Olusegun Samuel in Yenagoa
A coalition of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) accredited observer groups in the just concluded off-cycle election in Bayelsa State, have urged the security agencies to be more proactive in curbing electoral violence, harassment of INEC officials and voters, hijack of electoral materials among others.
They said though the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machine functioned satisfactorily in most of the polling units, some hoodlums carted away BVAS machines in some wards of Nembe, Brass and Southern Ijaw areas of the state. The coalition comprising 14 observer groups, however, said the BVAS machines were later returned or recovered by security agents except for those lost in the water along with other equipment when the boat capsised.
At a press briefing yesterday in Yenagoa, the state capital, the chairman of the coalition, Romanus Agu, and the Secretary, Sani Bashir, said the INEC observation groups comprise Patriotic Women Foundation; Initiative for Promotion of Civil Obligation and Sustainable Peace; Grassroots Development Centre for Peace and Social
The People’s Care and Advocacy Initiatives; African Women for Unity, Social and Cultural Organisation, United Nigeria Peace Foundation and Centre for Strategy, Ethics and Value Society for the Protection of Human Rights.
Others are: the Women and Youths Development Initiatives; RosxyWhite Care Foundation; Rightway for Women and Youth in Africa Development Initiatives, Value Orientation Initiative; and Advocacy for Quality Leadership and Awareness Foundation; Social Value and Early Childhood Development; Conscience Women of African Initiative; and the Great Light Women Empowerment Initiative.
The observers also said that the security situation in Bayelsa State during last Saturday’s poll was relatively peaceful compared to that of Imo and Kogi, noting that the security in about 76 per cent of the polling units visited by the team was peaceful.
They said: “There were skirmishes in some local government areas like Sagbama, Southern Ijaw, Nembe, Brass and Ekeremor local governments. Supervising presiding officer at Ward 06 Ossioma in Sagbama LGA was abducted while waiting to board a boat to Amassoma by the Jetty.
“We received the report of the killing of one of the party supporters at the collation centre in Brass. We received reports of the snatching of result sheets of units 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 in Olodiama community of Southern Ijaw.
“Similarly, ad hoc staff of INEC were attacked by thugs who carted away BVAS machines and some election materials only to return them hours later at Mini, Ikensi and Oluasiri Registration Areas of Nembe LGA which led to the cancellation of results in those wards.
“The security agents deployed to most of the polling units and collation centers performed creditably well. They were professional, unbiased and respected the rights of voters, except few areas where they were overwhelmed by miscreants.”
The observers recommended that in view of the need to enhance credible and transparent election aimed at strengthening the electoral process and build public confidence in the electoral system in Bayelsa, the INEC, political parties, and other stakeholders should step-up in the area of voter sensitization and awareness to reduce voter apathy.
The observers recommended further: “Modern boats should be used to convey the electoral materials to the coastal areas to forestall the recurrence of the boat mishap.
“INEC should ensure timely, proactive and regular communication to the relevant stakeholders on the happenings and make such information available on their social media platforms. INEC should release data on the PVC collected to the general public early enough to ensure transparency on information to verify the voter turnout.
“The INEC and security agents should make public arrest of the electoral violators and immediately enforce penalties for offences. Political stakeholders should commit and adhere to the peace accord endorsed by all or seek redress and abide by the outcome of the judicial processes.”