were arrested and taken out of circulation.”

It said: “The reported critical incidents were concentrated in South-South (more than 40%), and to some degree in South-East (close to 20%). Delta had a total of 178 total incidents, with intimidation and harassment being the topmost; Akwa Ibom recorded 161 incidents, with violence being in the majority; while Imo had 76 incidents reported, with violence and intimidation leading the list.

While condemning the acts of harassment and intimidation, the group urged INEC and security agencies to fulfil their mandate to protect and provide access to polls to accredited citizen observers in future polls.

The group commended the dedication of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, members who served as polling officials despite the many challenges and also commended Nigerians for their determination to exercise their right to vote.