We note with dismay the seemingly systematic and coordinated intimidation and arrest of our election observers deployed to observe the Presidential Elections. We are particularly disturbed by reports of these attacks in Jos, Plateau State. Although we understand that some of the observers were subsequently released, we have received reports of several other similar cases.
In Warri North in Delta State, three observers were detained. Two were later released; one is still being held. Tellingly, this was the same ward where observers were detained for seven hours during the voters’ registration exercise.
Another area of serious concern is that of massive thumb-printing, as was observed in Soku, Akuku Toro LGA in Rivers State. In Benue State, the chairperson of Independent Publishers was caught in a vehicle with previously thumb-printed ballot papers. A related issue is that of ballot box snatching. Again in Benue State, six ballot boxes were snatched at Achia Ikyurav-Ya in Kwande LGA, and an undisclosed number were snatched from Pus in Shough council ward, Gweru East LG by Hon. Christine Alaago.
The problem of underage voting was widely observed in many polling units in Bauchi, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Plateau, Nasarawa and Taraba states. In Gombe State in particular, it was reported that irate youths attempted to lynch the Resident Electoral Commissioner and some journalists present who tried to intervene.
Although the situation in Plateau State is by far the most worrisome, reports reaching us from other parts of the country indicate that there is a seeming systematic and well-coordinated attempt to jeopardize the credibility of the election by arresting and terrorizing civil society observer groups, whose presence is in keeping with both the Electoral Act 2010, and the guidelines issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Although the above irregularities pose great challenges in themselves, we must reiterate that the collation of results should not be carried out under a cloud of secrecy if the election is to be seen to be free, fair, and credible. It is for this reason that we call on the Inspector General of Police and the Plateau State Commissioner of Police to cease these illegal detentions immediately. We also call on the Chair of the INEC to issue a statement denouncing the attacks and reassuring all INEC-accredited observers deployed across the country of their right to continue with their duties within the ambit of the law.
For: Elections Situation Room
Dr Jibrin Ibrahim Clement Nwankwo
Executive Director Executive Director
Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre