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CDD says state polls rife with vote-buying, violence

From Okwe Obi, Abuja

The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has picked holes in the governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections, with the claim that it was marred by vote-buying and violence.

It claimed that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) did better in terms of the deployment of logistics which led to prompt arrival of poll officials for the elections, but said there were occasional issues of non-functionality of the Bi-modal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS).

CDD Director Idayat Hassan, at a press briefing Saturday in Abuja, said data from its 1,500 observers deployed across the country shows there were more cases of vote-buying during the governorship elections compared to the presidential polls of February 25.

“In the northwest, observers in all seven states reported increased reports of vote trading, primarily by political party agents,” she said.

“Money was used alongside other materials such as food items, wrappers and a ‘credit voucher’ were used to buy votes and those items were to be redeemed after the results.

“Similarly in the northeast, political party agents in Taraba infiltrated the queue, pretended to be voters and used the chance to offer cash for votes.

“In the southeast, there were reports of APGA and LP party agents using materials, phones and other souvenirs to entice voters in Anambra State.

“In the south-south, multiple states reported a desire for voters to show proof of their vote before being paid, with party agents reportedly compiling a list of their voters in Esan Central LGA, Edo State.

“This might be a reflection of the heightened political environment around governorship polls, the importance of local personalities in state-level politics, and the shortages of fuel and naira.”

On the incidents of violence, the pro-democracy think-tank said the cases reinforced the heightened political environment that the polls have been conducted in.

According to Hassan, these acts of violence involved party agents and politically sponsored thugs.

She also said, “A concern that has cut across multiple zones is the reduced presence of security officials.

“Observers across the states in the south-south, southwest and northwest reported a much smaller security presence, especially when compared to the presidential election.

“This has led to repeated skirmishes and fights between voters, party agents and officials. For example, observers in Enugu reported clashes between the party representatives, while others in Jigawa highlighted similar issues between self-professed party members.”

Furthermore, she said thuggery was used to disrupt the process.

“There were reports in Ukanafun LGA, Akwa Ibom, where thugs attacked a polling unit and scared away voters. Election materials were also hijacked at gunpoint in Emelia LGA and thugs also disrupted the process in Obio Akpor LGA, both in Rivers State.”

Weighing in on the role played by online falsehoods, CDD emphasized on how a flurry of voter intimidation video, were widely circulating online as voters were heading to the polls, particularly in Lagos.

Speaking also, the Chairman of the CDD’s Election Analysis Centre (EAC), Prof Adele Jinadu, said the turnout of voters for the polls varied from state to state based on anecdotal evidence.

He explained that in states where the incumbent is being significantly challenged by his opponent, relatively higher turnout of voters was experienced.

He added that CDD observation data indicated that in the south-south, the general sense of discouragement across the region that due to the unfavourable outcome of the presidential election affected turnout with voters declaring that ‘there is no point’ of coming out to vote.

Meanwhile, Jinadu disclosed that CDD observer data showed that across the southwest zone INEC officials arrived on time and promptly commenced the process in over 80% of observed polling units.

“This trend is broadly consistent across the six geo-political zones. In Anambra State 75% of polling units had INEC officials who arrived on time with voting commencing on average at 8:41.

“There was even a report of INEC officials in Benue State having slept over at the polling unit to avoid late coming,” he added.

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