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Botched Rivers Assembly: Security Personnel Meddled in Poll, CSOs Allege

The last may not have been heard concerning the crisis that scuttled Rivers State re-run elections, as a coalition of Civil Society Organisations have alleged that security personnel that were deployed to maintain peace during the polls, unduly meddled in the electoral process.

The CSOs who said they have assessed the polls that was meant to elect officials into the State House of Assembly and the Federal legislature, regretted that the outcome of the March 19, 2016 rerun was yet another sore point in the nation’s journey to free, fair and credible electoral process.

The CSOs in a statement, condemning the violence, said despite the very large number of security personnel deployed to the state, 6,000 conventional Police men, 8 additional mobile police squadrons to support the 46 units of mobile police already serving in the state, soldiers, Department of State Services (DSS), Civil Defence personnel and other paramilitary agencies, they could not adequately ensure security for the National and State Assembly elections in just one state.

“Its worrisome because of the fact that each of the above mentioned agencies was associated with particular political parties and report from observers in the field can confirm that in several instances these security agencies worked for the parties they were associated with,”they alleged.

Recall that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had discontinued the collation of election results on allegation that the process had been marred by violence.

The electoral body had already announced results in nine state constituencies with the PDP winning eight and the APC one and one federal constituency, won by the PDP, before the announcements were suspended.

President Muhammadu Buhari had at the National Executive Council meeting of All Progress Congress (APC), in Abuja,recently, admonished both the security agencies and Nigerians to always show mutual respect and submit themselves to smooth electoral process whenever the need arises.

He said beyond giving credibility to our democratic process, ensuring that elections are conducted peacefully will be one lasting legacy he would like to bequeath to Nigerians after his tenure.

“Of course the leadership of INEC has been changed, but I appeal to the leadership of the military, security agents and INEC that what I want Nigerians to remember me for, even if I have to leave the Presidency, tomorrow is that I respect them.

“I want all Nigerians to believe and hold their PVC as personal entitlement and use it to vote for whoever they deem fit at any election,”President Buhari had noted.

But the CSOs urged the presidency to launch an investigation into the Rivers violence with a view to identifying the real perpetrators and bringing them to account.

They noted that security remain the responsibility of the Federal Government, as such it should explore ways to curb recurrent electoral violence by bringing perpetrators to account.

According to the CSOs,while the electoral management body was busy making preparations for a credible election, the political gladiators in the state were busy planning for war and perfecting means of undermining the efforts of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

“We are not unaware of the fact that INEC made the necessary arrangements for credible elections and its officers readily deploy on good time to their various Polling Units in a very charged environment , a situation which the Commission still braced to discharge its responsibility.

“We acknowledge that there were logistical handicaps on the part of INEC , a situation that could not be remedied owing to the rampant violent environment.

“We the undersigned therefore condemn in the strongest terms the violence that was unleashed in the state by the political actors and their agents and call for the arrest and prosecution of any individual found to have remotely or actively aided and abetted these occurrences.

“We join millions of other well meaning Nigerians to mourn with the family of Samuel Okonta, the Youth Corps member who lost his life while on election duty . We also condole with the families of all other citizens, staff of INEC and security operatives who lost their lives during the election.

“We restate our total support to and for INEC as it grapples with the challenges of reforming a broken and flawed election process in our country , which is worsened by the Machiavellian politics of might is right of the political elites in Nigeria.

“We also call on politicians nationwide to shun violence and all Nigerians to continue to support the INEC in its efforts to reform our electoral process and provide a fair platform for Nigerians to choose their leaders freely,”they said.

The CSOs were drawn from Partners for Electoral Reforms, Centre for Transparency Advocacy and Network for Police Reform in Nigeria.

Others are Koyenum Immalah Foundation,Say No Campaign, YIAGA, Independent Service Delivery Monitoring Group,Citizens Centre for Integrated Development and Social Rights,Transition Monitoring Group and Proactive Gender Initiative.