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NLC slams Army for election interference

…Calls on INEC to abolish manual accreditation

By Ukpono Ukpong

The leadership of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, yesterday came hard on the Nigerian army for interfering in the conduct of the just concluded general elections even as it called on the Independent National Electoral commission (INEC) to out-law the use of manual accreditation in voting.

In a statement signed by the acting President of NLC, Comrade Amechi Asugwuni, though the conduct of the 2019 Nigerian general election was largely peaceful in many parts of the country, yet there were a number of logistic and security issues that dogged the conduct of this year’s general election.

He noted that the public expectations after the postponement of elections was that the INEC would put its acts together and ensure that the conduct of the poll on the postponed dates was impeccable but unfortunately that was hardly the case as the elections were blighted by perennial tardy logistics such as late arrival of election materials to polling units, failure of data capture machines in some polling units and poor knowledge of election rules by many INEC ad hoc staff.

While commending INEC for insisting on the use of card readers for elections in every part of the country and for issuing a policy statement that no election result obtained through duress would be validated by issuance of certificate of return, he said that it was clear that these pronouncements hardly served as sufficient deterrence to those bent on foisting the rule of the jungle on our election process,

noting that desperate politicians with an agenda to manipulate the electoral process to their own advantage played out the script of ballot box snatching, intimidation of election officials, waylaying of collation centres and general perpetration of violence.

“Despite the fears expressed by Nigerians with respect to the deployment of the military during elections, soldiers were deployed presumably to preempt ballot box snatching, destruction of voting materials and arrest any drift to widespread violence.

While the deployment of the military was helpful in preventing skirmishes from different local hotspots from degenerating into society-wide brigandage, the conduct of some soldiers deployed in some parts of the country to maintain public order left a lot to be desired.

“First, contrary to the judgements of Federal High Courts in Sokoto and Lagos which were later upheld by the Court of Appeal in the legal suit – “Yussuf vs Obasanjo” – and which stated that the job of maintaining security during elections primarily resides with the Police, some military personnel went outside their duty call to invade polling units and collation centres, and intimidate election officials, conducts that were in violation of our laws and scared many voters from exercising their franchise.

“Also, the deployment of military personnel to harass political rivals was a new low in our electoral history and presents a serious setback to recent electoral reform gains. We call on the military high command to investigate these infractions and bring the culprits, whoever they are, to book as a deterrence to others.

“We call for a sincere revisit of the Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Report especially as it relates to reinforcing INEC’s independence, unbundling of INEC and creation of Elections Offences Commission.

“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to show commitment to implementing aspects of Uwais Report which relevance is validated by recent developments in our electoral space.

We also demand that INEC must ensure free, fair, and credible elections in some stateswhere the process was declared inconclusive and polls rescheduled for 23rd March 2019.

Efforts must also be re-doubled to develop a new national civic culture that venerates the rule of law. The trend where politicians consider themselves successful to the extent that they are able to manipulate our electoral laws, maim and kill their fellow citizens, bribe voters and perpetrate all sort of electoral shenanigans must be put to a stop!

“We must take advantage of technological advancement and work with all relevant stakeholders to deploy technology in a way that minimizes to the barest human interference with our electoral process as a nation.INEC must stick to early planning and adequate training of personnel deployed on election duties.

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