The CDD Election Analysis Centre (EAC) has released the preliminary findings on the conduct and key processes of the November 16, 2019, Bayelsa Governorship election. Speaking at the release of the preliminary findings, CDD Director, Idayat Hassan flayed what she described as a coordinated disruption of the voting process and the subsequent destruction of electoral materials by armed thugs. Hassan noted that given the widespread scale of these systematic attacks of the electoral space, the credibility of the outcome had been called to question.
She said: “The very daring way and the manner in which the political thugs disrupted the voting and destroyed materials in such a planned and coordinated sequence, takes everything away from the credibility of the process and its outcomes. In large numbers of polling units, the voting environment was so hostile and unsafe, thereby scaring away eligible voters, who would only come out to vote at the risk of losing their lives.”
The CDD helmswoman said the number of critical recorded in the elections make it impossible for it to pass the minimum test for credible elections. She said the widespread electoral malpractices such as the theft of ballot boxes, the abduction of INEC ad hoc staff and subsequent hijack of election materials as recorded in several parts of the state, calls to question the integrity of the electoral process.
“Similar incidents were recorded in Otuan Ward 5 Southern Ijaw LGA, where the election was materials hijacked by unknown thugs. Voting was also disrupted after ballot boxes were hijacked in Yenizue Gene II, Polling Unit II in Yenagoa LGA. CDD EAC observers further reported incidents of sporadic gunfire in Opolo area of Yenagoa Local Government, just one person reported injured, while two persons were feared to have died after being shot.”
The CDD Director further informed that data from EAC observers spotted incident of disruption of voting at Epie III ward, polling unit 001, where the election had to be cancelled.
“The level of malpractices in this election was pervasive as reported by our CDD EAC observers on the ground. In Agbere community in Sagbama Local Government area, for instance, there were reports of a group of people thumb printing a significant number of ballot papers.”
Concerning INEC and the perennial logistics problems, CDD lamented in many polling units observed voting did not commence as at when due because of the very late arrival of election materials. In other cases, the delay in the arrival of election materials had to do with clashes between rival party supporters at the Registration Areas Centres over how electoral materials should move. Those clashes, in some cases, led to the destruction of the electoral materials.”
On the issue of vote-buying and trading, the CDD Director, widespread cases were recorded in Tombia Community; in Yenagoa LGA, the two dominant parties, APC and PDP matched each other with the PDP buying votes for N7000, while the APC paid N8000. In Sagbama, between two and three thousand Naira was offered to voters. PU 24, Ward 2. CDD EAC observers reported seeing voter buyers and sellers using code words and sign language to indicate where to meet for payment after the vote is cast.
“In the light of these findings, there is no mistaking the fact that we are degenerating to a gunpoint democracy, where the democratic choices of the voters do not matter, and where the desperation of the political actors would use every vile tactic available to undermine the democratic ethos. We, therefore, have a lot of work to do as citizens,” she said.