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Nigeria: Report Exposes Electoral Fraud

Nigeria: Report Exposes Electoral Fraud


Akanimo Sampson
Port Harcourt, Nigeria

THE Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (IHRHL) working in partnership with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), with offices in Washington, DC United States of America (USA) and Abuja, Nigeria, have made public their report on the April 21 polls in Nigeria

Executive Director of the IHRHL, Anyakwee Nsirimovu, said there were two elections which took place in Nigeria during this period: the Presidential and National Assembly elections – comprising of the Senate and House of Representatives. Our reports covers the process in Rivers State, Bayelsa and Akwa-Ibom states where we deployed the following numbers of observers, strategically spread within the local governments areas of the aforementioned states: Rivers – 750; Bayelsa, 200 and Akwa Ibom, 400. The IHRHL also coordinated the deployment of additional 350 election observers in Rivers State on behalf of the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) in Rivers State.

Any election is a process, not an event. It is a process which can be divided into three major phases, namely pre-polling, polling and post-election. In most cases what happens on the polling day is but a confirmation of what will have taken place before the actual poll.

IHRHL activities for the 2007 April Presidential and National Assembly elections in the aforementioned states of the Niger Delta Region, were targeted at ascertaining that the general conduct would be such that the result of the elections would be locally, regionally, and internationally recognized as acceptable. To this end , it was necessary to engage in a process of voter education, research and advocacy, monitoring the media and monitoring the pre-polling environment, the polling environment and the events expected in the post-polling events.

We acknowledge the support of the National Endowment for Democracy, (NED), Embassy and the Peoples of Belgium, Abuja and Cordaid of The Hague, Netherlands, in enabling our human rights/voter education activities aimed at effective popular participation and conflict transformation, and an effort in bringing to the fore, those who have made absence of transparency, accountability and corruption with impunity the rule in governance, rather than the exception. We also acknowledge the selfless efforts of human rights and community-based organizations in the core Niger Delta region, that have made deeper devolvement of our voter education activities and indeed, the recruitment and deployment of most committed and dedicated election observers, in an environment where stolen wealth, has made a mess of voluntary action in civil society.

We thank also the selfless team at the IHRHL Secretariat for their efforts in facilitating and co-ordinating the activities of the election observation of the IHRHL towards the achievement of its objectives. The assistance of NDI helped by providing the technical and financial support base for the implementation of the grand activities in the aforesaid states of the region. Without these external forces, that the State Security Services (SSS), harassed us about earlier in the process, the achievement of the IHRHL, would not have been possible. Our sincere thanks go to them and enormously so, to our friends in the media, who have stood by us, and made our positions remain alive in the public domain:

Their Preliminary Report

This preliminary report is issued based on the observations made by monitors from the three core states of the geographical Niger Delta region: Rivers, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom. A more detailed report will be issued at the end of all the elections.

Civil society organizations in the country faced immense hostility from the Federal government and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) headed by Professor Maurice Iwu. Their grouse mainly is the fact that domestic and international election observation would bring to the municipal and international glare their sheer incompetence in the management of the elections. The deliberate raising of tension in the Delta region, just before the elections were about to commence, meant that international observers failed to appear by reason of human insecurity, which no doubt was good news to the authorities. For the authorities at this point, it was their dreary designs and details against the few local civil society voices. We participated in the observation, inspite of the hurdles that INEC deliberately presented.

The rule of law made no much meaning to this INEC. Disobedience of court orders or better still, clear choice of what court orders to obey and not obey became most prevalence under this INEC. This INEC instituted series of court actions and Appealed against almost all court orders that did not favour its design, all the time, behaving like an interested party, not as an impartial umpire in the sacred duty of holding a free and fair election. In the process emasculating and endangering the process towards a most important election in the history of post military regime elections in Nigeria’s history - transiting from one civilian President to the next. As we prepare this report, there are still some matters awaiting determination at the courts arising from INEC manipulations and its inadequacies, for examples – disqualifications of candidates without due process, non-inclusion of pictures of some candidates on the ballot papers.

Voter registration and civic education are key to any effective representative elections. The preparation for these elections were fraught with high level incompetence openly displayed by INEC. Inspite of huge amount of resources available to INEC both from its federal budgetary allocation and international donors, it failed to take voter education, networking and partnership with civil society seriously. The voter registration exercise witnessed a fire brigade approach, which manifested in so many Nigerians losing their right to participate in the elections. The failure by INEC to publicly display the Voter Register in accordance with the Electoral Law, made it impossible for remedial action by eligible voters, who could have made necessary corrections and or raised legitimate objections therein. The electronic data capturing machine introduced by INEC, purportedly to checkmate election rigging proved to be not only a fraud that must be duly investigated, but a monumental deception and failure.

Set UP

Elections started very late in Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa states, inspite of the shift from the legitimate 8am time frame to 10am, by INEC. This was because materials arrived late at the polling units. In majority of cases, adhoc staff were present with no materials in sight. In the three states, we observed that result sheets were not part of the materials delivered at the polling units by INEC. Such other materials like indelible inks, were not available in some of the centres.

The polling units lacked proper organisation for open secret voting. Voters had to vote in the watchful eyes of PDP party agents, who took over the INEC Adhoc official function. INEC electoral officials behaved like members of the ruling party. Other party agents who stood their ground to do their duty were either, forced out, beaten or moved to the periphery by sheer intimidation, in the presence of law enforcement agents.

Voting Process On average in the three states, materials began to arrive at the polling units without the Result sheets at about 1pm. Secrecy in voting was not in any way complied with as it favoured the PDP agents who turned out as INEC adhoc and permanent officials to ensure that those who were allowed to vote in most of the cases voted for their party. Intimidation was also rife, as people were forced to vote against their own interest by reason of the intimidating force and fear of the unknown. This of-course meant that voting officials mainly PDP representatives interfered with the process.

Conduct of Security Officials

Security officials failed completely to conduct themselves properly at the polling units where they were found. Majority of the polling units were without any security official. In Rivers State and Akwa Ibom states, voters, observers and some media personnel were freely harassed, some beaten up and materials removed from them in the presence of what can best be described as compromised police officials. In Port Harcourt township, our observers were assaulted, their uniforms turn to shreds in the presence of police officials, by political thugs, without any action taken. In one instance at the Ilabuchi area of Diobu, Port Harcourt, when a police officials was called upon to intervene in the serious beating of a newspaper reporter covering the area, the Officer retorted: “See the PDP people”. At the time, the “Chelsea cult gangsters” were carting away ballot boxes in the area. In Ogu Bolo local government in Rivers State, observers were turned back by the Police Divisional Officer (DPO) in the area, saying that their presence was not needed.

In Ikwerre Local Government of Rivers State, our monitors witnessed the presence of military officials at series of road blocks in their military fatigue attire. This no doubt had its intimidating ingredients as far as voters were concerned.

In Bayelsa State, the previous night, there was heavy gun battle allegedly between the occupying military force and militants, who came in to void election rigging which allegedly were taking place in the Government House, Yenegoa. The gun fire which was reported close to government house in Yenegoa, was threatening to such an extent that Governor Goodluck Jonathan had to be evacuated with immense speed out of Yenegoa without his family to Port Harcourt. His family joined him much later. The extent of casualty and damage is yet to be ascertained as military presence has made access to the venue most difficult.

There was also heavy military presence in the Abak area of Akwa Ibom State. This also created a devastatingly intimidating atmosphere for voters, even though no shooting nor killing was reported.

Results Declared at Polling Units

The absence of official INEC result sheets, made a nonsense of result declaration at the polling units. None according to reports received from our observers were declared. It is also noteworthy that the absence of result sheets marred voting in some areas of Rivers State. In such places as Ebeda town in Emohua Local Government of Rivers State, voting did not take place by reason of the absence of result sheets. The experience of the previous elections, the week before, informed their position.

Rivers State Observer preliminary submission in Rivers State, is that the Presidential and National Assembly elections process were a perfection of the fundamental rigging of the previous week elections for the governors and state legislators. No polling stations were opened in Okirika, Ogu Bolo and Khana LGA. In Bori in Khana the ballot boxes for the 19 wards were taken to a police station, guarded by fierce looking Mopol and regular police officials till about 5pm when our monitors dispersed the area. In Gokhana LGA, materials arrived at about 4pm contrary to earlier media reports of an earlier arrival. Within 30 minutes of the arrival, officials announced that voting had been concluded. Thumb printing and ballot stuffing in the open was the rule.

The decision of the National Electoral Commission in Rivers state to arbitrarily announce the cancellation of some Senatorial and House of Representatives elections did not only confuse and disorganize voters, but was a further manifestation of the incurable incompetence of the grade of self-interested human beings put in place to manage this elections. The Rivers State Resident Electoral commissioner, Chief Rowland Uwa, like a Commissioner without an Action Plan, had woken up on election day morning and decided on a Press Conference, through which he cancelled polling in eight Federal Constituencies, offering no reasonable cause. The affected constituencies included: Ahoada West, Akuku-Toru, Asari-Toru, Gokana, Khana, Ogba/Egbema, Ndoni, Okrika/Ogu Bolu and Port Harcourt. This unexpected pronouncement caused immeasurable confusion at the polling units, forcing some of the voters who showed initial interest to return home in annoyance.

Sporadic gun shots in the Port Harcourt township area during the morning hours, also forced intended voters to beat a retreat back to their homes. The shootings intensified in the Marine Base area, near the Police Command Headquarters.

In Rivers State, voting did not take place at all in almost all the 23 local government areas. What seemed like voting to others, were actually observed to be a charade of the electoral process. Local observers reported identical scenes in other communities throughout the state.IHRHL and TMG observers saw groups of voters sitting outside of their assigned polling units well into the afternoon, waiting in vain for electoral officials and materials to arrive. In Ikwerre, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, Ahoada West and East, Abua Odual, Emohua, Omuma, Asari Toru, Obio/Akpor, Etche, Oyibo, Bonny and Port Harcourt, Degema and Abonnema Local Government Areas, there were massive thumbing printing of the ballot, non-accreditation and rigging of the process in the open.

Bayelsa State There were no visible polling units in Bayelsa state. Elections were conducted in the private closets of PDP party officials.

Akwa Ibom The story is no different in Akwa Ibom state. Our monitors collectively said, that it was a PDP affair.

In Akwa Ibom state (UYO), voters where offered between N100 and N300 to vote for a particular party (PDP) or leave the venue. In most of the communities of the LGAs, polling units were reduced into private residences of Party Chiefs who decided who voted or not. Intimidation were rife and right to vote so seriously violated.

Serious System failure observed in the Elections

Reports from our observers across the states monitored indicate that the elections were seriously marred by fundamental system failures to the extent of compromising the integrity of the ballot.

Some of these irregularities and malpractices include, hoarding of result sheets by INEC; lack of secrecy in balloting; massive thumb printing, no serial numbers on presidential ballots, non inclusion of names of candidates on the ballot paper; partisanship of INEC officials, snatching of ballot boxes and papers; and intimidation of voters.

Across the board in the three states, the official results filtering in presently from INEC is not representative of what observers witnessed at the various polling units in the states. The elections has been blatantly rigged in favour of the PDP. According to all credible reports from our observers, turnout in these states of registered voters was extremely low. But official returns being announced by INEC is pegging voter turnout at roughly 90 percent across the states. Observers witnessed near empty ballot boxes to collation centres across the states, but electoral officials are reporting voter turnout in those same areas at more than 95 percent. Elections in the three states that we monitored, were fraught with fundamental irregularities, and failed to meet the minimum civilized standard of the conduct of a free and fair elections, therefore must be voided. Our position is that no credible elections took place in Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa States. We accordingly reject the elections so blatantly announced in the same states.

It would be an unprecedented insult to the peoples of these states, who have been deliberately disenfranchised to call what just happened here, short comings or mere irregularities. What happened here is a complete failure of the system. So long as there exists any government or party in this country, that can be proud of what has taken place, it will remain hard to imagine the end conflicts and violence; and indeed, the possibility of genuine democracy and good governance in the already dehumanized Niger Delta region. This charade motivates further those who have taken to violence and criminality as a means.

To the citizens of these states and civil society groups there, we say this: as we do the things that we must do and as we build and maintain the Statute of Freedom that we have volunteered to struggle for, let us take seriously what Henry Longfellow had to say: Let us, then, be up and doing With a heart for any fate Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labour and wait.

Morning comes,

Recommendations

IHRHL believes the following recommendations must be implemented as key requirements to ensure a return of peace and democracy to Nigeria:then

• The restoration of the rule of law and its full and impartial application, including the prosecution of those responsible for political violence.

• An audit of the election results by an independent body agreed upon by all participating candidates and parties

• If necessary, a fresh election should be held, but only after an agreed transitional period during which constitutional and electoral order guaranteeing free and fair elections are put in place. This will require constitutional reform which will provide for the following:

• Nigeria needs the establishment of an independent electoral commission which is free of executive control and responsible for the management, administration and supervision of elections.

• A legal requirement providing that incumbents at all levels must leave their various offices before elections take place. Independent minded sole administrators could hold forth for the period of elections.

• Re-organisation of the Nigeria Police Force toward a people oriented force, especially so in the manner of the appointment and dismissal of the Inspect General of Police of the Federation.

• Strict provisions and transparency in monitoring of campaign finance, with a view to voiding the incidence of using tax payer’s resources to finance individual campaigns of interested parties in government.

• Access to state resources for all contesting parties, especially the media.

Provisions for the following should also be made:

• The upkeep of an accurate and up-to-date voters’ roll accessible to the public

• Strict observance of voters’ rights to electoral information by timely and adequate dissemination of all relevant information.

• The Freedom of Information Act should be signed into Law

• An election code of conduct for political parties, the media, observers and monitors.

• The full participation of civic society in voter education, election monitoring, observation, lobbying and advocacy as guaranteed by law

• Provision for state security agencies and electoral staff to conduct their duties impartially and professionally

• The establishment of independent inquiry to investigate political violence and recommend a process of reconciliation and rehabilitation.

1. We urge Nigerians protesting the outcome of the elections in their various states to do so peacefully and in accordance with the law and the Constitution.

2. We urge the Nigerian Police Force and other security agencies to give adequate protection to Nigerians who are peacefully protesting the denial of their fundamental rights to liberty.

3. We appeal to the judiciary and Election Tribunals to act as the true guardian of the law and the constitution and use its adjudicatory and interpretative powers to deliver electoral justice in deserving cases.

ENDS

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