The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room (Situation Room) observed the Bayelsa State supplementary elections and received field reports from its deployed observers and other election observer networks.
The supplementary elections follow from the December 5th, 2015, governorship election which Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared as inconclusive and scheduled re-run to hold on Saturday, January 9, 2016.
INEC conducted supplementary governorship election in 527 polling units spread across 50 wards in 7 Local Governments Areas where elections did not take place during the December 5 election due to irregularities. In this regard, we wish to make the following observations:
1. As the supplementary polls conclude we wish to acknowledge the efforts of INEC, the security services, and officials drawn from across the country. They have conducted their work at times under enormous pressure, threats to their safety, and challenges from the very difficult terrain.
2. Situation Room also wishes to commend voters in Bayelsa State for their effort in participating in the supplementary elections despite the tension in the State over the days preceding the election.
3. Delays in the opening of polls which, was noted in a number of wards were regrettable and every effort should be made to continue to improve logistics because some delays were the result of the need to resolve local disputes before proceeding.
4. That the performance and use of card readers were improved and the adherence in most areas to the commitment to cancel results where there was variance from electronic accreditation is welcome in promoting electoral discipline.
5. That in some areas INEC staff faced unacceptable pressure or operated under duress and that in future every effort should be made to strengthen assistance to electoral officials facing such threats.
6. That despite clear signs of preparation for violence, key instigators were still able to move freely at the time of election and that in future polls pre-election security should be intensified, noting the importance of being seen to act neutrally at all times.
7. There were reports of widespread violence in Bassambiri in Nembe LGA and in other LGAs. There were also reports of ballot-box snatching, stolen card reader, destruction of INEC results sheets, votes buying by party agents.
8. That amid some reports of violence after the supplementary elections there is need for Security agencies to have adequate resources and deployment to be on the ground to manage tensions after elections in vulnerable areas.
In the light of the above, the Situation Room is obliged to put on record its profound disappointment in the conduct of major political parties where before and during polling there have been instances of:
Persistent allegations against INEC and security services that have increased tension and damaged confidence in the polls.
Violent incidents in which INEC full time and ad hoc staff have been abducted and threatened in the course of their duty.
Violence between party supporters, which have resulted in a number of casualties that are certain to include innocent bystanders.
Reported assaults and threats against election observers in some areas are unacceptable and form part of a pattern of violence that must be stemmed.
We call on all political parties to draw lessons from the conduct of their members, candidates, and spokespeople during the Bayelsa poll and to cease actions which are undermining confidence in our electoral process.
We also call on the security agencies to impartially follow up on the serious incidents that have been recorded in Bayelsa so that public confidence can be maintained in the right of citizens to participate fully in elections and cast their votes without fear.
The Situation Room is deeply concerned that unless there is reform in the conduct of the major political parties and accountability for political violence and abuse then the re-run polls that will hold across the country in coming weeks will be seriously jeopardized.
The Situation Room is made up of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working in support of credible and transparent elections in Nigeria and includes such groups as Policy andLegal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), CLEEN Foundation, Action Aid Nigeria, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Enough is Enough Nigeria, Wangonet, Partners for Electoral Reform, JDPC and Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA), CWAE. Others are Development Dynamics, Human Rights Monitor, Election Monitor, Reclaim Naija, Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Centre LSD, CITAD, Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN), CISLAC, WREP, Proactive Gender Initiative, Nigerian Women Trust Fund and several other CSOs numbering more than Sixty
Chris Newsom, Programs Advisor Stakeholder Democracy Network
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