Despite assurances from President Muhammadu Buhari’s government and the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), the 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections have been marred by violence in some states of the Federation.
At least 16 people were killed during the February 23 elections, according to the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room.
Apart from violence, vote buying and card reader malfunctioning reported in Lagos, Niger, Edo, Kwara, Kano and Katsina States, also blighted the process.
Instead of improving on the progress made by INEC’s Attahiru Jega in 2015, Nigeria’s electoral process took a nose-dive.
Mr. Clement Nwankwo, convener of the group, confirmed the killings in a press briefing in Abuja on Saturday.
Nwankwo regretted that despite all the promises from INEC, the atmosphere of the election was tensed, blaming the electoral body for some of the challenges experienced during the exercise.
He said, “We note with concern the rising incidences of violence and reported deaths in some states of the country. At the time of this statement, Situation Room has received reports of about 16 deaths across eight states: Borno – 2, Bayelsa – 2, Rivers – 6, Yobe – 2, Kogi -2, Ebonyi – 2, Lagos – 1, and Zamfara.
“In Lagos State, for instance, there are reports of disruption of voting by suspected political thugs who have shot in the air in some places and set ballot boxes and paper on fire in others. In the Okota, Isolo and Oshodi suburbs of Lagos, there are reports of violence, some caused by non-arrival of INEC officials and materials.”
“The late arrival of materials and ad-hoc staff account for much of the delay in polls opening across the country. In some places, voting started around 11 am. The delay in the commencement of vote will certainly affect the collation process, which is now feared to extend well into the night, with attendant security risks and further logistics concerns.”
According to YIAGA Africa (Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement), a member of Situation Room, south-east and south-south recorded the lowest number of early poll openings.
There was inexplicable late arrival of election officials in the majority of polling units in the South-East, with polls opening as late as 11 am in that part of the country.
There was also late arrival of officials in the South South, as if INEC was playing out a script in areas the opposition, PDP was expected to do well.
The organisation condemned vote buying which was reported in the states already mentioned above, as well as card reader malfunctioning.