Off-cycle polls: INEC missed opportunity to rebuild trust, says Yiaga Africa

 Yiaga Africa, a civil society organisation (CSO), says the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) missed an opportunity to rebuild citizens’ trust in Nigeria’s electoral process.

On Saturday, off-season polls took place in Bayelsa, Kogi, and Imo states.

Briefing journalists in Abuja on Monday, Samson Itodo, Yiaga’s executive director, said: “These off-cycle elections were to test the commitment of key democratic institutions such as INEC, security agencies and the executive to restore public confidence in the electoral process”.

“Yiaga Africa is concerned about the continuous decline in the quality of our elections and the penchant to lower the integrity standards of our elections irrespective of reforms introduced by INEC and progress made in reforming our election legal framework,” Itodo said.

“The November 11 elections were another missed opportunity to rebuild trust and confidence in the electoral process.

“The elections question the commitment of democratic institutions such as INEC, political parties and other state institutions to electoral integrity and credible elections.

“The elections in Kogi and Imo reaffirm the lack of commitment to democratic principles and credible elections on the part of electoral stakeholders. 

“The zero-sum attitude to electoral politics undermines electoral integrity and citizens’ right to elect leaders.”

The CSO questioned the transparency of the election in Imo adding that elections were not held in several polling units across different LGAs in the state including nine polling units in Orsu, eight in Okigwe, eight in Oru East, seven in Orlu, one polling unit each in Ideato North, Ikeduru, Oru West and Owerri West LGAs.

“Yiaga Africa urgently calls on INEC to review and conduct a comprehensive audit of the Imo governorship election results to inspire confidence in the process and its outcome,” the statement reads.

Itodo also said reports received from Yiaga’s observers “revealed that INEC polling officials were unprofessional and partisan in over 15% and 14% of polling units in Imo and Kogi states, respectively”.

He added that “Yiaga Africa verified 101 critical incidents witnessed by WatchingTheVote citizen observers. Eighty-seven (87) of these reports were received from Imo and 14 of the reports were received from Kogi”.

However, Yiaga commended INEC for improvements in the management of election logistics across the three states.

“The commission’s prompt response to the report of cases of pre-filled results sheets (EC8A) in Kogi state was equally impressive,” the statement reads. 

“Yiaga Africa hopes the commission will fulfil its commitment to ensuring the culprits face the full wrath of the law.

“Yiaga Africa also observed a reduction in cases of election day-related violence and commends the efforts of the police and other security agencies. 

“However, Yiaga Africa hopes all reports of election offences, compromise and unprofessional conduct of some police officers are duly investigated and culprits properly punished.”

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