The gubernatorial elections in Lagos was free and credible, a coalition of human rights and civil society groups said yesterday during the presentation of its preliminary report.
The group said no election in the world is perfect, adding that the outcome of the election in Lagos substantially meets public expectations.
At the presentation of its preliminary reports in Lagos the Nigerian Human Rights Community, (NIHRCO) a coalition of 130 civil society and Community Based Organisations (CBOs) said the election was not devoid of hitches but that overall, the result of the election represented the free, prior and informed consent of the people of Lagos. The event was attended by 80 leaders of civil rights and community based groups.
“What is left now is to heal wounds and fix broken hearts fuelled by ethnic baiting and hate speeches promoted by non state actors,” the rights group said
The coalition commended the political leadership of the state government, saying that its commitment to a free and fair election eliminated acts of violence compared with previous elections in the state when lives were lost often due to the might of the federal powers forceful attempt at influencing the outcome of the elections.
The group had deployed observers in many of the 13, 390 and 245 wards in Lagos.
The presentation was supported by members of the Nigerians in Diaspora and South West Professional Forum, (SOWPROF) who spoke through zoom from abroad describing the election in Lagos State as one of the best in the country and a model for future elections in Nigeria Nosa Osaikhuiwu, a Project Management Expert from the Colorado State University said he followed the elections in Lagos, adding that it was one of the best in the country.
“I’m glad to speak to the audience. We Nigerians abroad are glad with the peaceful conduct of the election in Lagos.
This offers tremendous opportunity for Lagos to continue her leadership role as the most significant city state in Africa,” Osaikhuiwu said.
The coalition in its address read by its Senior Programme Office, Mr Taiwo Adeleye, Mr David Ajetunmobi, the former Secretary General of Nigerian Automobile Technicians Association (NATA), one of the oldest professional groups in Nigeria Mr. Fred Ojinika said the Independent Electoral Commission(INEC) should be commended in many areas including early arrival of officials and materials, provision of BVAS and the prompt transmission of election results across the various polling units in Lagos. The group said it chose Lagos as one of the focal points in the last gubernatorial election. About 680 observers were deployed across the 20 local governments and Local Council Development Areas, (LCDAs).
It said observations of the election took a dialectical overview of the Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats before, during and after the election.
There is no election all over the world that is 100 percent perfect.
Yet, there is no election all over the world that is 100 percent bad. We shall avoid sweeping statements condemning the election. Total condemnation of the election process and outcome is absolutely wrong and unprofessional the group said. It condemned conscious attempts to demonise the outcome of the election saying that of all the 36 states in the Federation, Lagos recorded one of the most credible election in terms of the process and the outcome.
It argued that Nigeria is a developing country with historical challenges in a plural and dynamic country that had passed through the pain of civil war which led to the death of several people.
The Nigerian Human Rights Community (NIHRCO) monitored the Gubernatorial election in Lagos. We hereby present to the Public our preliminary findings. Very soon, the comprehensive report will be released to stakeholders including the media, members of the diplomatic community and local and international institutions.
As part of the strength of the election, the group said though the atmosphere was preceded by ethnic and religious baiting, there was no violence while the feud did not result into any major confrontation between the parties. Residents of Lagos still came out to vote.
We observe that the Lagos State Government made concerted efforts to engage all the stakeholders in Lagos State before the Governorship election. We recoginse the impressive moral authority demonstrated by the State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his constructive engagements with communities, irrespective of religion or ethnicity, before the election where he sought fair and free election. This development contributed in no small measure to the peace and tranquility atmosphere that trailed the election in Lagos State, the group said
The NIHRCO said the Election was the most peaceful election since 1999 in the post military era. There was only the report of the death of one person linked to the voters but not to security operatives. This is regrettable. The death represents a remarkable decline compared with other previous elections in Lagos State.
On security, the security operatives, the police, Nigerian Security Civil Defense Corps, NSCDC, conducted themselves in professional manners. They did not interfere with the election in any manner, that is to a very large extent. There were no intimidations by security officials, while voters harassment and bullying by security officials were absent. On security, the Lagos election meets global standards. The group said in comparative sense, voters expressed their will without armed intimidation or widespread violence in the units monitored and across the state compared with some other states of the Federation where armed invasion of polling units was recorded on a large scale.
In the past, Lagos had witnessed armed intimidation ahead of elections, during and after elections mostly orchestrated by the Federal authority against the State which was in opposition for most parts between 1999 to 2019.
The group said officials of the Independent Electoral Commission, (INEC) deserve commendation for their actions throughout the conduct of the election.
The INEC officials arrived early in many of the polling units.
There were provisions for Bimodal Voters Accreditation System, BVAS in all the polling units across the 20 Local Government areas and the 37 Local Council Development Areas, (LCDAs) monitored. The BVAS has led to tremendous improvement in voting culture in Nigeria. It has reduced rigging. It has helped the democratic process to eliminate phantom voters, reduced the voting time per individual and eliminated the prospect of double voting.
It noted that the election was conducted on Saturday and many of the results were transmitted through IRVs to INEC portal which could be viewed, largely, by all residents of Lagos. The voting was also completed in many of the polling units across the country in record time though elections in 10 polling units were postponed.
The group regretted however that the campaign mostly by non state actors was characterized by ethnic and religious baiting. Some of the actors in this dangerous enterprise are people who live outside the country. The ethnic baiting was mostly between Igbo and Yoruba people. However, those responsible for the baiting are fringe elements. Majority of Igbo and Yoruba people in Lagos are more concerned with their livelihood and not interested in promoting violence and mayhem.
The group said We urge stakeholders to stop stoking the embers of violence which is an ill wind that blows no one any good. We call on INEC to improve the number of polling units in Lagos. The distant between one polling unit and the other should be addressed. We call on INEC to make provisions for vulnerable communities, pregnant women, People Living With Disabilities, PLWD in future elections.
The full report of the observations from monitors will be published and presented to local and international communities,” the group said.