Barely nine days to the governorship and state assembly elections, some Resident Electoral Commissioners, RECs, and National Commissioners of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, have indicted security agencies of complicity in rigging the Febuary 23 presidential and national assembly elections, indicating they will resign their appointments.
They alleged intimidation, harassment and threat to life by security agencies during the said elections, saying at the height of the threat to their lives, they had looked up to the national chairman of the commission, Mahmood Yakubu, but couldn’t because he was also under intense pressure and massive attack by high profile individuals.
The Vangurad reports that some of INEC’s states and national officers are living in fear that they may be subjected to severe attacks in the March 9 governorship and House of Assembly elections.
One told the newspaper that, “One fundamental thing why some Resident Electoral Commissioners and National Commissioners are threatening to resign is that chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission that they looked up to was helpless.
“Understandably, even the man who could have led that protection himself was under massive attack.”
One of the sources alleged that in the far north, the results released did not reflect the actual votes cast, especially in Zamfara and Borno as a result of military harassment.
Other competent sources close to the RECs and national commissioners told the newspaper that some of the states electoral officers were held hostage during the elections and were even left at the mercy of hoodlums as security personnel attached to protect them curiously disappeared, and left them to the elements when their services were required most.
They accused security agencies, including the military and other paramilitary organisations, of distracting officers of the electoral umpire on the pretense of protecting election facilities and at the same time facilitate illegal distribution of the materials to politicians.
One source said: “If there is no intervention, many of the RECs and national commissioners are contemplating the option of resignation because what they passed through in the hands of security agencies, they have not witnessed it before.
“We have not seen this kind of thing before and all through the preparations. Some of the RECs were held hostage.”
The source further told the Vanguard that in some states, collation officers were caught in hotels sharing money and that even those arrested were immediately released as a result of what they described as “orders from above.”
“I think this country is worse than a banana republic,” one of the electoral officer who was a victim of the harassment and intimidation said.
The officer said that the security agencies involved in the harassment were in a convoy of armored personnel carriers, revealing that in some cases, retired security officers were drafted into the ‘ugly’ affair.
“They mutilated result sheets. On the eve of elections, they were moving materials away,” the source said.
The most worrisome aspect of it was that some RECs and National Commissioners condescended by working with politicians to undermine the process, the officer said.
The source added, “You are not free anymore. You can’t even exchange ideas with your colleagues. It is a complete takeover of INEC by all security agencies.
“You will sit in office, a group will say it is from Defence Intelligence, after finishing with you, 10 minutes later another will come from National Intelligence Agency, NIA, not only one person but about three or five and they will sit in your office. So, there was a lot of distractions, you cannot even concentrate.
“Then your office will be filled with security agents under the guise of protecting facilities. You will see about 15 soldiers, police, you can’t count, civil defense, everywhere was just choked up.
“Most of the electoral officers were caged. All these figures they are reeling out have no basis. In the area where they have these bandits, after taking the security men out, early morning of the election, they withdrew the security and left the youth corps members at the mercy of thugs hired by the politicians.
“So the youth corps members were endangered and had to run for their dear lives, they now stuff the boxes. When I was flying out of….it was like I was flying to heaven. It was so terrible that I have never seen this type of election before.”
Mr. Atiku Abubakar, the candidate of the main opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had rejected the results of the presidential election, calling it a sham that debased the Nigerian democracy.
He is claiming victory and has instructed PDP lawyers to challenge the outcome in court. Atiku had released on Wednesday evidence of mass rigging, violence, intimidation and systematic disenfranchisement of his voters by INEC.
Atiku’s running mate, Peter Obi had also told journalists that eight million voters in the South-East – a stronghold of the PDP – were “systematically disenfranchisement.”
Majority of Nigerians see the last election as massively rigged in favour of the ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC), taking to the social media to express their frustration that the progress made in 2015 has been rubbished.
At least 39 people died as a result of violence that marred the election. One INEC official was among the dead.
President Muhammadu Buhari had, despite protests by the opposition, militarized the voting process by the deployment of troops.
INEC chairman had, while announcing the result of the presidential election in Abuja on Wednesday, admitted that there were “challenges.”
He promised that his commission will look into them, with a view to making future elections better.