EU Observers: Violence Marred Supplementary Elections

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Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja

The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) deployed to Bauchi, Benue, Kano, Plateau and Sokoto State where supplementary governorship elections were held on March 23 has again observed that the process was flawed with irregularities, particularly insecurity.

A statement issued by the EU EOM Press Officer, Sarah Fradgley, indicated that some polling units were inaccessible to the observer team during the election due to violence.

According to her, “extensive electoral security problems were observed in some areas, with groups of men with weapons intimidating and obstructing the process, and security agencies ineffective at protecting citizens’ right to vote.

“In particular, parts of Kano were largely inaccessible to EU observers, and citizen observers and journalists were also obstructed. EU observers also witnessed increased interference by party agents and cases of vote-buying. Party leaderships did not appear to take any steps to rein in their supporters,” she explained.

Fradgley noted that “the environment was intimidating and not conducive to voters’ free participation in the election. Party leaderships locally and centrally did not appear to take any steps to rein in supporters and prevent evident violence, intimidation or other misconduct. Throughout the day, INEC did not comment on electoral disturbances, despite its overall responsibility for the election and security arrangements.

“In Nasarawa Local Government Area (LGA) in Kano State, which accounted for approximately one-third of all registered voters for the supplementary governorship election, EU observers witnessed organised intimidation of voters.

“For example, groups of youths with clubs and machetes patrolled the streets, and people with party agent tags harassed voters. During collation in Kano, EU observers saw that several INEC polling staff had been attacked. Large groups of men with weapons were not contained by the police.

“Due to intimidating crowds and disturbances, EU observers in Kano could not access or continue observation in polling units in Dala and Nasarawa LGAs. The electoral process in Kano was further compromised by the harassment and obstruction of citizen observers, and journalists from BBC Hausa, the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), and TVC. This compromised scrutiny of both polling and collation of results in the affected areas.

“Isolated violent incidents also disrupted voting and counting in other states. In Bauchi, EU observers witnessed around 50 people with clubs disrupting counting in one polling unit. In Benue, election materials were burnt; resulting in the cancellation of polling affecting 13,000 registered voters, and a collation officer carrying result sheets was shot in the leg,” she added.

She acknowledged that due to the high stakes and the reduced electorate involved, supplementary elections are systemically vulnerable to parties strategically pressurising voters and disrupting the process.

According to her, there were improved logistical arrangements and procedures were mostly followed in some of the polling units that could be fully observed, stressing that “although there were problems with secrecy of the ballot.”