Elections Observers Disagree on Kogi/Bayelsa Election
By Samuel Victor Akpan
A youth engagement and Human Rights organization- The Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA AFRICA)- has cast fresh doubts on the credibility of the 2019 Governorship Election in Bayelsa state describing it as “too close to call.”
The non-profit organization has also called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to “conduct an inclusive, transparent and accountable audit of the Bayelsa gubernatorial results that involves political parties and civil society.”
In a statement released by the group on Monday, the summation is based on the data reported (collected) by YIAGA AFRICA’s observers who were deployed for over two months throughout the state.
According to YIAGA AFRICA, there were no elections held in 61 of the 250 polling units and therefore potentially 24% of all polling units in the state did not hold elections.
YIAGA AFRICA also called on the National Assembly and President Muhammadu Buhari to as a matter of urgency “prioritize electoral reforms in their legislative agenda” and “prove to Nigerians that he is committed to electoral reform and leave a legacy of reforms that ends electoral impunity, strengthens democratic institutions and deepen the culture of democratic accountability” respectively.
However, Election Observer Group, The Transition Monitoring Group, has commended the security personnel deployed for the Governorship Elections in Bayelsa state for acting professionally.
Nengi James, South-South Coordinator of the group, disclosed this while lauding the Soldiers, Police and Paramilitary personnel for responding swiftly to emergencies within Yenagoa where he monitored the election.
He also commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for improving the standards as regards the distribution of election materials and the conduct of its staff.
“From 1999 till today, I have been a youth leader here, I have been a grand-standing activist here, I’ve been in 32 years working for humanity as a civil society person.”
“For Bayelsa state, there is no election that we’ve not lost somebody but this one, I give kudos to the military for obeying, for adhering to their rule of engagement and their code of conduct. In this election, they were very mutual” noted James.
However, he urged the commission to push for the amendment of the Electoral Act to accommodate an electronic system of voting and transmission of results.
He also advised that the Returning Officers for elections should be INEC staff and not members of the academia because some of them compromise standards in order to be promoted or given political appointments.
He said: “We do not want these returning officers to be from the academia, we want returning officers and collation officers to be from INEC itself because this vote buying itself goes beyond what you are seeing in the booth. There is cash and kind vote buying.”
“For instance, the Professor, the Returning Officer is from University of Benin, all the professors that are collating results are from University of Benin. There may be a lot of compromise behind the scene.”
INEC had announced David Lyon of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the elections after he polled Three Hundred and Fifty-two thousand, Five Hundred and Fifty-two (352, 552) to defeat his closest rival, Douye Diri of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) who scored One Hundred and Forty-Three thousand, One Hundred and Seventy-two (143, 172) votes.
In Kogi state, Yahaya Bello was re-elected for another term in office after the APC polled a total of 406, 222 votes to beat nearest rival, Engr. Musa Wada of PDP who got a total of 189,704 votes in Saturday’s polls.
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) State Returning Officer, Prof. Ibrahim Garuba announced the results at the state collation centre in Lokoja, the state capital.
Following the announcement of the results, President Muhammadu Buhari had on Monday congratulated Governor Yahaya Bello on his re-election in the November 16 Gubernatorial Poll.
He described the election and emergence of the All Progressive Congress (APC) candidate as “a race well run and a victory well won.” He also commended APC supporters for remaining steadfast and resolute even in the face of isolated incidents of violence.
Additional reports by Soibi Oruwari and Philip Nwelih