Nigeria Civil Society Election Situation Room, an election monitoring team, has slammed the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, over the conduct of Saturday’s Anambra state governorship election which is yet to be concluded.
The electoral body suspended the final collation of results of the election until Sunday afternoon, following its earlier decision to reschedule the poll in 65 polling units in Obosi, Idemili North local government. In its final report on the election released Sunday noon, Election Situation Room said INEC had repeated too many common mistakes that the expectation of Anambra election serving as a litmus test for 2015 general election, has not been fully realized. “It is our overall impression that the conduct of the elections leaves a lot to be desired and reflected the lack of competence on the part of INEC in the conduct of elections,” the group said. “The several failings of past elections identified in previous observer reports seem to have repeated themselves…” The group, a platform of civil society organizations working on election observation, managed by Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, said INEC has no explanation for late distribution of election materials as observed at several polling units. “The Situation Room is concerned that INEC is still not able to deal with the perennial challenge of late distribution of election materials and commencement of accreditation and voting. The group decried the “gross incompetence” of INEC officials charged with distributing election materials. “This incompetence manifested in the reported mix up of the election materials for areas such as Idemili North LGA…Although INEC has rescheduled elections in a number of polling units in the worst affected areas, such mix up affects the integrity of our electoral process,” it said. The group also criticized INEC for not deploying election officials in sufficient numbers to some polling units. “We received reports that in some polling units, election officials were recruited at the election venue and deployed without any form of training,” it said. It also criticized the commission for the disenfranchising many voters who could not find their names on the approved list. The group said despite media report suggesting large turnout of voters, the real numbers were far less. “Although various reports in the media suggest high turnout of voters based on the sometimes large crowds seen milling around some polling units, the actual accredited voters based on our observations fell far short of the numbers of registered voters in the respective polling units,” it said. Curiously the Civil society situation room praised security agents for conducting themselves in a professional and commendable manner. “This is in spite of reports that security officers deployed from outside Anambra State were not adequately provided with food and shelter.” The report added.
In a different report however, the Justice and Equity Organisation (JEO) issued a report that Anti- democratic forces have unleashed their latest retrogressive onslaught, less than forty-eight hours to the Anambra Gubernatorial election, at civil society activists and groups officially accredited by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the premises of Disney Hotels, Km 4, Owerri-Onitsha road, Owerri, Imo State. The statement reads “Our Organisation, the Justice and Equity Organisation (JEO) accredited as observer in the Anambra Governorship elections of 16th November, 2013 was the victim of police repression and political game.
To ensure efficiency and credible observation, we have organised a pre-election training and briefing session for our Observers. The occasion was also used to distribute election observation paraphernalia to our agents for the Saturday elections. While this peaceful and unobtrusive process was ongoing, a team of police men, acting ostensibly to protect the interest of some evil minded people swooped on the hotel, arrested all the 180 observers, mobilised by our organisation from across the country and carted away the INEC-provided election observation identification tags among other valuables.
This urgent public notice therefore became expedient in view of the very reliable information at our disposal, on a planned purported police stage-managed drama, wherein the arrested activists would be paraded as hoodlums and common criminals. In fact, the Police is set to display some arms and ammunition to press home its chicanery on the intent and gathering of the comrades.
We are using this medium to appeal to members of the public and the Inspector-General of police to as a matter of urgency call the Police to order. The conduct of an election should not and cannot be an excuse to declare a state of emergency on the people who are supposed to come and exercise their franchise freely. The undue militarisation of Anambra State and its environs had been a cause of concern to well-meaning observers. This high-tension situation informed our choice of Owerri for our training and briefing of mobilised observers. This arrest and detention of well-meaning Nigerians, who have sacrificed their time and comfort for voluntary service in the interest of the nation must be roundly and soundly condemned by all.
We are by this statement further calling on Mr. President, the National Assembly, Party leaders, Inspector-General of Police, the Press, INEC and Nigerians for their intervention ahead of the election.
We hereby admonish the Police authorities to order the immediate release of our members to forestall undue tension during and after the election.”
Whichever way, INEC and the Police have yet again failed Nigerians in election management.