…Says, names, pictures, videos of senior govt officials involved noted.
by Achadu Gabriel, Kaduna
A Coalition of INEC Accredited Observer Groups for Credible Elections has made startling revelations on how the governorship elections in Kaduna State were rigged with the aid of security operatives.
The revelations were made in a preliminary report of the Kaduna State 2023 Governorship and State House of Assembly elections held on the 18th March, 2023, delivered by the coalition in Kaduna.
Leader of the coalition and chairman of Centre for Strategy, Ethics & Value, Romanus A. Ugwu, signed the report alongside with five member representatives of the coalition, including Intercontinental Leadership Initiative, Centre for Strategy and Conflict Resolution.
Other coalitions are Society for Protection of Human Rights, Centre for Socio Value and Early Childhood Development, Initiative for the Promotion of Civic Obligations and Sustainable Peace (INPROCOSUP), respectively.
The Coalition explained that, “We observed the deployment of a good number of security agents in the urban areas, while in the rural areas, they were scanty.”
It however noted that, “Unlike during the Presidential and National Assembly elections, where the conduct of the security personnel was professional and commendable, during the Gubernatorial and State House of Assembly elections, their behaviour in some of the urban local government areas were unprofessional, anti-democratic and bias, as they became willful tools for rigging election.
“The conduct of security agents in Zaria, Kudan, Kaduna South, Kaduna North, Igabi, Sabon Gari, Lere, Kubau, and Ikara, among others, leaves much to be desired.
“To be specific, in Makera ward of Kaduna South local government area, after voting had ended at the polling units, when results were being collated at the ward collation centre, the security presence became unusually heavy to the surprise of many.
“At that point, the people thought the deployment was meant to ensure their safety, not knowing it was to the contrary.
“In achieving their hatchet plans, they connived fully with the ruling party and some government officials alongside sponsored thugs to rig the elections. Shockingly, our observers on the ground, political party agents, and other electorates who were there to witness collation activities were chased away. Some people sustained injuries, while trying to escape.
“The collation centre was barricaded in a war-like manner. Results were brazenly changed, and figures were fraudulently increased or decreased, depending on the target.
“Afterwards, the result sheets were uploaded on the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal. When people kicked against the illegality, the police, army, and the sponsored thugs at scene threatened to shoot and harm anyone who tried to inch closer. The incident was reported to their superiors, but they turned deaf ears,” the report stated.
It continued that, “In Zaria, the local government council chairman and other top ranking government functionaries, in violation of the law, were all over the place with large number of security personnel, harassing and intimidating innocent voters as well as disrupting election in areas they presumed was not favourable to them.
“To our greatest dismay, the security agents were in cahoots with politicians in aiding and abetting vote buying and other malpractices. In some instances, they peeped to confirm whether the induced voter thumb prints on the ballot paper as agreed or not, then he signals the person paying for the vote for payment to be made accordingly.
“Reports gathered from Kudan LGA indicate how a known armed thug, nicknamed Ten-Ten, was seen in company of the local government council chairman, under cover of security agents and violent thugs moving from polling unit to polling unit, from one ward collation centre to another attacking people and destroying election result sheets. His boys were responsible for the destruction of RA collation result sheets for Kauran Wali North and Garu wards in Kudan LGA,” they said.
On vote buying, the reports noted that, “The election was massively characterized by open vote buying using cash, food and cloth items, most especially in Kaduna North, Kaduna South, Zaria, Igabi, Lere, Kubau, Ikara, Sabon Gari, etc.
“In some of these areas across the state, our men reported these cases to the security agents, but in most instances they ignored and failed to take any action. Though, there were some arrests by the personnel of the economic and financial crimes commission (EFCC), who handed over the culprits to the police – only to be released after a short period of time.
“We have successfully gathered the names, pictures, and videos of senior government officials who were involved in this, and shall make it available to the appropriate quarters, when we complete our final report.
On INEC conduct, the group noted that, “The conduct of some INEC staffs, especially at the ward and local government levels was ignominious and a betrayal of the peoples trust in them.
“They willfully connived with politicians and compromised the process disgracefully. In one of the RAs in Lere LGA, the returning officer disappeared into thin air, only to show up later with concocted result sheets.
“It took the resistance of the collation agents of some of the political parties before the result was rejected. Result of election peacefully conducted at the polling units and result sheets uploaded on the IReV portal were willfully cancelled at the ward and local government collation centers.
“Some collation centres literarily became more like cancellation centres. For example, election result from the entire Kukui and Aribi wards of Kagarko local government area and all that of Kauran Wali North and Garu wards in Kudan LGA were cancelled when their results were declared and posted on the IReV before taking it to the collation centre.
“Also, polling units in Saulawa, Kuya, Anchau wards, etc. in Ikara local government were condemned without any justifiable reason,” it noted.
“There is no doubt that violence was the order of the day in some polling units in some of the LGAs – like Gidan Gayan, Rigachikun, Zangon Aya, Sabon Birnin Daji wards in Igabi LGA. The election was marred by so many irregularities, flagrant and reckless cancellation of result sheets duly obtained from the polling units.
“The number of PVCs collected in the affected areas where election was cancelled are well above 70,000 (Seventy Thousand) against 10,806 votes recorded as the margin of lead of the declared winner of the election.
“In this obvious circumstance, with the provision of Section 51(4), we align with the position of the agent of one of the parties in the sense that the returning officer should have tarried a while and declare the gubernatorial election inconclusive, so as not to disenfranchise over seventy thousand voters cut across the state,” it noted.
The group, therefore, recommended that “It is generally believed that no electoral system is perfect. But the failure to improve the system after every election is what is unacceptable. For the credibility of our election to be enhanced before the comity of nations, the electoral umpire most be seen to be impartial, neutral and unbiased.
“The security agents must also display some high sense of professionalism in their conduct and impartiality in their actions, throughout the period of an election.
“Sensitization and enlightenment is still an issue in our electoral system. INEC, political parties and other relevant government agencies must increase the rate of sensitization to improve voter turnout. Differentiating between logos of political parties is still a challenge to a lot of our electorates.
“As a matter of fact, the need for the establishment of the National Electoral Offences Commission is long overdue. We urge government to expedite action in that regard.
“We call on government to as a matter of urgency prosecute all suspects of electoral malpractices and offences. This would deter others from embarking on similar crimes.
“In the spirit of fairness and equity, we call for the review of the Kaduna result declaration, since the margin of lead of 10,806 is far below the number of PVCs collected in the cancelled areas, which amounts to more than 70,000 eligible votes.
“If the gubernatorial election of Adamawa State, with a margin of lead of 31,248 and that of Kebbi State, with 45,278, we see no reason why Kaduna should not also be declared inconclusive. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.
Earlier, it was stated that Kaduna State had 14 governorship candidates, who slugged it out at the polls. However, in the majority of the polling units, only the 4 (APC, PDP, LP and NNPP) leading political parties had their agents at each station.
According to them, “The Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) functioned effectively in most of the places across the state. This aided speedy accreditation of voters and early commencement of voting, which encouraged turnout in so many places,” it stated.
“The coalition, through its member organisations, deployed 2,444 observers to the nooks and crannies of the 23 local government areas of Kaduna State. This enables it to observe, collate data, and analyse from over 80% of the polling units.
“In view of this, out of sheer patriotism and genuine commitment towards deepening democracy, the mission availed us the opportunity to engage in proper observation and assessment of data collated,” it stated.