“The politicians are acting contrary to known norms of civilization and have aided and abated the disruption of the election process with clear intent to discredit the outcome of the election if not in their favour. Sadly, INEC has been vindicated in its earlier stance not to conduct elections in the state due to threats of violence by politicians. It is now apparent that all the hue and cry by political actors in the state was to set the grand stage for this mayhem. Interestingly though, where violence was not unleashed INEC deployed materials readily and elections conducted freely and without any ugly incidents,” ISDMG said.
The Independent Service Delivery Monitoring Group (ISDMG), an election observer group condemned the widespread violence during Saturday’s re-run elections in Rivers State.
The group however commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for showing leadership, while it called on political parties to eschew inflammatory statements capable of causing breach of the security and discourage their agents from obstructing INEC duties or officers from carrying out their legitimate mandate.
The group stated this in a statement signed by its Director of Communications/Team Leader, Faith Nwadishi
She said whereas INEC had shown enough improvement in the last two elections in Edo and Ondo states, Rivers State re-run election is proving more daunting and challenging with reports from our observers indicating willingness by citizens to exercise their franchise but being frustrated by activities of hoodlums and party thugs, clearly acting out instructions of their promoters.
She frowned at the conduct of the politicians across parties, saying they had conducted themselves most despicably and had become agents of darkness and crass manipulation.
She said, “The politicians are acting contrary to known norms of civilization and have aided and abated the disruption of the election process with clear intent to discredit the outcome of the election if not in their favour. Sadly, INEC has been vindicated in its earlier stance not to conduct elections in the state due to threats of violence by politicians.
“It is now apparent that all the hue and cry by political actors in the state was to set the grand stage for this mayhem. Interestingly though, where violence was not unleashed INEC deployed materials readily and elections conducted freely and without any ugly incidents .
She said further, “We had earlier issued a statement before the re-run urging party leaders, the citizens, security agencies and all stakeholders to help INEC conduct free, fair, credible and peaceful election in River state.
“However, it is disheartening to note at this juncture that reports from election observers and monitors indicate unpleasant activities by party thugs in some polling units and centres across the zones and constituencies where elections are taking place.
“In Etche LGA, hoodlums prevented INEC staff from deploying personnel and materials to the following areas; Afra ward with 20 Pus and 3441 registered voters; Mba ward 18 with 14 Pus and 4503 registered voters; Udofor ward 8 with 8Pus and 2373 registered voters; Ogwi/Obiro ward 6 (had result sheets snatched); Obite Ward 10 with 6 Pus and 1866 registered voters; Ulakwo ward 13 with 21 Pus and 5420 registered voters; Obibi/ Akwukabi ward 9 with 12 Pus and 2444 registered voters. These numbers are significant enough to affect the outcome of the election negatively.
“Equally, sack bags were used as ballot boxes in PU32/11/13/012, Ulakwo Ward, Etche LGA as a result of the snatching of the ballot boxes by thugs and hoodlums leading citizens to insist on voting with the sacks no matter the intimidation.
“It is also reported that party supporters clashed in Opobo. We observed that voting materials moved late to many polling units at about 9 am when the voting process ought to have started. Most of these delays are attributable to disruptive activities of hoodlums and party urchins who were clearly on a mission to prevent the EMB from carrying out its functions.
According to Nwadishi, citizens and stakeholders must see this election as a legitimate citizen’s duty and absolutely, not a war
She insisted that the electoral process be transparent and devoid of violence and deliberate disenfranchisement of citizens by action of thugs or their sponsors or through connivance of any sort by partisan parties.
In a separate avenue, two election observers, who were on Channels Television Saturday night argued that those those who blamed the soldiers for misdoing at the elections were not sincere with facts as, according to them, “Not only that the soldiers that accosted us on the roads behaved well, civil and professional but also they were so peaceful even as they checked your car boot and asked you questions. If anybody says some soldiers were colluding with some people to cause problems, we are not aware of that.”
One of them particularly challenged the television programme anchor not to discuss the issue of the role played security men and soldiers as, according to him, there was nothing that was not within the acceptable norm in making soldiers in an election as volatile as Rivers’. “If you sit in the comfort of your television studio, you can talk about that but not in Rivers. Now we can be able to move around and elections being conducted because the soldiers are around. Because those guys don’t respect the police at all but they respect and fear the soldiers, that is the fact,” he said.