Bayelsa poll didn't meet international standards – Observers

By The Citizen

The Coalition of INEC Accredited Observer Groups has said the just-concluded Bayelsa State governorship election did not conform to internationally acceptable standards.

The verdict was contained in a 10-point communique issued on Friday by the coalition at a press conference in Yenagoa, the state capital.

The Leader of the coalition and Director-General, Centre for Credible Leadership and Citizens Awareness, Gabriel Nwambu, who read the communique, said the Bayelsa governorship poll was marred  by monumental violence before and during the exercise.

He said the people of the state were disenfranchised in the election - conducted on December 5, 2015 and the January 9, 2016 supplementary poll - by acts of blood-letting, thuggery, snatching of ballot boxes and kidnapping of INEC personnel across the state.

'The INEC ensured timely arrival of voting materials in the upland areas with some noted delays in most of the riverine (area) which was precipitated by hijacking of electoral materials, including hostage-taking of electoral officials in the December 5 and 6, 2015 election.

'The developments violate clearly the fundamental principles of democratic rule in line with global best practices of transparent, free, fair and credible process of election.

'This election was characterised by massive thuggery, snatching of ballot boxes as well as pre-election violence and election-related violence especially in Nembe-Bassambiri Ward 1, Unit 022, Ward 6, Units 004, 005, 013 and Ward 9, Units 002 and 015.

'Materials for Constituency 2, Southern Ijaw, was snatched by thugs and taken to unknown destination. In Ukubie and Azuzuama communities of Southern Ijaw, no electoral materials were seen. The people were disenfranchised.

'In Brass Local Government Area, material meant for Cape Formosa Area made up of Egweama, Beletiama and Liama were snatched to unknown destination.

'Minibie in Akassa area of Brass was not left out in the ballot box snatching. The electorate in Units 2,4,13 and 15 were also deprived of voting due to massive violence and ballot box snatching. Materials for Nembe Wards 6 and 9 were also hijacked,' he added.

He, however, commended INEC for a job well-done and absolved it of any blame in the massive violence that rocked the Bayelsa exercise.

Nwambu stressed that the commission was saddled with the management of election and not the enforcement of the law.

He added, 'We as a Coalition of INEC Accredited Observer Groups hereby adjudge that although the process was characterised by massive violence, thuggery, ballot box snatching, it must be noted that the INEC is an electoral management body and not a security/law enforcement agency.

'Consequently, the entire process as demonstrated by INEC was transparent, free, fair and credible.'