ActionAid Decries Low Turnout, Electoral Abuses in 2019 Elections

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Esther Oluku

ActionAid Nigeria, an accredited observer of the 2019 general election, has identified low turnout, electoral abuses, low voters’ education and improper use of the card readers as some of the challenges witnessed in the elections.

In a statement issued yesterday, ActionAid observed that the turnout of eligible voters on Saturday, February 23 was relatively low at 35 per cent when compared to the total number of accredited voters.

It said the low turnout has been largely attributed to the postponement of elections, which led to voter apathy.

“Added to this are logistic delays; late opening of polling units and late arrival of necessary supplies such as ballot papers, stamps and markers across the country which was put at 55 per cent,” the statement said.

ActionAid noted that the most serious challenge during the elections was that of electoral abuses, adding that polling units in different areas of the country reported various types of electoral interference, from the destruction of ballot papers and boxes to the use of scare tactics, such as firing weapons into the air, to disperse potential voters during which 39 Nigerians lost their lives.

“Another issue was the improper use of card readers. Based on ActionAid’s observation of the election, the major issues with card readers were improper handling and use of the machines as most of the polling officers appeared unfamiliar with the gadget. A significant issue is low voters’ education. ActionAid Nigeria observed that most voters, especially in the hinterlands are still unaware of the voting process and this is evident in the large number of void votes across polling units in the country. Worthy of mention is the poor welfare of INEC ad-hoc staff, especially Corps members which can make them vulnerable to manipulations by political actors,” ActionAid explained.

Commenting on the elections, the Country Director of ActionAid, Ene Obi stated that “Nigerians are a passionate people.”

“But we must never let passion overrun our logic; reacting to the results of an election with violence is deeply illogical. ActionAid urges all Nigerians to accept the results of the elections in good faith so that we, as a united nation, can move forward in building a better Nigeria. For those who reject the credibility of the elections, we encourage them to take appropriate legal action. Violence will not resolve the issues; it will only create new ones,” Obi said.

ActionAid noted that while there are a great number of issues that undoubtedly need to be urgently addressed, it added that insecurity, human capital development, poverty eradication and corruption should be prioritised by the re-elected president.

“Addressing poverty must be an immediate and long-term priority for the re-elected president. The current levels of poverty in the country are completely and utterly unacceptable. We are the richest nation in Africa and yet over 87 million of us live in poverty. It is deeply unjust, but more than that, it is dangerous.

“Boko Haram was able to take hold in Nigeria as a direct result of the impoverishment and marginalisation of the people. It is no coincidence that the insurgents’ stronghold is in the north-east of Nigeria, where poverty is at its worst. It is evident that an effective implementation of pro-poor policies is needed to defeat them.

“To bring an end to poverty and insecurity in Nigeria, Buhari must vastly improve public services and infrastructure, intensify efforts in tackling the corruption that plagues this country, and look for alternate revenue sources, such as the proper taxation of foreign companies. Currently Nigeria loses an average of 15 billion USD a year to illicit financial flows, of which most are harmful tax practices. This lost revenue could put millions of out-of-school children back in the classroom,” Obi explained.