Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Anambra guber: group condemns vote trading, hails security conduct

Freedom Ohuoha with microphone closer to Chigozirim Okoro during the programme

By Okechukwu Onuegbu

A renowned security research firm, Centre for Law Enforcement Education in Nigeria (CLEEN) Foundation has identified vote trading or voters’ monetary inducement as one of the problems that characterized the just concluded Anambra State governorship election.

CLEEN, whose empirical research findings released some days to the election predicted that the activities of the security personals might make or mar the gubernatorial poll, noted that its observers sent to monitor the election reported brazen cases of vote buying and voter inducement involving the major political parties in most of the polling units.

The Assistant Programme Manager, Public Safety and Security CLEEN, Mrs. Chigozirim Okoro, who disclosed this while presenting the reports of the group findings on conduct of security agents during the November 18, 2017, governorship poll, bemoaned that the “Illegal acts took place often in the full glare of security agent who appeared unable or unwilling to deter such electoral offences.”

According to her, “In most cases, security agents appeared uninterested in the act. In some cases, they made feeble attempt to drive the party agents behind the vote buying away from polling station. In few cases where they mustered courage to arrest the suspects, they usually let them go following interventions by community leaders or youth”.

Okoro, therefore, urged security agents and presiding officers to show more commitment in curbing vote trading and voter inducement at the polling unit through prompt arrest and prosecution of the offenders in line with the electoral laws.

She also called for collaboration with the media, National Orientation Agency (NOA) and Civil Society Organisations to deepen public enlightenment on the dangers of vote trading on the credibility of elections and prospect of good governance.

Okoro, however, applauded the police, Army, Directorate of State Security (DSS), and Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) on their professional conducts during the election, saying that “Apprehension became palpable some days to the election against the backdrop of threat of election boycott by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), large number of political contestants, huge deployment of state security forces, and the history of godfather politics, among other factors.

“And CLEEN Foundation trained and deployed a total of 83 persons to the 21 local government areas to observe the deployment and conduct of security agents during the November 18 governorship election. We observed that the military maintained outposts on major routes of entrance and exit from the state. There were also reports of proper conduct of the military stationed on the major roads and locations in the state during the election.

“There were indications, and corroborated by observers, of sustained visibility policing through ground, aerial and waterways patrol by security agencies, especially the police. The Federal Road Safety Corp (FRSC) and the NSCDC also maintained visible level of ground patrol. We also noted that the Police had patrol teams that visited some polling units to ensure that voting was going on smoothly. These patrols provided the needed sense of safety and security during the election”.

“There were also indications of logistics setbacks such as inadequate vehicles that contributed to delayed or late arrival of both electoral materials and personnel (permanent and adhoc staff - especially National Youth Service Corp Members). Observers equally reported cases of both temporary and complete failure of the Card Reader Machines (CRMs) in some polling units.

“It is noteworthy that in some cases, INEC technical team responded swiftly to rectify the problem. However at Community Primary School Ohita Ogbaru LGA, the CRM failed to work due to network failure, leading to protests by voters at the polling unit. Such incident could trigger electoral violence if poorly managed.”

Contributing earlier, the Lead Researcher and senior lecturer at the department of Political Science, University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), Dr Freedom Onuoha, while also extolling the security men and voters for ensuring that the election did not record any loss of life, stressed the need for conduct of similar research in the future.



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