By Steve Oni, Ilorin.
Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) in Kwara state has decried and petitioned the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over non-use of card readers in most polling units during the last presidential and National Assembly elections in the state.
Speaking with journalists in Ilorin on Tuesday, the state chairman of the CNPP, Alhaji Adebayo Lawal, said that only 20 percent of the 486,254 voters who voted during the last Presidential and National Assembly elections in Kwara state were validated by card readers, adding that many of those who voted did so manually.
The CNPP has, therefore, urged INEC to ensure that only those verified and authenticated by card readers are allowed to vote in the forthcoming Governorship and State Assembly elections as stipulated in the electoral act.
The group lamented that card readers malfunctioned during the last elections in most units across the state, adding that the development resulted in alleged over voting and use of unclaimed PVCs by agents of a certain political party to vote during the elections with approval of INEC officials.
CNPP said: “This is clearly against the initial guideline given by INEC that only voters accredited through card readers would be allowed to vote, and that any voting not verified and authenticated by the card readers would be declared null and void.
“It is also disheartening to note that agents of opposition political parties, who protested that card readers were not being used for voting in their respective polling units were harassed by security officials.
“The election we had in Kwara was a charade, flawed and discredited exercise. The CNPP, therefore, cannot welcome the outcome of such elections as the true choice of the people. The results did not reflect the wishes of the vast majority of the electorate in Kwara.
“For the forthcoming governorship and State Assembly elections, we insist that only those vierified and authenticated by card readers only must be allowed to vote in the elections as stipulated in the electoral act. Therefore, if the card readers at a polling unit are not working, INEC officials at such polling unit should request for functioning card readers in replacement, and if there is no provision for that, elections in such polling unit must be suspended. Only voters accredited through card readers must be allowed to cast their votes.
“We were glad to hear an INEC Federal Commissioner say on national TV yesterday morning that the usage of card readers is sacrosanct and that no manual voting would be allowed during the governorship and state assembly elections. This is a welcome development and we hope INEC ad- hoc staff will conform to this guideline.
“More importantly, INEC should correct all the observed inadequacies witnessed during the presidential and national assembly elections and must ensure that such indiscretions are not repeated during the governorship and state assembly elections.
“Furthermore, the CNPP in Kwara State condemns in strong terms the use of state power through the security agencies including the Nigerian Army, the Department of State Security (DSS) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) along with even the NDLEA by the APC-led Federal Government to intimidate and silence members of the opposition parties in the State. Several members and supporters of the opposition parties, especially the PDP were picked up and detained by security operatives few days before the last election. This is unfortunate and undemocratic.
“As we gradually approach the governorship and state assembly elections on Saturday, 9th March, 2019, we in unequivocal terms warn against the repeat of such senile and barbaric arrest and detention of members and supporters of the opposition parties. This is in the interest of the peace pact signed by all parties participating in the election.
“We also caution against the militarization of the March 9 governorship and state Assembly elections as it was done during the presidential and national assembly elections, where heavy security officials were deployed in quantum to intimidate and suppress voters particularly in areas considered to be the strongholds of the opposition parties. We will not tolerate this act of impunity in the forthcoming election.
“We are not in doubt that we have well trained security forces, but we are urging them to demonstrate that professionalism for the entire world to see through being civil, impartial and non-partisan. They should stick to the main role of the security agencies during elections which is to provide security. They must not allow themselves to be used by any political party to carry out unholy acts during the elections either to harass or disenfranchise voters.
“The CNPP remains committed to doing everything possible to ensure the conduct of free, fair and credible elections in Kwara State. People should be allowed to freely choose whoever they want to lead them, without fear or favour, and their wishes must be respected.
“To this end, we want INEC to remain impartial and provide a level playing field for all political parties. Officials of the electoral body and the field staff must not become willing tools in the hands of some undemocratic agents and some unscrupulous policians to scuttle the electoral process and subvert the will of the people. History and posterity will judge us all.”