Shameless Nigerian politicians unleash violence and intimidation in re-run polls
Adetokunbo Fakeye with Agency Reports
London, March 23, 2019 (AltAfrica)-Violence and voter intimidation once again marred polls in Nigeria Saturday, as voters tried to take part in re-run governorship and state elections already postponed once because of unrest.
An opposition spokesman said some of their agents had been killed in the violence and called on election officials to cancel the vote again.
Armed men armed with machetes, knives and cudgels took over polling stations, assaulting observers and journalists in Kano, northwest Nigeria.
In Gama ward in Kano, men wielding machetes, daggers and cudgels invaded several polling stations, an AFP reporter saw, forcing voters to flee.
Similar reports emerged in other states such as the north eastern Bauchi, where elections are being held.
In Benue, a group of suspected thugs reportedly attacked electoral officials and political party agents accompanying voting materials
The Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state, Mr Nentawe Yilwatda, who confirmed this to Channels TV said, the thugs attacked the electoral officials on their way to Chito Adzendechi Council Ward, the headquarters of Ukum Local Government Area where the supplementary election was meant to hold.
Yilwatda revealed further that the hoodlums also burned electoral materials in the process, adding that however, the electoral officials and political party agents were rescued from the area.
Security source informed that a member of the Benue State House of Assembly representing Ukum state constituency, Hon. Paul Biam alongside, Commissioner for Industry, Trade and Investment, Kachina Merga, Adviser to the Governor on Revenue and Taxation, Zaye Jerome, Local government Chairman, Ibellogo Tor Tyokaa, Hon. Donald Gbugho and Deacon Dan Abbagu who were all agents of their party were attacked by the thugs.
The REC, Yilwatda explained that following the incident, voting processes for the over 13,000 voters in the ward have been cancelled
‘Democracy in trouble’
The director for the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Idayat Hassan, condemned Saturday’s violence in these key wards. The violence would “raise questions of the legitimacy” of the results, she said.
“Journalists and observers have been intimidated” because of a “win at all costs mentality” from politicians, she said. “Democracy is in trouble in Nigeria.”
The original elections a fortnight ago were declared invalid in some areas by Nigeria’s electoral board because of violence and disruption.
Tension was high in states such as Kano, where the result was finely balanced heading into today’s poll between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The decision by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to void March 9 elections in six states came two weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari won a second term. His main rival Atiku Abubakar denounced the results as “a sham”.
INEC said violence and other irregularities had prompted voting to be cancelled in some areas of Kano and Sokoto, in the northwest; Bauchi and Adamawa in the northwest; and the central states of Benue and Plateau.
A legal challenge, however, meant that the planned election in Adamawa did not go ahead Saturday, leaving five states to vote in the re-run.
Political tensions have frayed in Nigeria since Buhari’s re-election. Abubakar, the defeated PDP candidate, has challenged the result in an election tribunal, claiming that the results in several states were manipulated.
Election observers, citing reports of vote buying and intimidation, have criticised the organisation and running of the governorship and state elections, as well as the February 23 presidential and parliamentary polls.
Situation Room, an umbrella group of more than 70 civil society organisations monitoring the vote, has called for an independent inquiry into the entire election process.
The opposition PDP denounced INEC’s decision to halt voting in affected states, claiming it was “clearly leading the (governorship) race,” accusing INEC of collusion with the ruling party.
Regional elections are fiercely contested in Nigeria, where governors are powerful and influential figures, controlling state finances and responsible for key areas from education to health.
Buhari will hope to consolidate his re-election victory whilst the opposition PDP seeks to claw back power at the state level.
A seventh poll, in Rivers state, is to be run next month. The original count there was also suspended because of violence, INEC said.