Int’l/National observer groups speak on 2019 elections
…Say Senator Akpabio held INEC Staff hostage for hours
…rig election in Essien Udim to favour him
…Condemn attack on domestic, foreign observers, Ors
By Ephraim Ikpe
In a joint press briefing where their position statements were separately presented, the Pan African Women Projects, Centre for Credible Leadership & Citizens Awareness and Intercontinental Leadership Initiative, being international and national observer groups which monitored the 2019 Presidential/National Assembly elections in Nigeria and Akwa Ibom State made their interim/preliminary findings public.
In its report, Mphoentle Keitveng who presented for the Pan African Women Projects said apart from late arrival of materials, late resumption of accreditation/voting, card reader problems, snatching of ballots and other election materials, insufficient security at polling units, threats to officials at collation centres, that the physical attack at Essien Udim witnessed by the observer group was treacherous.
According to their report, “The collection of materials at many collation centers were characterized by thuggery and intimidation of the Electoral officer and Ad hoc staff with Youth Corpers by the Nigerian Police.
“Also at Essien Udim Collation Centre Foreign/Domestic Observers with some journalists were attacked by thugs of the former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Senator Godswill Akpabio while trying to enter the collation centre. The incidence of this attack was properly recorded”.
The Pan African Women Projects report stated further, “Godswill Akpabio and his gang of thugs on Sunday took their bestiality to another level when they ambushed and attacked foreign observers who visited Essien Udim local government area. ”An exclusive video footing from the venue of the collation in Essien Udim, showed the accredited observers stopped by the thugs and violently barred from accessing the collation venue, where Akpabio held the INEC officials hostage for more than five hours. ”Having chased away the observers and journalists, Akpabio had a field day doctoring the ballot papers and inflating the result to his favour. Even though the number of accredited voters in the area was not up to 20,000, Akpabio dubiously allocated 60,000 votes to himself and allowed only 3000 to go in favour of his rival Chris Ekpenyong. ”However, the INEC commissioner has insisted that he would not be part of the scam and has promised to take a decision on the matter Monday morning”.
The report however lamented how INEC officials were variously attacked for refusing to mutilate election results in favour of certain candidates and commended the transparent process adopted by INEC in the 2019 elections.
“For the first time in history of election in this state and Nigeria, the INEC officers were careful, transparent and allowed a free and fair process in this election”, the report stated.
The Pan African Africa Women Projects is one of the accredited International Observers for the March 2018 Sierra Leona general election. The body observed the general elections in Mali and Zimbabwe in 2018.
On the Nigerian experiences, it observed for INEC for the 2018 Ekiti and Osun States governorship elections, Anambra 2017 elections, Bayelsa and Kogi States 2016 elections, and Rivers State elections in 2015.
However, the Intercontinental Leadership Initiative described the findings of its body on the 2019 elections as a “Rape on democratic tenets by desperate Power mongers”.
In their report, the body said, “The just concluded Presidential and National Assembly elections in Nigeria was characterized by planned and deliberate intimidation, assault, hording, snatching, burning and destruction of ballot papers and boxes in the southern part of Nigeria; evidently in Lagos, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and some parts of Cross River States”.
In their report the body stated, “Of Noteworthy is the case of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial district where agents and thugs of Senator Godswill Akpabio a serving senator and candidate of the ruling APC.
“After a failed attempt by falsifying result by submitting an already doctored result sheets in collaboration with the unscrupulous INEC returning officer of Essien Udim LGA.
“On Sunday 25th February, 2019 a day after the elections, Senator Godswill Akpabio and his thugs in the presence of military and police officers took over the LGA collation centre preventing other political opponents and their party agents having access into the collation centre. All this was done in the presence of security personnel”.
An attempt to have access into the collation centre as stated by INEC guidelines caused members of the observer teams beatings, injuries, loss of their iPads, phones and other observation equipment in the open glare of all the police and military men present, according to their report.
Apart from condemning such risky attack on domestic and foreign observers the Intercontinental Leadership Initiative “call on the INEC, the Nigerian government and the international community to investigate, ascertain and deal proper sanctions and punishment to the perpetrators of such undemocratic and inhumane act”.
Presenting his observations for Centre for Credible Leadership & Citizens Awareness the Director General of the body, Dr Nwambu Gabriel stated that Policemen at the polling units were often overwhelmed by thugs who engaged in snatching of ballot boxes, intimidation and molestation of electorates and unleashing of mayhem on law abiding citizens during the 2019 general elections in Nigeria.
The body commended INEC for “the significant improvement in logistics and the overall conduct of the 2019 general elections” but blamed the lacuna and shortcomings observed in the 2019 general elections on the non-compliance of the law enforcement agencies to the necessary electoral reforms in line with international standards, rule of engagement, the Constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria(1999 as Amended) and the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 as Amended.
He noted that the role of the military and subsequent rule of engagement were grossly violated as they ordered electorates, observer, party agents out of collation centres for the sole aim of falsifying results in favour of a preferred candidate in states like Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Imo, Cross River etc. He said in same states law enforcement agents shoot into the air and carted away ballot boxes by themselves.
In his words, “in the full glare of the Military and the IGP squad of the Nigerian Police, hoodlums loyal to Senator Akpabio assaulted foreign and domestic observers in Ukana, Essien Udim LGA of Akwa Ibom State, seizing and destroying their Tabs, phones and other personal effects. Some of the victims are still in the hospital receiving urgent medical attention as at the time of this briefing”.
Dr Gabriel said against the provision of the Electoral Act 2010 as Amended Smart Card Readers(SCR) were not used in several polling units across the country owing to threats to life by thugs engaged by desperate politicians but most of the results from such process were collated, declared and winners emerged.
The observer body said more deaths were recorded in 2019 elections as 25 Nigerians were killed across the country while 12 Nigerians lost their lives in 2015 elections due to Boko Haram attack.