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2019 polls: INEC, CSOs differ on US claims

Mahmood Yakubu
Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof Mahmood Yakubu

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and civil society organisations have expressed varied positions regarding the claims of the United States that security operatives in Nigeria intimidated voters, officials of INEC and election observers during the 2019 general elections.

In its 2019 country reports on human rights practices, the US Department of State noted that the elections in Nigeria within the year under review were marred by violence and practices which did not encourage enough voter participation in the electoral exercise.

Mr. Rotimi L. Oyekanmi, Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, told Daily Trust last night that it is not true that there was widespread intimidation of INEC officials, voters or observers by the DSS and the army during the 2019 general elections across the country.

He said, “I am yet to see the full report of the United States Government which a national newspaper quoted in its report that was published. But I wish to state categorically that it is not true that there was widespread intimidation of INEC officials, voters or observers by the DSS and the army during the 2019 general elections across the country.

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“To be sure, the US did not deploy its observers to all the states for the 2019 general elections and could not have established what actually transpired at every polling unit. However, there was indeed an incident in Rivers State during the governorship/state Assembly elections when some security personnel interfered with the electoral process, but the commission acted swiftly, invoked the powers conferred on it by extant laws and suspended the election at that point.”

CSOs react

The Executive Director, YIAGA Africa, Mr. Samson Itodo, told Daily Trust that the report corroborated their observation report on the 2019 elections as it reinforced the fact that the nation’s security agencies were used to undermine the integrity of the elections.

“With this information, there can be no better time to hold security agencies to account for their conduct. This calls for an audit of the 2019 elections. These infractions cannot be ignored else they will spell doom for subsequent elections. If no one is held to account then consider the 2023 elections as already compromised,” Itodo said.

Also, the convener, Good Governance Team (GGT), Mr. Tunde Salman, said no discernible observers of 2019 general elections season would be surprised by the US government report saying the nation’s law enforcement agencies took side before, during and after the elections.

“We should however be bordered that the judiciary has become badly battered,” Salma said.

On his part, the Executive Director, Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Dr.  Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi, told Daily Trust that the nation’s security has always been involved in elections and that in some cases, they helped in the snatching of ballots and manipulation of election results collation.

“What is surprising however, is that one would have expected 2019 elections to be different given the disposition of President Buhari. Sadly, the situation was the same and even worse in some places. INEC itself has not been able to work out strategy to contain the excesses of security interference in our elections.

“To stem the tide, there is need for political will on the part of government. Unfortunately, the executive and legislature are the major beneficiaries of military interference and would therefore not be willing to address the issue of security involvement headlong,” Zikirullahi said.

The United States Government had said there was evidence that Nigerian security agents, including the State Security Service and the Nigerian Army, intimidated voters, officials of INEC and even election observers during the 2019 general elections.

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