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Governorship/State Assembly elections record low turnout

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• Despite Relative Peace, 9 Killed In Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Ibadan, Katsina
• 20 INEC Staff Abducted In Katsina
• Saraki Blames Low Turnout On Militarisation Of Exercise
• Rigging Responsible For Voter Apathy-Dogara
• It’s A Protest Against APC — Jang
• Excessive, Heavy Deployment Of Military Responsible — Election Situation Room

The alleged manipulation of the presidential and National Assembly election, incidents of multiple deaths, and the militarisation of the exercise, among other factors were blamed for the severe voter apathy as Nigerians elected state governors and assemblymen, yesterday.

In addition to this, the failure of INEC to pay the allowances of some ad hoc staff in Lagos, Abuja and other parts of the country, also worsened the scenario, as bewildered eligible voters returned home without casting their votes after waiting for hours.

Among the absurdities that played out was the election-day recruitment of ad hoc staff in Ibadan North West, following the failure of those used for the last round of polls to show up, in an apparent protest. The newly recruited ad hoc staff were recruited and deployed right away without training.

Those that expected the INEC to use the presidential poll as a dress rehearsal for a seamless governorship/state assemblies polls were disappointed as the umpire still found itself mired in logistical challenges, including failure of smartcard readers, as well as very late arrival in election materials and personnel.

 

Like the presidential and National Assembly polls, loss of lives also featured prominently as at least seven persons were feared killed. Rivers State did not disappoint in this regard as it accounted for four deaths.

In Akwa Ibom, a young ballot box snatcher met his waterloo when soldiers monitoring the exercise in Ukanafun Local Council gunned him down as he made away with ballot box at a polling unit in Ikot Udo Ossiom Village.

An eyewitness said the young man had attempted to snatch the ballot box in the morning immediately it arrived from INEC, but was prevented by soldiers guiding the polling unit. The victim reinforced and returned to the unit for another attempt, only to be felled by soldier’s bullet for such effrontery.

In Oyo, the member representing Lagelu/Akinyele Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives and candidate of the Action Democratic Party (ADP) in the last National Assembly election for Oyo Central Senatorial District, Temitope Olatoye, aka Sugar was shot dead.

He was allegedly shot by suspected political thugs at a collation Centre at Elesu, Ward 13, Lagelu Local Council of the state, after which he was rushed to the Accident and Emergency Unit of the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, where doctors battled to save his life.

The Public Relations Officer of the UCH, Mr. Toye Akinrinlola confirmed the legislator’s death.

But the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), SP Gbenga Fadeyi said he was still gathering the facts about how he got shot.

In Enugu State, an unidentified man was shot at the residence of the gubernatorial candidate of the All ProgressiveS Congress (APC), Ayogu Eze, in Umuonu-Umuida, Enugu-Ezike, Enugu State yesterday. He was hit by a bullet fired by an unknown person.

The middle-aged man said to be supporter of the APC candidate died while being taken to the Bishop Shaneham’s Hospital, Nsukka, having lost a lot of blood. He was earlier rushed to Umuida General Hospital, where staff on duty rejected him in the guise of dearth of facilities.

It was gathered that the incident occurred when a team of local observers in the election had gone to interview the governorship candidate, who had pulled out of the election following the alleged refusal of INEC to restore his name on the ballot.

The angry crowd of supporters, which laid siege to the residence of the candidate, became restive and scampered for safety on sighting the observers. It was in the process that the bullet that fell the victim was released.

Also, after the shooting, members of the observer group were held hostage in Eze’s compound, but they were set free after a combined team of policemen arrived the scene and cordoned off the area.

The Police in Enugu has, however confirmed the killing, saying that it was being investigated with a view to arresting the culprits.

Police Public Relations Officer, Ebere Amaraizu, who also confirmed the death of the victim said it was an unfortunate incident. “I know we have tried our best to keep the election process peaceful in the state, but how these people capitalised on an issue that should be sorted out with INEC to create problems is what I don’t know. Somebody has been killed. We will not rest until those responsible are brought to book,” he said.

In the elections, which were characterised by ballot box snatching, interference by security agencies, and extreme voter apathy in Rivers State, the first victim of violence was identified as Micheal Abedinigo. He was shot dead at the INEC office in Akinima, Ahoada West Local Council in the early hours of yesterday, while resisting attempts by armed men to snatch electoral materials.

Similarly, two men were also shot dead at Luawii community in Khana Local Council. Several vehicles conveying election materials to communities in Khana were attacked by gunmen, who hijacked election materials.

An INEC presiding officer, who pleaded anonymity told The Guardian that gunmen incepted their vehicle at Wiiyaakara while they were going to distribute election materials meant for Ward 7 Bangha.

“We were on our way to Kono when another driver carrying election materials beckoned on us to turn back. Before the driver could reverse, a bus carrying more than 10 gunmen intercepted us and collected all our election materials, mainly non-sensitive materials. We were injured by the gunmen,” he said.

Only hours to the elections, gunmen had shot dead the special Adviser to Governor Nyesom Wike on Gender matters cum former council chairman of Andoni Local Council, Mrs. Emilia Nte.

Mrs. Nte was shot dead at Egendem on her way to her ward, in Unyeada ahead of the election. Her vehicle was abandoned at the boundary between Engendem and Asarama communities.

There was also sporadic shooting in Ward 9 of Akpajo, in Eleme Local Council as political thugs hijacked ballot papers and other electoral materials. There was also reported case of hijack of ballot papers in ward 10, unit 11 of Eleme.

Hoodlums also went on rampage snatching ballot boxes and election materials in Buguma in Asari -Toru while security personnel allegedly looked on helplessly. The arrest of a chief in the community triggered a protest by women, led by Ms Boma Goodhead, who represents Asari-Toru/Akuku-Toru Federal Constituency.

In the 13 units in Ward 6 Apani, Ikwerre LGA, security operatives snatched ballot boxes and the supervisory presiding officer had to escape to avoid being captured by the soldiers.

There was unprecedented voter apathy all across the state and most respondents told The Guardian that they stayed away from the polling units due to the mass deployment of the military for the elections.

They also accused the military of breaking into people’s homes and arresting them days to the elections. Due to the military invasion of the palace of the monarch of Okochiri, Ateke Tom, only a handful of voters turned up at the polling units there to vote despite repeated entreaties by town criers that it was safe for them to come out and cast their votes.

The Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, his House of Representatives counterpart, Yakubu Dogara, and former Governor of Plateau State and Senator Representing Plateau North in the National Assembly, Jonah David Jang were united in their submission that apathy recorded across the country was as a result of alleged massive rigging in the presidential poll, as well as a protest against the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Atiku who cast his vote at about 12.30 pm at his Ajiya Ward in Yola North Local Council, admitted the loss of faith in the electoral process and remarked that he is not confident that his vote would count.

He also insisted that the poor turnout was a reflection of the loss of faith in the electoral process by the citizenry.

“The elections of two weeks ago were marred by irregularities. Suddenly, I’m not convinced that my vote will count. You can see a very low voter turnout,” he said, urging his supporters to keep faith with him.

He, however, expressed hope that the situation could be rectified, saying, “It requires the coming together of all Nigerians and the leadership to be able to redress all the challenges we face in the last elections…I have always been optimistic,” he said.
Saraki while speaking with reporters after casting his vote alongside his wife, Toyin, at Ode Opobiyi Polling Unit 005, Ajikobi ward in Ilorin West Local Council, blamed the low turnout on the heavy deployment of the military and other security operatives for the exercise.

He, however, commended the voters for their orderliness and peaceful conduct during the exercise.
The military and other security operatives had since Thursday engaged in a show of force around strategic locations in Ilorin metropolis, while a military jet was also deployed to the state capital.

A former Minister of National Planning, Prof. Abubakar Suleiman Olanrewaju, also joined Saraki in condemning the militarisation of the exercise in the state.

 

Suleiman, while briefing journalists after casting his vote at Ode Opobiyi 005 Polling Unit, in Ilorin West Local Council, described the process as undemocratic, alleging that the military operatives were driving away voters.

Dogara, who spoke while he voted in the Gwarangah, Bogoro polling unit in Bauchi State claimed that the rigging that characterised the presidential and National Assembly poll was responsible for the voter apathy.

The speaker explained that the apathy displayed by the voters stems from the feeling that their votes would not count, even if they participate in the electoral process.

“What I have seen is that there is no mammoth crowd like last election. Some of you were here, you saw the crowd and how many lines were here, it was even a battle to get to the front, I can’t see that kind of crowd here.

“We saw that in the last election, the problem wasn’t the voting, people came out and voted. The problem started at the collation level, especially at the ward level. Collation at the polling level was almost done peacefully and concluded in a very transparent manner but at the ward level to the local government level to the constituency level, things started changing.

For Jang, the widespread voter apathy in Plateau in the gubernatorial election as a protest against APC.

He said, “Plateau is a PDP state, our people believe that our mandate in the recent Presidential election has been stolen, and until they are guaranteed that the outcome of court process initiated by PDP will be fair, the situation won’t change.

“Despite the poor turnout, I still believe that Plateau as a PDP state will return Senator Jeremiah Useni as the Governor of the state in today’s election.

Former governor of Cross River State and presidential Candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Donald Duke also lamented the low turnout of voters at the Governorship and House of Assembly elections.

While casting his vote at AME Zion School, Ward Five, polling unit in Calabar Municipal Council, he said the presidential election witnessed more voter turnout than yesterday’s polls, adding that the low turnout witnessed in most polling units could be because of the heavy presence of the military.

According to him, “It is hardly 11.am, maybe it is a bit early. I hope they (voters) turn out, if they do not, that will be sad. I think there was more excitement last two weeks, so maybe we have voter’s fatigue.

“And there are lots of speculations regarding violence here and there, so maybe people are just staying out of the process. And again, the presence of military is so intimidating. Part of the security measures being taken is frustrating. You don’t shut down a country or town just because people are going to exercise their rights,” said Duke.

Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, and his wife, Hajiyah Ummi el-Rufai, equally decried the low turnout of voters in Kaduna.

El-Rufai, however, added: “I am very optimistic that the turnout will improve. I think people are taking their time to come out and cast their votes for the candidates of their voice.”

In Oyo, Governor Abiola Ajimobi toed the same line as he deplored the poor turnout of voters.

He, however, called on the electorate to remain calm and cast their votes in peace.

Domestic observers that monitored the exercise said the apathy recorded in Lagos State, yesterday was as a result of skirmishes and insecurity experienced in the February 23 presidential elections.

Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, who spoke on behalf of some of them also noted that the unavailability of INEC’s ad hoc staff at polling units as at when due was also responsible for the apathy.

According to her, “at Opebi, Moses Olaiya, Alausa among others, there were no trace of election going on as at 10:30am.”

She added that this could lead to discouragement on the part of voters. While also commenting on the non-usage of card readers, she said, “in some units, manual voting was ongoing.”

Odumakin continued: “We have been to no less than 35 places this morning. As we speak at Opebi, there is no INEC official or ad-hoc staff except security and party agents. Also at polling Unit 8, Fadeyi, they were voting manually. Also at Ojo, they informed us that the ad hoc staff arrived around 10:10am. The Corps members complained of non-payment of their allowances.”

The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, equally blamed the low turnout nationwide on the excessive and heavy deployment of military and security personnel for the elections.

Speaking yesterday, in Abuja, Head of the Situation Room, Clement Nwankwo maintained that the low voter turnout could also be attributed to voter apathy arising from the effect of the disappointment of citizens over the poor conduct of the February 23 presidential and National Assembly elections.

“The situation room continues to voice its concern with the level of deployment of the military in the election. The level of deployment of military arsenal including fighter jets and attack helicopters remains a serious concern for us.

According to Nwankwo, incidence of vote buying in Sokoto, Zamfara, Ekiti, Kebbi, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Ondo and Borno states respectively could undermine the credibility of the election if not properly checked.

YIAGA AFRICA bothered by the poor showing by INEC in yesterday’s polls, called on the electoral umpire to resolve issues relating to shortage of election materials, non-payment of allowances for ad hoc officials, malfunctioning of smartcard readers and other logistic challenges that require speedy resolution.

The organisation in its mid-day election observation brief reported demonstrations by ad hoc officials protesting non-payment of their allowances from previous elections.

 

The group said that due to security reasons and lack of adequate security protection, INEC official declined to deploy sensitive materials to some locations in Rivers State.

According to the Watch The Vote (WTV) observers of the organisation reported incidents of missing and incomplete materials, destruction and burning of election materials, voting without the smartcard reader verification, ballot box snatching, threat to media, refusal to deploy, voter intimidation, inducement and vote buying during the governorship and state assembly elections.

“Missing ballot papers were reported to have affected the distribution of materials at the Rufu RAC Ussa Local Council of Taraba State. In Kosofe LGA of Lagos State, INEC officials as at 12noon were yet to deploy as packs of ballot papers were missing. Reports of incomplete ballots papers were also received from Ward 10, Eleta II Polling Unit 32, Ibadan South East LGA in Oyo State.

Two security officers were yesterday killed while 20 officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were abducted in Kastina State. It was gathered that 10 of the officials allegedly abducted at Danmusa area of the state were later found. The security personnel that died were a policeman and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corp (NSCDC) officer, who were killed at Danmusa and Kankara Local Government respectively.

 

 TheGuardian 

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