Kogi poll largely free, fair, credible, says observer groups

The Coalition of over 52 Civil Society groups (CSOs) accredited by INEC who observed the Kogi elections have affirmed that the elections were largely free, fair and credible in spite pocket of violence.

Comrade Peter Nwokolo of Citizens’ Right and Leadership Awareness Initiative (CRLAI), who read the press statement on behalf of the leaders of the groups, made the assertion at a press conference in Lokoja on Tuesday.

According to Nwokolo, “the Coalition states categorically that the 2019 Kogi gubernatorial elections held on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, were largely free, fair and credible. 

”The observed anomalies reported during the elections, including the incidents of thuggery and associated violence, were comparatively too few and ineffective to justify the calls from some quarters for total cancellation of the entire elections. 

”The INEC is advised to ignore such calls as misguided,” he said.

The coalition noted that  INEC had done a good job by identifying and evaluating the overall impact of the incidents on the electoral outcomes and had taken remedial decisions including cancellation of votes or scheduling of outright reruns in some constituencies. 

”After careful analysis of the nature of incidents, their possible impact on the results of the elections and review of INEC decisions on each, this Coalition declares herself satisfied with INEC’s proposed consequential actions. 

”The cancelled polls and the scheduled reruns meet the justice of the situation. 

”Coalition is grateful for the opportunity to be involved as observers and monitors and thus contribute in this way to the process of deepening democratic practices and values in Nigeria,” Nwokolo said.

The coalition, however, urged INEC and the law enforcement agencies to do better in providing and positioning armed escorts required by the electoral guidelines to maintain a secure perimeter around polling points, saying their absence or inadequacy in some units emboldened the miscreants who disrupted the process. 

”In all fairness, Coalition must state that security personnel posted to election duty in the instant elections were generally on time at their duty post and were able to assist the process admirably in places where violent disruption did not happen. 

”Being unarmed in the main, however, they became as defenceless as the citizen-voters themselves wherever armed thuggery occurred,” he said. 

He added that transactional malpractices such as vote-buying and voluntary breach of secrecy in voting between voters and agents of political parties were also observed. 

According to him, voters and political parties voluntarily exchanged money for votes with the voter contriving to reveal his thumb-printed ballot in order to receive payment.

He added: ”Nevertheless, Coalition notes that violence has remained a sad reality of elections in Nigeria for decades and the relevant authorities must do more to stamp it out”.

Other CSOs at the press conference who signed the press statement were: Mr Obinna Nwaka of Committee of Youth on Mobilization and Sensitisation, Mr Fidelis Nwoke of Africa for Millennium Change Initiative, Chinyere Manukwem of Centre for Positive Change and Civil Responsibility, among several others.

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