Flaws in Off-Cycle Elections in Nigeria Threaten Democracy, Experts Say

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The recent off-cycle governorship elections in Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi states in Nigeria have been criticized for flaws that experts argue pose a threat to democracy in the country. Despite the declaration of winners in the elections, reports indicate widespread irregularities, including violence, ballot-snatching, abduction of election officials, and voter suppression. Experts emphasize the need for thorough investigations and accountability for electoral fraud, as well as the urgency of electoral reforms to ensure free and fair polls in the future.

Key Points:

  1. Irregularities in Off-Cycle Elections:
    • The governorship elections in Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi states were marred by several irregularities, raising concerns about the integrity of the electoral process.
    • Reports highlight incidents of violence, ballot-snatching, abduction of election officials, and voter suppression during the elections.
  2. Voter Apathy and Intimidation:
    • Despite the deployment of security forces, voters were reluctant to go to the polls, fearing violence.
    • Incidents of intimidation, vote buying, and disruptions were reported during the elections.
  3. Challenges in Electoral Process:
    • Flaws in the polls, including pre-filled result sheets and logistics challenges, have led to doubts about the integrity of the elections.
    • Stakeholders emphasize the need for urgent electoral reforms to address systemic issues in Nigeria’s electoral system.
  4. Call for Accountability and Reforms:
    • Experts argue that electoral offenders must be held accountable, and there is a need for a thorough investigation into reported irregularities.
    • Calls for the overhaul of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the removal of the power to appoint its chairman and national commissioners from the President.
  5. Historical Context and Violence:
    • Nigeria has a history of violence during elections, and the recent polls have been described by some as the worst in the country’s electoral history.
    • Lack of accountability for election offenders and the need for special courts to prosecute such cases are highlighted as key concerns.
  6. Concerns about Political Elite:
    • Observers note that the electoral process reflects the monetization and commercialization of politics, with political violence seen as a strategy for electoral victory.
    • Stakeholders call for a consensus among the political elite to address challenges and make necessary reforms.
  7. Holistic Overhaul of INEC:
    • Many stakeholders advocate for a holistic overhaul of INEC to ensure its independence and capacity to deliver free and fair elections.
    • Suggestions include removing the power to appoint INEC chairman and commissioners from the President and implementing reforms to enhance the sanctity of the electoral process.

Conclusion:
The flaws observed in the recent off-cycle elections in Nigeria underscore the challenges facing the country’s electoral system. Calls for accountability, electoral reforms, and the overhaul of INEC highlight the need for comprehensive measures to address systemic issues and ensure the credibility of future polls. Achieving free and fair elections in Nigeria requires a concerted effort from stakeholders to address both immediate concerns and underlying structural challenges in the electoral process.

BD

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