Before the off-cycle elections in Kogi, Bayelsa, and Imo states, a coalition of 70 Civil Society Organizations urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to prioritize transparency, emphasizing its crucial role in restoring citizens’ confidence in the electoral system.
The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, representing the group, emphasized the importance of early distribution and deployment of election personnel and materials in the three states. They also called for a prompt start to the polls, advocated for priority voting, and stressed the need for assistive materials for persons with disabilities.
Additionally, the Situation Room insisted on using the Bi-Modal Verification Accreditation System (BVAS) for voter accreditation and requested the uploading of polling unit election results on the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) Portal. The coalition stated that they have deployed observers to monitor the electoral process in the mentioned states.
“Situation Room will be working with its partners and network of more than 70 civil society organisations to observe the elections and receive reports from the three States. This will inform its observation and analysis of the Governorship elections.
“Situation Room has been following recent developments leading up to the elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi States and makes the following observations:
“Situation Room notes that as part of preparations for the elections, the sum of N18 billion was appropriated for INEC in the recently approved 2023 Supplementary Budget, a proportion of which was allocated to augmenting the cost differentials in the budget for the conduct of the three off-cycle Governorship elections.
“Situation Room observed the mock accreditation exercise conducted by INEC in select locations across the three States on 14th October 2023. Situation Room also observed the inspection of election materials which took place on Thursday, 9th November at the offices of the Central Bank of Nigeria in the three States.
“Situation Room expects an improved administration and management of these three Governorship elections and therefore enjoins INEC to abide by the provisions of the Electoral Act and its Regulations and Guidelines at all stages of the election, to promote transparency, accountability and conduct elections that will be adjudged by the generality of Nigerians as free, fair and credible.
“Situation Room further notes the warning given by INEC at its Stakeholders’ meeting held on 8th November 2023 in Bayelsa State, to the effect that no election results will be recorded for polling units where violence occurs, and that the Commission would not return to those locations to conduct elections. Situation Room urges the Electoral Commission to reconsider this stance in line with the provisions of the Electoral Act, in order not to disenfranchise eligible voters.
“Section 24 (3) of the Act requires INEC to suspend an election and reschedule it, in the event of a substantial disruption to the election in a polling unit, occasioned by the threat to peace and security of electoral officials and materials.
“The Inspector General of Police, IGP Olukayode Egbetokun has given assurances that the Police and other security agencies are ready for election duty. In addition, the IGP has assured that vote buying will be tackled, and that electoral offenders will be arrested.
“Recent developments in the three States where elections will be held, is however worrying. For over three years, Imo State has been the epicentre of several violent attacks targeted at residents and security agents.
“Elections are important for the survival of democracy and Situation Room calls on all persons to ensure that the Governorship elections are supported to succeed.
“In Bayelsa and Kogi States, there have been reports of election-related violence, occasioned by attacks targeted at party stalwarts and resulting in injuries and deaths of several persons. These developments are worrying and raise concern for the safety of various stakeholders on election day.
“Situation Room calls on the Police and all supporting security agencies deployed for election security duty, to display professionalism and neutrality. In addition, they are enjoined to be vigilant and proactive to forestall electoral infractions and secure the entire electoral process.
“Situation Room calls on all political parties and candidates participating in the elections across the three States to adhere to the Peace Accord signed with the National Peace Committee and refrain from all forms of violence and intimidation of election workers and voters. Political parties are also enjoined to call their agents and supporters to order and ensure that they conduct themselves responsibly.
“The irregularities that trailed the conduct of the 2023 general elections have left a lot of voters disenchanted and dwindled confidence in the electoral process. Accordingly, INEC will need to do its utmost to ensure that these off-cycle elections do not further worsen citizens’ confidence in our electoral process.
“Situation Room enjoins all eligible voters in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi States to come out on Saturday, 11th November 2023 and fully participate in the process of electing a leader of their choice for their respective States. Situation Room calls on all election stakeholders to approach this election with every sense of responsibility and utmost respect of democratic standards,” the coalition added in the statement that was signed by its Convener, Mr Y.Z Ya’u and Co-Conveners, Mimidoo Achakpa and Franklin Oloniju.”