By Angela Atabo
YIAGA AFRICA, a civil society organization, on Monday urged the National Assembly to prioritise electoral reforms in its legislation to curb electoral malpractices.
Mr Ezenwa Nwagwu, Co-Chair, YIAGA AFRICA, Watching the Vote (WTV), Bayelsa Observation Mission, made the call at a news conference in Abuja, on the Nov. 16, Bayelsa Governorship Election.
Nwagwu said the group, under its WTV project, deployed more than 500 observers to monitor the elections using the Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) methodology for election day observation at polling units.
According to him, the PVT is a proven and advanced observation methodology that employs well-established statistical principles and utilises sophisticated information technologies.
He said that the observers noted a lot of irregularities ranging from ballot snatching, vote buying and violence, among others; and called for an urgent electoral reform to curb the menace.
“The Bayelsa Governorship Election, which was held on the same day as that of Kogi, and the Kogi West Senatorial election, provided an opportunity for all election stakeholders to change Nigeria’s electoral trajectory, especially after the experience of the 2019 General Elections.
“While this trajectory was not changed, there are still opportunities for improvement, especially with the next round of off-cycle elections.
“The National Assembly must as a matter of urgency, prioritise electoral reforms in its legislative agenda.
“This is a call to President Buhari to prove to Nigerians that he is committed to electoral reforms and leave a legacy that ends electoral impunity, strengthens democratic institutions and deepen the culture of democratic accountability.’’
Nwagwu said that apart from INEC, the attitudes, actions and dispositions of stakeholders, such as the security agencies and political parties, could make or mar the credibility of any election.
He said that the Bayelsa governorship election still experienced political parties deploying sufficient money to buy the electorate, acquiring arms and paying thugs who were willing to disrupt the process.
“This practice remains inimical to democratic development in Nigeria and regardless of what party benefits from the outcome of the election, the question on the development of our electoral democracy and the quality of participation remains a major challenge,’’ he said.
According to him, the political class has perfected its act of undermining the process; and is consistently making it difficult for INEC to conduct the elections across board.
He advised that those found culpable, weather INEC, political parties, security agencies, or any other body, for aiding electoral irregularities and malpractices, must be held accountable and brought to book.
He said that the culture of impunity in Nigeria must end and the country needed to revisit its legal framework to address jurisdiction of courts and timeline for the determination of pre-election cases.
Earlier, Dr. Aisha Abdullahi, Chairperson of the group, explained that YIAGA AFRICA deployed the PVT method to empower citizens and improve the quality of elections; as well as to independently verify official election results.
Abdullahi said however, the PVT was not able to verify the outcome of the Bayelsa Gubernatorial Election because elections did not take place in 61 out of 250 polling units; approximately 24 per cent of sampled polling units.
“While the PVT cannot determine who won the governorship election in Bayelsa, regardless of the outcome, the PVT estimates suggest that official results were manipulated during the collation process.
“YIAGA AFRICA urgently calls on INEC to conduct an inclusive, transparent and accountable audit of the Bayelsa gubernatorial election results,’’ she said. (NAN)