SITUATION ROOM EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER VIOLENT RHETORICS IN RIVERS STATE RERUN ELECTIONS HOLDING ON SATURDAY, 19TH MARCH 2016
Issued: Sunday, 20th March 2016
The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room has been observing the Rivers ReRun elections conducted on Saturday March 19th and the build up to the polls.
Overall the polls have been highly disappointing at most levels – there was significant violence and loss of life, allegations of serious malpractice, and extensive delays.
So far this has resulted in the suspension or cancellation of 8 of 23 local governments. The poll is particularly disappointing because it involves marshalling the combined resources of INEC and the security services nationally for a stand alone election.
Instead of a model exercise the Rivers re-run featured almost all the incidents which should have been eliminated. In some areas, polls were peaceful and orderly, and we commend voters and electoral officials for their patience and their efforts in an atmosphere that was difficult and generally led to very low turnouts.
We note that in several LGAs there were allegations of ‘fake’ or incomplete results sheets – notably in Bonny, Gokana, Andoni and Khana. Issues of results sheets should have been cleared well before election day and we call for a balanced investigation into how this controversy came about.
There were credible reports of violence in a number of LGAs and reports of between 8 and 13 deaths (some officially acknowledged) with the possibility that the tally may be higher. All of the incidents of violence deserve impartial investigation and prosecution of those responsible.
Despite clear directives from the police, senior members of both the major political parties were observed at the headquarters of local governments in disputed areas (observed in Khana and Gokana). While concerns over problems are understandable, we reiterate that political parties have fueled concerns over interference in the poll.
The logistics of the re-run poll were of serious concern. Reports on the day suggest problems with security arrangements may have been a factor but the delays in opening polls even in areas within Port Harcourt were seen as excessive for a poll that commanded such close attention and resources.
There were serious allegations made about partisan conduct of the military around the poll in some locations. These deserve independent investigation and suitable action if wrongdoing is found. We note that INEC suspended polls in several LGAs due to irregularities and we commend this decision given that we had received reports of serious incidents and diversion of materials in Tai and Eleme LGAs. We call on INEC to make its investigation of other LGAs comprehensive and to release in full its findings once these have reached a conclusion.
In light of the conduct before the election and serious allegations around the poll we also call on the political parties to take responsibility for their members, conduct investigations, and discipline those who have behaved outside the democratic standards to which they have committed.
Once again we condemn the threats and intimidation that was meted out to electoral officials both before and during the poll. We call on INEC to fully investigate the difficulties encountered with completing the Rivers Rerun elections and to take the conclusions into full account when making preparations for concluding remaining polls in the state.
This statement is issued by the Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room, a platform of more than 70 Nigerian civil society organisations working on good governance issues, including: Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, PLAC, CLEEN Foundation, Action Aid Nigeria, Centre for Democracy and Development, Enough is Enough, WANGONET, JDPC, Election Monitor, YIAGA, CISLAC, Nigerian Women Trust Fund, Stakeholders Democracy Network, Proactive Gender Initiative and several other CSOs