Rivers Election: CSOs Express Worry over Antics of Politicians


• Says  INEC must not be biased
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room (Situation Room) has regretted the conducted so far exhibited by major political parties and politicians in the build-up to the Saturday’slegislative re-run elections in Rivers State.

The group, which said it has been closely following the build up to the Rivers re-run polls, decried the attempts by these political gladiators to create an atmosphere of insecurity and tension in the state through their verbal threats and nocturnal meetings.

In a statement issued yesterday, the CSO Situation Room maintained that the neutrality and fairness of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would be needed to prevent violence and protests during and after the polls.

“We are gravely concerned that the major political parties have repeated the practice of making incendiary allegations along with direct and indirect threats ahead of the polls,” he said.

The election observer group also noted the promise made by the Deputy Inspector-General of Police to provide adequate security and confront those engaging in vote buying.

“The atmosphere created by the political parties has raised expectations of violence and abuse of the poll process and will undoubtedly reduce public participation and confidence. We call on parties to use the remaining time before Saturday to modify their stances and assure of their commitment to a peaceful poll.

“We note the commitment by the security services to provide adequate security with deployment plans that follow the more successful approaches seen in Edo and Ondo States. The commitment by the Deputy Inspector General Police to challenge vote buying is welcome and we hope to observe this effected firmly in a non-partisan manner.

“INEC has said it is ready with  preparations for the poll and that it would seek to prevent abuse and tackle previous logistics problems. We call on political parties to engage with them positively from the leadership to polling unit level.

The group said that its pre-election observations  highlight some key issues including high levels of distrust on all sides adding that it is  crucial that INEC and Security agents show the highest standards of neutrality at all times.

“Transparency of how INEC manages elections results is crucial – as is political party agent participation and the use of legitimate channels to voice concerns.
“Public Communication is critical – decisions on key sensitive issues such as the Tai Local Government Area court case must be effectively communicated and boost confidence in the fairness of the Rivers polls.

“We demand that major political parties should deploy party agents who engage constructively and civilly thereby boosting public confidence in the checks and balances of the poll.

“INEC should release widely within the minimum time of the poll the breakdown of results from December 10th 2016 and March 19  polls with ward and unit level results included.

“Security Services should monitor personnel behaviour, reiterate internally the need for neutrality, and provide clear public briefings of action against individuals or units who behave in a partisan manner.
“We further encourage voters and the people of Rivers State to have confidence in the process and to actively and peacefully turn out to vote in the Election.”

The Situation Room is made up of civil society organisations (CSOs) working in support of credible and transparent elections in Nigeria.
The group would observe the election alongside local and international observers.