Widespread voter inducement and electoral violence were recorded in the governorship elections in Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa states yestyerday.
Field reports from observers deployed by civil society organisations (CSOs) showed that violence, vote buying, and other forms of electoral malpractices characterised the conduct of the election.
This is just as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and other security agencies made several arrests over vote buying and electoral violence.
A report released by Yiaga Africa Watching The Vote, which deployed the Process and Results Verification for Transparency (PRVT), a technology to observe the governorship elections in Imo and Kogi states and deployment of 600 stationary observers to a randomly selected sample of 300 polling units in each of the states and 50 roving observers in Kogi and Imo states, said some political actors breached the process by engaging in vote buying and electoral violence.
The CSO in their report endorsed by WTV working group leader, Dr Asmau Maikudi, and director of programmes, Cynthia Mbamalu, said on election day its data centre received critical incident reports relating to pre-filled election results sheets in Ogori Magongo and Okehi local government areas (LGAs) in Kogi State.
Yiaga Africa called for the immediate arrest and prosecution of all INEC officials and their accomplices involved in this grave electoral fraud and for the suspension of elections in the affected wards.
“Yiaga Africa also received a worrying report of manual accreditation of voters in Polling Unit 006 (St. Martins School, Ejule street, Martin’s School, Ward 03, Ofu LGA in Kogi State where the polling officials refrained from accrediting voters with the BVAS and manually accredited voters,” they said.
Yiaga Africa also condemned the abduction of an INEC Senior Presiding Officer (SPO) in Sagbama LGA and joined other well-meaning Nigerians in calling for the release of the INEC official and prosecution of the assailants.
The CSO also noted some variations in the arrival of INEC officials across polling units in Imo and Kogi states.
“Our findings reveal that INEC officials arrived by 7:30 am in only 21% of polling units in Imo state, while in Kogi, INEC officials arrived by 7:30 am in 64% of polling units.
“By 9:30 am accreditation and voting had commenced in 54% of polling units in Imo and in 53% of polling units in Kogi,” Yiaga Africa said, adding that BVAS was deployed in all the polling units observed in Imo and Kogi states.
The CSO further said an APC party agent refused Yiaga Africa to observe the election process in Umuobasi Village Square (16-16-12-011) in Umumi Isiaku ward of Ideato South LGA, Imo State, where the observation forms were confiscated and destroyed by the party agent.
“APC party agents in collusion with INEC polling officials refused to allow observers access to the Umuokpara Ehi Hall Polling Unit (16-20-02-005) in Umucheke ward, Orlu LGA in Imo state,” Yiaga Africa said
It added that polling officials requested monetary inducements before allowing party agents to observe the process in Umuchenta Village Square Polling Unit (16-07-06-010) in Atonerim ward of Ihitte/Uboma LGA in Imo state.
“In most polling units in Ehi Ward and Okesi Ward, Ogori-Magongo LGA and Eika/Ohizenyi Ward, Okehi LGA in Kogi state, INEC officials arrived at the polling units with pre-filled result sheets before accreditation and voting commenced,” it said.
Yiaga Africa further called for the cancellation of elections in polling units where manual accreditation was recorded.
Meanwhile, the Centre for Democracy Development (CDD) Election Analysis Centre (CDD-EAC) said observers reported that voting in 65% of polling units observed in Bayelsa and 80% of polling units observed in Imo started late, well after the 8am commencement time. While this was different in Kogi, where this rate was 40%.
It reported low voter turnout in various polling units. Its observers at Comprehensive Secondary School Ward, Polling Unit 001, Orsu LGA, in Imo, reported that INEC officials were not at the PU and few voters who were present confirmed that many eligible voters were scared of coming out to vote due to fear of violence.
In Bayelsa, it observed the late arrival of INEC staff and security personnel at PU 24 WARD 4 (Yenagoa) where voting started as late as 11:37am; in Oporoma, the headquarters of the Southern Ijaw LGA, where INEC officials only arrived at 12:15pm, and in Ogbia LGA Ward 10 Unit 3, in which voting only commenced at 12:40pm.
The same observation was made about Kogi, where by 10:54am, voting activities had yet to resume in Iluteju, Okesi, Okibo, Eni, Oshobeni and Aiyeronmi wards in Ogori-Magongo LGA.
This was also the case in Imo where observers reported INEC officials arriving late at a majority of polling units observed including Avu/Oforola, Ehime Mbano, Mbaitoli-Ezinihitie, Umuokpiriri, Umuogu, Owerri North and Isiala Mbano LGAs. In Ihitteoha PU, in Owerri North LGA particularly, officials arrived as late as 10:23am, said the CDD report endorsed by Prof Adele Junaidu, which also reported vote trading.
The CDD said the issue of voter inducement was reported across all three states with reports of voter inducements ranging from N5,000 to N22,000 per voter, including other items such as wrappers.
The CSO reported that in Ward 11 and 12, Nembe LGA in Bayelsa, election materials were allegedly secretly hijacked to a different location where agents were reportedly thumbprinting for the APC.
On the election violence that marred the process, CDD said violence was reported in Dekini LGA, specifically in Agala Ogane PU, Anyigba town, where a thug was reportedly shot and killed by military officials while fleeing in an attempt to snatch a ballot box. There was a similar attempt in Ganaja PU, Ajaokuta LGA where the LGA chair was apprehended by voters.
“In Yenagoa LGA, observers reported that one person was shot at Famgbe community and, in PU 24 Ward, voting ended abruptly when thugs destroyed election materials at about 11:45am.
The CDD said in these area polling units, there was little to no presence of security officials.
Similar instances were reported in Brass PU 7 Ward 7, where observers reported that there were no security agents as late as 10:19am, despite voting having started. Similarly, in PU 9 Ward 4, security officials only arrived at 11:10 am.
On the BVAS functionality, the CSOs said their observers reported wide use of BVAS, and a quick resolution time when there were issues, however, there were pockets of irregularities in the three states.
Imo: Ballot Box Snatching, Intimidation, Voter apathy, Mar Election
The governorship election in Imo State took off in some parts of the state on a shaky note with low voter turnout, ballot box snatching, vote buying, voter intimidation, late arrival of officials and materials at some designated polling units visited.
In some Polling Units, some voters were seen, along with security personnel, waiting anxiously for INEC officials and materials at 8:20am.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP Sunday, a voter Mrs Ngozi Ohakwei, expressed confidence that the materials would soon be brought to the unit so they could exercise their franchise.
The same scenario also prevailed at PU 002 Ekeama Primary School, Awaka II, and PU 003 Community Primary School, Amapu Awaka.
A voter, Chidi Nwachukwu, also expressed confidence in the process and urged INEC to improve on timing.
The situation at PU 004 Primary School, Amapu Awaka, and PU 016 Emeohe Village Hall, presented ugly scene with low voter turnout, absence of security personnel, INEC officials and electoral materials.
A voter, Mrs Amara Uzoma, expressed astonishment at low turnout of voters and absence of security operatives.
The same scenario played out at PU 007 Community Primary School, Ihita-Ogada II, PU 008 Ihita-Ogada Village Square and PU 011 Health Centre, Ubah Emii I, where some voters and security personnel were seen waiting for the arrival of INEC officials and security personnel.
At P 012, Central School, Amaimo, in Ikeduru LGA, which is the PDP candidate, Senator. Samuel Anyanwu’s Polling Unit, INEC officials and materials were yet to arrive at 8:47a.m.
There were also no security personnel at the PU but voters were seen waiting eagerly to exercise their franchise.
A voter, Nze Ibeawuchi Odu revealed that all the assurances by INEC appears to be fading away as the commission seems to have not learned any lesson on how to improve its services to the citizenry.
Bayelsa: Armed Thugs Attack Corps Members, Steal Result Sheets, BIVAS
Ad-Hoc staff of INEC and a corps member were attacked by thugs who carried off election materials and the BIVAS machines for Ward 1, Unit 23 located at Onopa in Yenagoa LGA of the state.
The bag of the corps members was taken along by the armed thugs.
Confirming the incident, the Unit Agent of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said the collation and sorting of voting was ongoing when the armed thugs invaded the unit. He also confirmed that no one was injured.
Also in ward 11 of Opume and Emakalakala in Ogbia local government area of the state, armed thugs descended on unit 14,15 and 19 disrupting the election process. But before the process was disrupted, some results had been recorded.
At ward 3 in Olodiama community of the Southern Ijaw local government area of the state, armed thugs allegedly invaded and took away the original results sheets of units 14,15,16,17,18 and 19.
Meanwhile, there was a high-security presence at major junctions and round-abouts in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital as voters were seen trekking to their polling units.
Troops of the Nigerian military and other security agents had mounted roadblocks to enforce compliance with restrictions of vehicular movement except for those on election duty.
Also, unarmed policemen were observed to be guiding and protecting corps members, ad hoc staff and election materials at various polling units.
Voters have been out as early as 6:30am in polling units.
Former managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Chief Timi Alaibe, urged the electoral body to ensure the will of the people of Bayelsa is reflected at the end of the ongoing governorship election in the state.
Alaibe, who spoke while addressing newsmen shortly after casting his vote at his polling unit 14, Ward 7, Igbainwari, Kolukuma/Opokuma LGA of the state, expressed satisfaction with the peaceful disposition of the people so far in the election.
On its part, the Nigeria Women Trust Fund (NWTF), a non-governmental organisation, said the off-cycle governorship election in Bayelsa State recorded a peaceful process with the Bimodal Voters Automated system (BVAS) working optimally.
The NWTF team leader, Mr. Frank Widi, said the materials arrived at the various polling units in Kolokuma/Opokuma local government area, on time and as expected.
The Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, however condemned the action of some individuals in Bassambiri community in Nembe local government area where members and supporters of the PDP were prevented from entering the community to vote.
Diri, who stated this shortly after casting his vote alongside his wife, Dr Gloria Diri, at his Kalama-owei Wari Unit 4 Ward 6 Sampou community in Kolokuma/Opokuma local government area, said the party had made a formal complaint to INEC.
However, the governorship candidate of the Labour Party in Bayelsa State, Udengs Eradiri, alleged the PDP and Diri induced voters with money.
Eradiri made the accusation while speaking with newsmen shortly after casting his vote in Ward 10, Unit 5, Ekpetiama, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State on Saturday.
The former national president of the Ijaw Youth Council, Worldwide, said it was unfortunate that the government of the day was buying votes with state resources that should be used in improving the lives of the people of Bayelsa State.
On his part, APC candidate, Chief Timipre Sylva, expressed confidence that the APC will come out victorious at the poll.
Sylva, who spoke to newsmen after casting his vote at Polling Unit 4, Dukuraku Central Open Space, Okpoama, Ward 4, Brass local government, disclosed that the register of voters for ward 4, polling units 3, 5, and 9 were not uploaded.
However our correspondent observed low participation at specific polling units, such as 010 LGEA Sec./Nepa, 067 Front Of Tourism Board Lokoja, 060 Car Wash after Jakura Marble Area, and PU 67 Lugard Road in Lokoga.
At polling unit 073 Under Mango Tree, Opp. Kenwon Hotel with an expected 314 voters, only 65 had cast their votes by the time of filing this report.
Additionally, there were reports of vote-buying at this location, where money was distributed to voters after casting their votes.
Reports reveal that APC distributed sums ranging from N3,000 to N5,000, while the major opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) purportedly offered N3,000.
The buying of votes by agents of both parties was done secretly.
An election observer who spoke with LEADERSHIP on condition of anonymity said: “Vote-buying is a concerning issue that undermines the democratic process.
“Such practices can compromise the integrity of elections and distort the will of the people. Authorities should investigate and take necessary actions to ensure fair and transparent elections.”
Also, a non-government organisation, Connected Development (CODE), in a midday press briefing yesterday, raised concerns about challenges faced by observers, including restrictions on taking photographs.
Chief executive officer of CODE, Hamzat Lawal,
called on INEC to prioritise the electronic transmission of polling unit results, emphasising the importance of transparency and timely collation.
On his part, the DIG Force Intelligence, and head of Security Formation, Kogi Election, assured the public of robust security measures.
Responding to reports of fake results circulating in Ogori Magongo coucil, DIG Sanni said, “Voting has not been stopped in any part of Ogori Magongo LGA, and we can’t issue a statement about that.” He highlighted the need for a thorough investigation into the matter.
Addressing social media reports of killings related to ballot box snatchers in Idah, Anyigba, and Ankpa councils, police authorities dismissed the rumors, saying such incidents had not been confirmed.
On allegation by the Kogi State Governorship candidate of PDP Sen Dino Melaye that result sheets in all polling units located in Ogori/Magongo local government area of the state had been prefilled and tampered with, the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Kogi State, Dr. Gabriel Hale Longpet, said: “My men on the field have not reported any of the said incidents to me.
Melaye calls for cancellation of Results in 5 LGAs
The PDP governorship candidate in Kogi State, Dino Melaye, has called for the cancellation of the polls in five local government councils.
Melaye in his official X account, identified the affected LGAs as Okene, Okehi, Ajaokuta, Adavi, and Ogori/Mangogo.
Earlier, three unmarked armoured vehicles were intercepted by the military special forces on election duty in Kogi State on Saturday morning.
The military personnel intercepted the vehicles at Itakpe Junction, en route to Okene area of the state.
Kogi Guber: INEC Suspends Election In 9 Wards
Meanwhile, INEC suspended elections in nine wards in Kogi State, citing reports of electoral malpractice.
The affected wards, which are in Ogori/Magongo LGA, include Eni, Okibo, Okesi, Ileteju, Aiyeromi, Ugugu, Obinoyin, Obatgben and Oturu.
A statement by the national commissioner, member, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mohammed Kudu Haruna, released yesterday night said the commission received reports from officials in Kogi State on incidents of electoral malpractices, particularly the incident of result sheets completed before voting.
The statement reads in part: “Reports indicate that the incidents occurred in Adavi, Ajaokuta, Ogori/Magongo, Okehi and Okene Local Government Areas. The most serious incidents occurred in Ogori/Magongo, affecting nine of 10 Registration Areas.”
EFCC arrests vote buyers in Bayelsa, Imo, Kogi
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrested 14 suspected vote buyers in Otueke, Adawari playgrounds in Bayelsa State and at various polling units in Imo and Kogi states.
EFCC spokesperson, Dele Oyewale revealed last night that they were arrested in intelligence-driven operations that commenced several days before the ongoing governorship elections in the three states.
He also said a total sum of N11,040, 000 comprising N9,310,00 intercepted from suspected vote buyers and sellers in Bayelsa and N1,730, 000 intercepted from electoral fraud suspects across Imo State, were also recovered from them.
The EFCC said the suspects will be charged to court soon as investigations are concluded.