Tuesday 26th September, 2017
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The INEC Panel Report on Rivers re-run elections

The INEC Panel Report on Rivers re-run elections

The administrative panel of enquiry set up by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to investigate the Decem­ber 10, 2016 rerun legislative elec­tions in Rivers State, made its report public penultimate week. The major trust of the report was a damning revelation of the involvement of the security operatives who participated in the poll. The report detailed the complicity of the security operatives in the snatching of electoral materi­als, intimidation of voters and de­liberate refusal of the operatives to accompany electoral officers to their duty posts.
According to the report, “One of the low points of the Rivers rerun elections of December 10, 2016 was the flagrant intervention of secu­rity operatives in the process. This was widely identified by staff of the Commission and independent ob­servers alike, as one major factor that led to the failure of the process in some local government areas. Ironically, security operatives, who were expected to protect the pro­cess, turned on it. There were re­ported cases of willful obstruction of the process by security opera­tives, including snatching of materi­als and intimidating voters. In other cases, they refused to accompany and protect men and materials for elections.”
The INEC administrative enquiry, like the police panel of investiga­tion and the probe ordered by the Rivers State Government, including the on-going election petition tribu­nal all aim at the same purpose and subject matter, which is to unravel the reasons behind the failure of the last parliamentary election in Rivers State. Therefore, we condemn the multiplicity of investigations into the same election. It is our position that a more neutral, representative, unbiased and centralized investiga­tive body should have been more appropriate to inquire into the out­come of that highly flawed Rivers State congressional election rather than this series of charades in the name of probe panels that we are witnessing now. This is also why we add our voice to the call for the es­tablishment of an election violence commission, that will independent­ly handle all election related crimes and ensure that perpetrators are brought to book without let.
To all intents and purposes, these inquiries are self-serving, i.e., target­ed at exonerating selves while at the same time pointing accusing fingers at others and perceived enemies. Like the police investigation, which veiled intention was obvious from the onset, it ended up exonerating its officers and men who incidental­ly openly compromised themselves during the process while demon­izing the Rivers State Government headed by Governor Nyesom Nwike. No wonder the Rivers State Government was quick to dismiss the police report as, “patently false, politically motivated and cooked by the police to justify the violence they visited on the people of Rivers State during the re-run poll.”
The truth of the matter is that dur­ing the last parliamentary polls in Rivers State, both the INEC and the police got themselves thoroughly messed up with the election. Both got highly compromised in the pro­cess. As a result, the least we had expected both the police and INEC to have done was to set up in-house probe of the activities of their of­ficers and men following the wide condemnation and indictment of their roles in the election by both the local and international observ­ers, as well as other monitors. This is with a view to sanctioning their erring personnel and not to exoner­ate them.
Unfortunately, the elections that have taken place so far in Bayelsa, Edo, Kogi, Ondo and Rivers States since the new INEC headed by Pro­fessor Mahmood Yakubu came into being after the 2015 general elec­tions do not inspire enough con­fidence in Nigerians as the polls have all, without any exceptions been characterized by one form of electoral malfeasance or the other. Our concern is that the inability of INEC to get it right during individ­ual states’ elections, is unwittingly speaking volumes to what would very likely happen when general elections would be conducted in about 32 states of the federation in 2019.
Finally, we believe that the role of the police, and indeed, all other se­curity agencies during any election is specifically to provide security and ensure the smooth conduct of the polls. If in the process the secu­rity agents catch people perpetrat­ing violence and other electoral of­fenses, including their officers and men, it is in their place, especially the police to ensure that such per­petrators or offenders are arrested and prosecuted and not for the se­curity agencies to turn around to exonerate themselves and apportion unsubstantiated blames. There are worrying concerns that the security agents are being increasingly used by the Government and politicians to perpetrate electoral violence and compromise the electoral process. Government must act fast to halt this untoward trend especially as we inch very close to the 2019 general elections. This is one of the critical ways Government can inspire con­fidence in the people in the coming elections.

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