• Sunday, May 26, 2024
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International observers query Rivers State election results

election

The initial optimism of free and acceptable elections in Nigeria is being dimmed as a team of international election observers from the United States (US) and United Kingdom (UK) questioned the validity of the election results of Saturday, March 28, 2015 expected from Rivers State.

The observers said  they saw seven youths attack and destroy a polling booth, and that they never saw any result sheets. They also confirmed allegations that result sheets were never shown to the voters.

Jennifer Lynn, executive director, Contact Project, from the US, in coalition with other groups monitoring Rivers State, addressed the press on Sunday, at Junaita Hotel, Port Harcourt, confirming the “difficulties of security and availability of result sheets.”

Answering questions from the press, Lynn pointedly said that her team never sighted any result forms before the accreditation of voters, an issue that has become contentious in the state.

The All Progressives Congress (APC) led by Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi cried foul, saying that the result sheets were handed to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftains in the state, and ordering his members not to submit themselves for accreditation and voting.

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The US-based ‘Contact Project’ group said it was always a great challenge to ensure a fair, free and safe election process in any nation. The group stated that it went round the state and got information from other groups monitoring elections. “Ranging from distribution to collection, many stations were compromised due to the handling of these materials. In addition, we observed severe challenges due to dysfunctional card readers, causing lengthy delays, voter denial, and irregularities.

“Further concerns include the tampering of election materials, questions of security concerns, and reports of misconduct by election officials and candidates,” she said

According to the team, areas most affected included Omuma, Tai, Ahoada-East, Ogu/Bolo, Bonny, and Khana. Lynn concluded that the documentation of these events would seriously lead to questioning the validity of the results from Rivers State. The group said it would submit its report to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as part of a larger observation feedback provided by various organisations around Nigeria.

According to her, “we want to stress the support of the Nigerian electorate, people and democratic process and encourage the leadership, government and security forces to enforce the peace accords and allow for Nigeria to be recognised with the international standards of election procedures.”

The team explained that there were human factors in the hitches that were recorded. They talked about youths attacking polling booths and destroying ballot boxes. They also said many of the polling officers failed to follow basic rules.

Lynn however said that the use of biometric screening and card reader was a step forward, but wondered why the ones in Nigeria malfunctioned in so many places, adding that Nigeria had come a long way.

Meanwhile, APC supporters marched through the major roads in Port Harcourt to the INEC headquarters on Aba Road, protesting the conduct of the election and what they termed excessive romance between the Otueke-born INEC’s REC and the PDP, as well as security agencies. The party rejected whatever results that would be announced by the electoral body, saying they were written by the PDP.

IGNATIUS CHUKWU &  SABY ELEMBA