A Non-Governmental Organisation, NGO, involved in the promotion of public safety and access to justice in Nigeria, The CLEEN Foundation has released its preliminary statement on the ongoing 2019 Presidential and National Assembly Elections in Nigeria.
The Election Security Support Centre (ESSC) of CLEEN Foundation, in collaboration with the Police Service Commission (PSC) and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), is monitoring the conduct of security agencies deployed for the Presidential and National Assembly elections.
CLEEN deployed 1,600 accredited domestic observers across the 774 Local Government Areas to observe the conduct of the security personnel at the polls.
• Opening of Polling Units
Reports across the country indicate that there was early and high voter turnout for the polls. However, it was observed in some of the polling units that security personnel, electoral officers and election materials were not at the polling units as at 8:00 am. As a result, the polls commenced very late in many places.
Polling units such as PU 018, Opes Space Cinema, Ward A of Kogi State, officials arrived late; at PU 111, Zabi Gari in Kaduna State, voting did not commence as at 11:38am; Similarly, at PU 005, Akwanga LGA, Nasarawa State, INEC officials arrived at 9:46 am.
• Presence of Security Agents
From the assessment reports received by our stationary and roving observers, it was observed that security officials were not available in some of the polling units across the country. For example, at Ward 4, Unit 13 of Orukanam Local Government Area of Akwa-Ibom State, no security official was sighted as at the time scheduled for the commencement of the elections. The same was also noticed for PU 017, Danbatta East Ward, Danbatta LGA in Kano State, security officials were not present at 8:00 am.
• Incidents of Security Breaches
Our observers reported security challenges in some states. For example, on the eve of the election, there was Boko Haram attack on Zabarmari village, Jere LGA, close to Maiduguri in Borno State which was repelled by security agents. In addition, on election day, there were reports of bomb explosions and sounds of heavy armoury in the early hours before the commencement of the elections. Despite the security challenges occasioned by these incidents, residents turned out to vote en masse. In Rivers State, Ward 4 PU 007, 008 and 009, political thugs chased away voters with gun shots and carted away electoral materials while National Youth Corps members were held hostage but later released. In Lagos State, it was alleged that political thugs disrupted elections in deferent voting locations.
• Cases of Loss of Life
There are reported cases of deaths in some states in the country including Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Kogi and Zamfara States.
For example, two persons were killed and three injured in Amagu Community in Ikwo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State in a clash between rival political thugs. A prominent politician was shot dead at his hometown in Andoni LGA of Rivers State. Also, suspected thugs killed a voter at PU 006 at Ayingba, Dekina Local Government Area of Kogi State. There are also unconfirmed reports of killing of voters and others sustaining various injuries in Rivers State.
• Destruction of election materials
Our assessment from the field indicates that were some cases of destruction of electoral materials and attack on security personnel on electoral duty. For example, at PU 006, Ward 09 at Bayo Oyewole Street by Wilson Avenue, Ago-Palace Way, Okota in Oshodi Isolo LGA of Lagos State suspected thugs set some ballot papers ablaze after attacking security personnel posted to the polling unit. The security officers attached to the polling unit later called for reinforcement. In addition, in Ward 3, PU 5, Esan South East LGA, thugs snatched ballot boxes after the conclusion of voting.There was also burning of ballot boxes in PU 17, Ward 009 (Okhoro Police Post) in Egor LGA of Edo State. In addition, Ward 10, PU5, Etsako East LGA, there was reported destruction of ballot boxes and no presence of security agents at the polling unit.
• Safety and Security of Observers
There were some disturbing reports of arrest and molestation of election observers. One of the observers deployed by YIAGA AFRICA was arrested and detained by the Police at the Kafanchan Area Command, Kaduna State. The observer was later released.
• Conduct of Security Agencies
Generally, security agencies conducted themselves in a professional manner. However, there were isolated incidents in different areas including security officers carrying arms within the polling area.
• Majority of the electorates demonstrated commitment to orderly and peaceful elections in Nigeria which is highly commended. The resilience showed by voters despite glaring challenges is a positive development in our quest to consolidate democracy in Nigeria.
• CLEEN Foundation observers reported failure of smartcard readers in some Polling Units leading to the slow-down of the election.
• There were reported cases of missing names on the voter register. This was recorded at Bwari Area Council in the Federal Capital Territory.
• There were late arrival of INEC officials and polling materials in different parts of the country
• There was active participation of International & Domestic Observers.
• Incidents of vote-buying were reported in Akwa-Ibom and Kogi states.
We urge INEC to do all within its powers to ensure that all eligible voters exercise their constitutional right to vote. We also call upon the security agencies to ensure the safety of all citizens and the ballot boxes. Finally, we appeal to all citizens to be orderly and maintain the peace.
May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Benson Olugbuo, Ph.D.
Executive Director, CLEEN Foundation