A major election monitoring group has dismissed Thursday’s re-run election in Osun State as fraudulent and anti-democratic, calling for an immediate investigation into the the roles of government institutions who participated in it.
The conduct of security agencies drew the most condemnation and warning from the Centre for Democracy and Development, one of Nigeria’s most respected pro-democracy think-tanks.
“In the light of these anti-democratic acts, which have undermined the sanctity of the ballot therefore, we hold strongly the view that the re-run poll of Thursday, September 27, 2018 does not meet up with the minimum standards for free, fair and credible elections,” the CDD said in a statement today. “It falls short of global best practices in democratic elections which Nigeria aspires towards.”
Results of the re-run election have started trickling in as of 3:30 p.m., after voting centres closed at about 2:00 p.m across the seven polling units identified for the exercise.
The Independent National Electoral Commission fixed the re-run for Thursday after declaring the 2018 governorship election inconclusive when it held on September 22. Ademola Adeleke, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, scored 254,698 votes to beat Mr Oyetola, his main All Progressives Congress rival who polled 254,345 votes.
The electoral body said the re-run was necessary because the margin between the PDP and APC (353 votes) is less than the number of registered voters (3,498) in the seven polling units where elections were cancelled for disruption or technical difficulties.
The PDP protested the decision, demanding that its candidate won the election and should be declared winner. The party also approached the court in an unsuccessful bid to procure an injunction against the re-run. The opposition party eventually agreed to participate in the poll, although with strong reservations that it would not be free or fair.
Idayat Hassan, director of CDD, said her organisation observed widespread misconduct by security agencies, including intimidation of accredited journalists, observers and even voters of the opposition party.
“CDD field observers deployed to observe the process and ensure its credibility, especially in Orolu and Osogbo LGAs, were intimidated, threatened and in some cases arrested by security forces,” CDD said.
“CDD observers reported palpable tension in Ifon, Orolu LGAs due to the high-handed conduct of the security agents who seemed bent to sway the vote the way of certain partisan interests.
“At Ajegunle Roundabout, which leads to Polling Unit 003 Ward 9 Gbogbo Primary School in Orolu LGA, security personnel mounted barricades to obstruct observer and deny them access to the polling unit.
“Observers who attempted to carry out their legitimate duties were arrested and taken to nearby police station. They were only released after being denied the opportunity to keep an eye on the process so as to guarantee its credibility,” the statement said.
The body also highlighted the arrest of Kemi Busari, a PREMIUM TIMES journalist deployed as a CDD observer for the exercise, dismissing the police’s claim that he was taking picture near the polling area.
“The police officer’s stance contradicts the statement of INEC, which made it clear that voters and participants were allowed to go with their phones to polling units but not to polling booths after ballot paper must have been issued to an accredited voter,” CDD said.
“This particular incident clearly demonstrates the fact that the law enforcement agents were not properly informed about or deliberately ignored the INEC directive, which banned the use of phones in the voting cubicle, not around the overall polling environment,” CDD said. “In the face of the intimidation and unjust arrests, observers were forced to leave the Polling Units.”
The think-tank also confirmed widespread reports that potential voters of the opposition were being driven away from polling areas by security agencies.
“CDD also observed attempts by members of the security forces to prevent some voters who allegedly belong to opposition party from accessing PU012 Olode Ward 07 in Ife-South LG, even after showing their PVCs.
“Also, despite all efforts by INEC and civic group to ensure violence-free polls, some political actors mobilised thugs and hoodlums to intimidate voters, journalists and observers.
“Chang Mantu, a senior police officer involved in the coordination of security in the Osun election, explained in Osogbo that there was an attempt by some party men disguising as observers to gain access to Orolu in the early hours of Thursday. He said they were arrested by the police.
“According to him, they loaded in a bus and when they were screened, they were found to be members of a political party. He explained the development was the reason why there were restrictions into the area as it was difficult for security officials to know
those who were genuine observers and journalists.
“Our observer also reported that election was disrupted in PU 17, Ward 5 Osogbo LGA as a result of sporadic shooting by some
hoodlums. In terms of the sanctity of the vote, CDD observers reported over five attempts by impostors to vote with PVCs from other Wards at PU012 Olode Ward 07 in Ife-South LGA.
“Although these attempts were unsuccessful, they nonetheless reflect the kind of impunity,
which undermines the credibility of the process,” it said.
The police strongly denied all allegations of misconduct, telling PREMIUM TIMES Thursday afternoon that there is no truth to claims of voter intimidation or harassment of observers and journalists.
Ali Janga, a police commissioner who monitored Orolu Local Government Area where most of the complaints about brutal attacks by political thugs and misconduct amongst security agencies emanated, said the election was peaceful and only those who whose PVCs showed they were not registered to vote in the areas where re-run election was underway were being turned back.
The police also paraded some persons they claimed were members of the opposition but impersonated as election observers.
The CDD recommended a thorough investigation of security agencies’ involvement in the re-run election, warning that the same fate could undermine the 2019 general election.
“The acts of intimidation by security forces and the violence unleashed by party thugs are suggestive of an attempt to compromise the integrity the poll.
“Coming as the last off cycle election before the 2019 general election, the conduct of the security forces, politicians and their supporters are sources of concern to strengthening our democratic process.
“We recommend an urgent investigation of the roles and conduct of the security forces and political thugs in the Osun re-run with a view to sanctioning infractions,” CDD said.