• Urges INEC to ban political parties causing violence
With yet another election claiming the lives of voters, and resulting in serious injuries for poll officials and security deployed, leading pro-democracy think tank, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has called for drastic measures to stem the tide of electoral violence. Reacting to the sporadic gunshots, which led to the suspension of voting in the Ekiti East Constituency 1 bye-election yesterday, the CDD has reiterated its call for the enactment of an electoral offences commission as well as the speedy arrest and prosecution of the criminal elements responsible for the violence during the election. It would be recalled that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday suspended the election indefinitely following deadly violence, which led to the loss of the lives of three voters, while some poll officials and security deployed for the election sustained injuries.
Expressing dismay on the development in a statement signed by its Director, Idayat Hassan, CDD lamented that despite the peace accord signed by the political actors participating the election on March 17, 2021, criminal elements have again undermined the smooth conduct of the election. “Those who do not want the electorate to decide the outcome of an election have again frustrated the efforts of INEC to improve on the existing quality and standard of elections. This latest attempt to subvert the will of the electorate undermines the assurance that votes would count. It is most unfortunate that politicians have continued to demoralize the Commission’s effort to ensure violent free bye election.”
The frontline pro-democracy think tank stressed that electoral violence affects electoral participation, especially as it increases voter apathy in several ways. The group also made reference to studies, which it noted provides evidence to show that voters who have experienced threats of election violence at the polls are less likely to vote in future elections.
She said: “Electoral violence does undermine the modest progress INEC towards ensuring the conduct of free, fair and credible elections. As we prepare for the off-cycle polls in Anambra (2021), Ekiti and Osun (2022), the National Assembly must take the opportunity of the Constitution and Electoral Amendment process to enact the Electoral Offenses Commission.
“The Commission will be responsible for investigating and diligently prosecuting all acts of electoral violence and other related matters. There is an urgent need to sanitize the electoral landscape, empowering the election management architecture to conduct seamless, transparent and credible election, where losers will exhibit sportsmanship and winners will be gracious in their victory.”
The group offered its condolence to families of the voters killed in Polling Unit 007, Ward 07 where the deadly shooting occurred. It went a step further by calling on the Nigeria Police to immediately investigate, arrest and prosecute all the criminal elements responsible for the killings.
“As we head up to the 2023 general elections, we challenge INEC to be ready to take the decisive step of banning any political party and/or candidates involved in electoral violence. Until there is a deterrent, the political class may never play by the rule of engagement. We hope that the 2023 General Elections will see less of electoral violence.”