By-elections in Bauchi, Katsina, Kwara marred by vote buying, others - Observers
A civic group, the Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth and Advancement (YIAGA) Africa through its 'Watching The Vote Working’ has faulted the conduct of Saturday's by-elections in Bauchi, Katsina and Kwara states.
The group said the exercise was marred by unnecessary show of force by security personnel, vote buying and "poor management of election statistics".
The executive director of YIAGA, Samson Itodo, disclosed this at a press conference on Monday.
The by-elections held in Toro Federal Constituency in Bauchi State, Irepodun/Isin/Eiti and Oke-Ero Federal Constituency in Kwara State, and Kankia/Kusada/Ingawa Federal Constituency in Katsina State.
In the election, the ruling APC swept the federal constituencies in the three states to the chagrin of the main opposition PDP.
Mr Itodo, whose group deployed observers to the three states, said there was poor coordination in the management of security in the areas.
"It is important for security personnel deployed for elections to respect the right of the people to cast their votes freely and allow polling officials administer elections without any form of intimidation, harassment or disruption," he said.
He said YIAGA agents observed incidences where security agents intimidated ad-hoc officials and voters.
"In some polling stations, security officials show(ed) up at polling stations with live ammunition. This runs contrary to electoral guidelines and global standards for free and fair elections," Mr Itodo explained.
He said the by-election also recorded a low turnout of voters.
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He said the official data indicated the turnout rate in Bauchi was 21.6 per cent, Katsina 38 per cent and Kwara 24.4 per cent.
"The trend of a minority determining electoral outcomes and political leadership needs to be reversed," he said.
Similarly, a member of Watching The Vote Working Group, Ezenwa Nwagwu, said the secrecy of the ballot was compromised in some polling stations visited.
"Despite the reconfiguration of the polling units, people could see how voters marked their ballot papers. WTV observers reported incidents of vote buying in polling stations across the three federal constituencies observed," he said.
Mr Nwagwu said incidents of vote buying or bribery were reported in Bauchi: "Toro LGA in Tilden Fulani Ward 2, PU Name – Kofar Mai-Unguwa, PU code 009; Katsina, Ingawa LGA, Yandoma Ward 2, Wangari PU, PU code 002?.
"It was also reported in Katsina, Ingawa LGA in: Dugul Ward, PU – Dukuma TV Viewing Center, PU Code 005. In Kwara, Ekiti LGA;Osi Ward 01, PU Name – Post Office, PU Code 006; Kwara, Irepodun LGA, Oum-Aran Ward 06, PU Name – St. Paul Omu-Aran, PU Code 010; Kwara, Oke-Ero LGA in: Ekan-Nla Ward 02, PU Name – Oke Ilegun, PU Code 004,” Mr Ezenwa said.
He said the success of every election depends on the ability of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to properly manage elections.
"INEC should ensure adequate planning for election logistics," he added.
He said it is important for INEC to investigate the reasons for the logistical challenges in the Toro federal constituency election for instance "and take appropriate action to avert sabotage of logistic arrangements during the 2019 general elections."
Also, the project director of YIAGA, Cynthia Mbamalu, said the election commission needs to ensure proper coordination between the security agencies "when it comes to deployment and when it comes to welfare".
"For instance, If you look at the data in our report, it was from 9:00 a.m. that we saw most of the polling units opening and according to the electoral guideline, it should be 8:00 a.m.. Immediately we saw that they were opening by 9:00 a.m., we knew that there's a problem with the logistics," she said.
Ms Mbamalu said INEC needs to take intentional steps in committing to the welfare of ad-hoc staff deployed, especially the corp members.
"With 2019 ahead of us, INEC does not and cannot have a breathing space. When it comes to logistics, INEC must invest more in the early planning of logistics,” she said.
Meanwhile, the presidency said the electoral victories recorded by the APC on November 17 is a "sign of things to come" in the 2019 elections. This is just as the PDP in Kwara State has rejected the results.