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Violence, voter intimidation mar supplementary elections in Nigeria

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By YUSUF MOHAMMED

 

The supplementary governorship elections on Saturday, were once again, marred by violence and voter intimidation.

The same problems that were apparent in the governorship elections of March 9 reoccurred in Saturday’s supplementary elections.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Saturday, conducted supplementary elections for governorship and House of Assembly in five states.

Like the main elections two weeks ago, there was also the problem of underage voting, especially in Kano.

Before the elections, there were accusations and counter accusations by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC), especially in Benue, and Kano states.

However, judging from the ‘show of shame’ yesterday, it is clear that the security agents did little or nothing to prepare for such incidents.

The elections held on March 9 proper, were declared inconclusive by INEC in Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Kano, Plateau and Sokoto states while the electoral process was suspended in Rivers State.

In Adamawa State, the supplementary election has been put o hold due to court ruling.

While elections were going on in no fewer than four states, the main focus was on Kano as it was reported that the PDP candidate Abba Yusuf was ahead of his main challenger Governor Umar Ganduje of the APC.

While there were pockets of violence a few weeks ago, yesterday was worse. Thugs allegedly hired by the APC chased voters, journalists and observers in some wards in Gama. Business Hallmark gathered that Gama Ward alone has 83 voting unites with 40,821 registered voters out of the 128,324 that were expected to vote.

In the fracas, a reporter from The Punch, Ted Odogwu, sustained bruises while attempting to escape the mob with dangerous weapons while his counterpart, Jerry Maduabuchi with The Authority Newspapers, narrowly escaped deaths after thugs with APC agent’s tags descended on him for taking photographs of voters on queue at Gama.

It was alleged that fully armed security operatives looked the other way as the thugs chased many residents away from polling units.

As a result, the PDP called for the cancellation of the supplementary election citing cases of rigging and irregularities.

The chairman of the party in Kano, Rabiu Suleiman Bichi while at a press conference accused the APC of mobilizing political thugs to unleash terror on PDP agents. He also accused security agents of helping the thugs in their operation.

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He said, “Today this charge called rerun election was slated to hold in Kano and other states. Unfortunately, what we have in Kano is nothing but shame. Political thugs have been mobilized by the APC and Kano State government to take over all the 207 polling units.

“These thugs are imported from Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, Plateau, and other neighbouring states. I am certain most of you media have been out there in the field and have witnessed what happened. The thugs freely voted with the PVCs that do not belong to them and some posing as INEC staff within, while others were clad in our party (PDP) agents’ tags. Our original agents were beaten and driven away from the polling units.

In Benue State, violence was not the only problem as voters did not turnout in large numbers. Before the process was declared inconclusive a few weeks ago, Governor Samuel Ortom of the PDP scored 410,576 votes while Emmanuel Jime of the APC had 329,022 votes. That is a difference of over 80,000 votes.

In Zaki Biam in Ukum Local Council, BH learnt that thugs intercepted the election materials and set them ablaze. Violence here left some security operatives, party agents and INEC officials injured.

It was so bad that elections had to be suspended in Azendeshi ward of the state, where over 13,000 voters could not vote because of the attack and destruction of materials by thugs suspected to be working for the APC.

In Imo state, there were incidents of snatching of ballot boxes in the election. Late arrival of electoral materials and snatching of ballot boxes were recorded in Avuvu, Eziama in Ikeduru Local Council and in ALUL IN Ngor Okpala Local Council.

The Nigerian Democracy Platform (NDP), a pan Nigerian interventionist forum of eminent scholars, ideologues, and activists working towards advancing the cause of popular constitutional democracy has expressed sadness over the violence across the states that supplementary elections are being held.

The statement signed by Promise Adewusi, Director of Administration, and Hajia Khadija Abdullahi Yusuf, Director of Special Duties, demands that “INEC Must Halt the Ongoing Bloody Supplementary Elections Now.”

It said, “From visuals of mayhem laden with the blood of citizens emanating from Kano, Sokoto, Rivers etc to the reported kidnapping of INEC staff in Benue, we as democrats expect the rest of the civilized world to wonder if it is war of elections that is presently being prosecuted in Nigeria.”

It added: “NDP is therefore scandalized that with all the open threats by partisans in the run up to these elections, inadequate security measures still pervade our electoral landscape.

“To save Nigerians from this mockery of democracy, NDP calls on INEC to immediately have recourse to the provisions of the Electoral Act as it relates to violent disruptions of elections by calling off and cancelling the charade floating on the blood of citizens in Kano State until such a time adequate security can be guaranteed in the country as no election is worth the blood of any citizen.”

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