CSO warns army against voter Intimidation, urges INEC to uphold card readers usage

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Staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) start confirming over again 7,000 portable permanent voter card (PVC) readers ahead of the postponed predidential and general election at the River State INEC office in Port Harcourt, southern Nigeria, on February 18, 2019. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP)

As voters in Nigeria troop out today to elect governors and lawmakers in the State Houses of Assembly, the Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development, (Centre LSD) says the army has become a threat to the 2019 general elections.

Although the Chief of Army Staff has said that the military operated within its constitutional limits, the group observed that the presence of the army during the last election was intimidating and became a source of fear, which caused the electorate to stay away from the polling units.

Centre LSD said the election is a purely civil affair and should in no way be militarised but be left to the police and other civil security personnel.

We demand that the army should also be less partisan even if they are called upon by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to provide support services under any circumstances.

In a preliminary statement released in Abuja yesterday, signed by Tive Denedo, Program Manager and Monday Osasah, Acting Executive Director, the group noted “with a sense of pride the insistence by INEC that there will be no elections without the use of the Card Readers. Although this statement brings so much relief, we hope that INEC has been able to successfully resolve the numerous reports of the Card Readers failure.”

The group pointed out that there is high incidence of voided votes arising from the malfunctioning of the card readers. The failure of the card readers, it stressed, is symptomatic of the failure of INEC, adding that the Commission must, therefore, act to forestall the failure of the card reader and by extension its own failure.

It also explained that the late arrival of INEC materials to many polling stations in the last elections showed that it was poorly prepared for deployment, adding that many of the staff engaged by the Commission showed a high level of unprofessionalism in the handling of routine duties. “We expect that there has been some post-election conversation and INEC will demonstrate its readiness to meet its threshold by ensuring that the staff operate with and show a much higher level of responsibility in the discharge of their duties.”

The Centre expressed hope that INEC should in the past two weeks have learned valuable lessons from the Presidential and National Assembly elections saying, “it is our belief that key stakeholders in the electoral process have done the same. Therefore, the governorship and Houses of Assembly elections should be organized and prosecuted to be a model for a transparent, free, fair and credible election in Nigeria.”

On the issue of political violence, the group said much of the violence associated with the election is perpetuated by political parties that would want to win at all cost. It added that winning at all cost poses a huge cost for the democratic process because in the end nobody really wins.

It, therefore, implored all political parties and their agents to desist from turning the elections and election grounds into theatres of war and contest for supremacy in arms and thugs, but to be responsible for the duty of vigilant observations assigned to them.

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