By NBF News
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THe electoral successes of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in Sokoto state has further been strengthened by the party's sweeping victory at the Saturday, July 23 2011 local government council elections, which took place in the 23 local government areas of the state.

The elections won by the PDP consolidated the party's strength having won the 23 Council Chairmanship and 239 of the 244 Councillorship positions in an election participated by 33 political parties.

According to the Chairman of Sokoto State Independent Electoral Commission, SIEC, Alhaji Usman Abubakar, while declaring results of the election at the Commission headquarters on Monday, July 25th 2011, the elections were free and fair. 'After conducting a free and fair local government polls, I wish to confirm the results for the Saturday exercise based on the powers conferred on the commission by section 197 in line with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.'

Abubakar said that of the 244 wards, the PDP won 239 councillorship positions, the Action Congress of Nigeria; ACN won a single councillorship position in Karfen Sarki ward of Gudu local government area.

While saying that the results for Dallatu Primary school polling unit in Sokoto South local government and Shinaka, Boyijo/Bajeka and Kagara in Goronyo local government were not being declared due to electoral malpractices, Abubakar added that elections in Kalanjeni and Tsitse wards in Gada local government and Tuzai and Kamarawa wards in Isa local government area were cancelled for political violence and ballot box snatching.

Five of the local government chairmen were returned to office in the election. They are Alhaji Abdullahi Maigwandu Danjeka, Shagari; Alhaji Shehu Buda Badau, Bodinga; Alhaji Bala Kokane, Kebbe; Yusuf Isah Kurdula, Gudu and Abubakar Altine Kyadawa, Gada.

The local government election was conducted across the state with relative peace and covered by about three hundred observer groups.

Network of Civil Society
In a Communiqué issued by the Coalition of Civil Society organizations and signed by its Secretary, Dr. Chibuzo Gabriel, it was observed by the organizations that although 'the electoral law and due process were adequately adhered to, especially in the accreditation, voting, counting and announcement of results,' election commenced behind schedule following the late arrival of election materials in some areas.

The Civil Society groups recommended among other things that the State Independent Electoral Commission in future, should ensure adequate voter sensitization and education on processes of election; that security and party agents be sensitized on their responsibilities to avoid unnecessary interference and that the state government should support civic voter education and sensitization by SIEC and other stakeholders in order to rid future elections of large number of voided votes. The organizations 'adjudged the elections as being free, fair and credible.'

Observer group
In yet another communiqué the Observer Groups and signed by the Team Leader, Chief Hon. E. O. Okafor; Co-Team Leader, Comrade Ali Abacha; Secretary of the Group, Dr. I. E. Onyike and Team Women Leader, Comrade Chinyere Manukwem, the Group noted among other things 'that we did not witness ballot box snatching or stuffing anywhere in Sokoto State nor witness any threat or intimidation of voters anywhere,' even when the SIEC Chairman, Alhaji Usman Abubakar had said earlier, 'Elections in Kalanjeni and Tsitse wards in Gada local government and Tuzai and Kamarawa wards in Isa local government area were cancelled for political violence and ballot box snatching.'

CPC's allegation
However, the Sokoto state Chapter of the Congress for Progressive Change in a press release, alleged gross misconduct in the council election. In a press release signed by Sole Administrator of the party in the state, Alhaji Kasimu Aliyu Gidan Kanawa, CPC complained and rejected the results of the Council elections. 'We wish to vehemently complain and reject, in totality, the recent local government council's elections in Sokoto state…'

According to the party, it participated in the elections because of the assurances by both SIEC and security agencies that everything was put in place for the conduct of free and fair election but it claimed that to its 'greatest dismay, the electoral umpire and some security officers, not only connived with the ruling party the PDP, but also participated fully in rigging the elections.'

CPC further alleged that 'a lot of thumb-printed ballot papers were stacked in some ballot boxes and some of our agents were unnecessarily arrested in order to pave the way for a smooth rigging. Some ballot boxes were snatched by security agents and supporters beaten up and manhandled by the security agents in which process one of SIEC Returning Officers lost his life and many others sustained various degrees of injuries.'