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CASES OF MALPRACTICES

By NBF News
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Contrary to reports, there are indications that last Saturday's National Assembly election, were not free, fair and credible. Or as someone puts it, 'the election could be said to be peaceful, free and fair but the results were not. '

In other words, while it appears that the electoral malpractices of the past had been done away with, there are fillers that nothing has changed. If anything, the rigging methods have become more sophisticated. Again, the election monitors, especially the foreign ones, who have given INEC pass mark may have been fooled.

The election monitors were camped in Lagos among a few other cities where actual voting took place. But in the rural areas, electoral heist was the order of the day.

According to reports, no fewer than 117 ballot boxes were stolen during the NASS elections. Although there were incidents of ballot box snatching in virtually all the states but President Goodluck Jonathan's State, Bayelsa, recorded the highest number of cases with 23 boxes.

Saturday Sun investigations revealed there were several cases of malpractices across the country and this has resulted in effervescent reactions from stakeholders. On April 12, all the political parties in Ebonyi State, with exception of the PDP rejected the way and manner the NASS elections were conducted and the result released by INEC.

In a statement, they said: 'After a painstaking review of the gross irregularities that characterized the conduct of the said elections in Ebonyi State, hereby strongly condemn the wild and unprecedented massive irregularities that were the order of the day on April 9. 2011, and accordingly, we hereby reject the results so far declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

'It is sad that while other states and local and international Election observers are commending INEC for a job well done, it was a massive show of shame in Ebonyi State, undertaken to return the ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to power by all means possible. 'In summary, the elections in Ebonyi state were characterized by massive stuffing of ballot boxes with ballot papers seized or bought from election officials, unprecedented violence that involved beatings, kidnappings, diversion of electoral materials, physical relocation of polling units from one area to another to facilitate electoral fraud, complicity by security officials to aid and abet electoral fraud, refusal to follow INEC laid down guidelines for the conduct of elections such as accreditation of voters and statutory declaration of results at ward levels up to other levels, bribing of voters waiting to cast their votes by PDP stakeholders with huge sums of money in the full glare of security officials, mutilation and changing of figures of results already declared at the ward levels'.

The parties, which include, ANPP, APGA and CPC among other gave specific examples across the three senatorial zones of the state. According to them, 'In Ebonyi South Senatorial zone, made up of Afikpo North, Afikpo South, Ohaozara, Ivo and Onicha Local Government Areas, the exercise was characterized by massive stuffing of ballot boxes with ballot papers seized from INEC officials and thumb-printed by PDP thugs and officials. For example, in Oso ward of Afikpo South LGA, the local government chairman who hails from the ward collected bundles of ballot papers from INEC officials, which he took to his residence to be thumb-printed. These thumb-printed ballot papers were later brought back in an official vehicle and stuffed into different ballot boxes across the ward in the full glare of all.

'In Nguzu ward, also in Afikpo South LGA, ballot papers were confiscated by PDP thugs and stakeholders acting in concert with security agents. These ballot papers were thumb-printed and stuffed into ballot boxes across the ward. In the three wards in Ekoli Edda of Afikpo South LGA, low voter turn out in the area was complemented by massive and indiscriminate stuffing of ballot boxes with ballot papers confiscated by PDP agents. The story was the same in virtually all the eleven electoral wards of Afikpo South LGA.

'In Ebonyi Central Senatorial zone comprising, Ishielu, Ezza North, Ezza South, and Ikwo Local Government Areas, the PDP senatorial candidate lost in Ezza South, Ezza North, Ishielu.

However, in Ikwo LGA, where the incumbent governor hails from, the election was so massively rigged and figures mutilated that the PDP candidate who lost out in the three LGAs was eventually declared winner with the rigged results from Ikwo LGA.

In Inyimagu wards I and II, Echialike and Ndiagu Amagu II etc, results were not declared in any polling stations. The APGA Senatorial candidate, Dr. Onwe, who hails from Ikwo LGA, will throw more light on the unprecedented and shameful conduct of elections in Ikwo LGA.

'In Ebonyi North Senatorial zone, where only the House of Representatives elections took place, PDP agents and stakeholders virtually ran amok in their efforts to rig the elections. INEC officials, policemen on duty and party agents of other political parties were at some places kidnapped by gun-toting PDP thugs, and sensitive election materials taken away. Vehicles carrying election materials for distribution were diverted and some hijacked, presiding officers were kidnapped and held at gunpoint to write results in favour of the PDP. These reports are well known to security agencies across the state and many of them were reported and are currently being investigated by the police.

'We make bold to report that some security officials assigned to perform election duties in Ebonyi State on April 9, ended up working hand in gloves with PDP thugs, agents and officials in destroying the integrity and credibility of the exercise in the state'.

The parties added that there were cases of open financial inducement of voters during accreditation, explaining that some of these malpractices were duly captured on camera. Opposition parties in Kogi State also alleged that there were large scale irregularities in the elections, calling for its cancellation. Alleging multiple voting, bribery of electoral officers and outright manipulation of the exercise, they threatened to mobilize their members and boycott subsequent elections if the NASS election was not cancelled to give way for a rerun.

In same vein, 10 political parties jointly called for the cancellation of the elections, alleging that PDP connived with INEC to achieve a pre-determined aim.

The coalition said corps members and security agents participated in malpractices. They mentioned specific areas where the irregularities took place and how it was done.

According to sources, no election took place in Abia State; they described what happened as fraudulent and outright robbery. PPA candidate for Ukwa East/West Federal constituency, Chief Sylvanus Nwaji described the exercise as 'guerilla warfare'. Among other things, he said that he personally witnessed the thumb printing of ballot papers by a police constable with number 247695, adding that when he raised the alarm, the PDP people there called soldiers to chase him away. The incident happened at Okohia Ipu South Ward in Ukwa West. Similar reports abound all over the state and all over the country.

Checks revealed that from the ways the results were manipulated included withholding of ballot papers and results after which a few individuals will thumb print them and issue the result accordingly, nothing has changed really.