An election observer and monitoring group, the Independent Service Monitoring Group (ISDMG) has raised concern over what it described as plot by desperate politicians to intimidate and blackmail the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), ahead of the Rivers state senatorial elections re-run.
Speaking in Abuja, ISDMG Executive Director, Dr Chima Amadi said to this end, the group will be mobilizing other civil society organizations to a peaceful protests aimed at drawing attention to the dangers of a continued assault on the Election Monitoring Bodies as we are currently witnessing.
He urged the Nigerian police to immediately ensure it carry out a proper investigation of the printing of the fake election results and ensure that the perpetrators are prosecuted.
He said it is interesting to note that Rivers state becomes a bed of controversy and theatre of violence once election dates are announced, urging the political class in the state to look inwards.
Dr Amadi also urged President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint the full compliments of National Commissioners and Resident Electoral Commissioners so that the INEC will continue preparations for 2019 without any hitches.
He said, “INEC did all it could to get political gladiators in Rivers State to sign up to peace and create a peaceful and conducive atmosphere to allow for the conduct of elections. Such efforts included a national Stakeholders meeting held here in Abuja where 30th of July was fixed as the date to re-conduct the Court ordered rerun elections.
“However, on Friday 22nd July, 2016 the INEC Office in Khana Local Government Area was completely razed marking the zenith of renewed violence in Rivers State and without any assurance from the security agencies that it will provide secure environment for poll duty staff, observers, electorate and indeed all citizens in Rivers state, INEC was yet again hamstrung into postponing the elections.
“On Saturday 5th November, 2016 it was reported that officers of the Nigeria Police stormed a printing press in Port Harcourt and arrested several persons involved in the printing of fake result sheets. We on behalf of the Nigerian Civil Society community call on the Police to conduct a thorough investigation and make the outcome public. Such incidents which go to the root of affecting and eroding people’s confidence in elections must not be swept under the carpet.
He said, “However of grave concern to us are the false, frivolous and unsubstantiated allegations made against the Commission by a hitherto unknown group, Alliance in Defence of Democracy. They alleged connivance by INEC with a Political Party in the printing of the fake result sheets. Asking how the printer got the codes of the polling units where elections were to be conducted was merely begging the issue as INEC had earlier communicated all political parties involved in the rerun elections of the polling units where elections will be conducted.
“Was this unknown group not being mischievous when it refused to avert its mind to the fact that the arrested persons did not disclose any collusion with INEC? Did the unholy Alliance group not hear the arrested proprietor of the Printing Press say that he was given a Certified True Copy of the documents he was to print and do they not know that lNEC in compliance with legal requirements issues on request Certified True Copies (CTCs) of Result sheets and other public documents to all applicants and that after the rerun elections of Saturday, March 19, 2016, most political parties and candidates applied, paid prescribed fees and were issued these CTCs. As an analogy, does the discovery of a cabal illegally printing Nigeria’s currency, mean that the CBN governor is complicit and should resign?”
According to him, For any election to be successful all stakeholders must work together; the electoral body, security agencies, political parties, media, Civil society must all perform their functions and carry out their roles in building a sustainable democracy.
He said, “It must be clearly stated for the avoidance of doubt, since the end of the tenure of Prof. Attahiru Jega, INEC had generally improved the standard of our elections. The simultaneous accreditation and voting which was introduced by the Mahmood Yakubu led INEC has been hailed by observers as a leap from the past as it has encouraged voter participation in the elections.
“Nigerians must also be made to know that till date, all elections conducted by this INEC are Court ordered rerun elections, (with 50% of the elections in Rivers state ) except Edo, Kogi and Bayelsa Governorship election meaning that INEC in those elections made returns that it was not supposed to make and it must be pointed out that no election so far conducted by this INEC has been upturned by any court.”