By Emmanuel Afonne
A Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Sustainable Initiative for Nurturing Growth (SING), Nigeria, has said that the incidences of vote buying by major political parties are capable of destroying the country’s democracy if not nipped in the bud.
A statement issued by the organisation on Saturday quoted Mr Victor Agi, Communications Manager, SING Nigeria, as saying this at an event organised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Abuja, to debrief accredited observers to the concluded Anambra governorship election.
Agi said stakeholders must intensify campaign to end money politics, a process adopted by some politicians to hijack the democratic process.
“Normalisation of vote buying is worrisome and should be promptly tackled.
“There was an open endorsement of vote buying and selling during the election; there was no resistance from the relevant authorities, including INEC and security officers who also saw these incidences happen.
“As an organisation, we are passionate about addressing the cost of politics and allowing money to determine the outcome of our elections.
“The politicians will continue to weaponise poverty to win elections if stakeholders do not take decisive steps to end money politics,” Agi said.
The SING Nigeria Communication Manager also expressed concerns over continuous low voter turnout vis-à-vis the cost of election.
He said; “we are concerned that INEC made preparations for over 2.4 million voters in the just concluded elections for instance, and ended up using just about 10.4 per cent of the election materials; what happens to the ballot papers that were not utilised.”
He also drew attention to indications that the spending cap for political parties during elections has been increased in the proposed electoral bill now before the president for his assent.
Agi pointed out that accommodating more spending in the electoral bill would lead to more incidences of vote buying and selling in future elections.
While addressing the session earlier, Prof. Kunle Ajayi, INEC Commissioner/Chair, Election & Party Monitoring Committee (EPMC), said that the debriefing session was expected to deepen understanding of what is expected of accredited observers.
In their various reports, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) were unanimous about issues of late arrival of elections materials at polling centres (poor logistics arrangement), failures of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation Systems (BVAS), security management and poor coordination between INEC and observers.
The session recommended that INEC should review and strengthen its Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) in order to address the challenge of logistics, and that INEC should train staff for effective deployment of the BVAS in future elections.
The debriefing session provided opportunity for stakeholders, especially the CSOs to share their experiences and discuss findings from field observation.
It also provided opportunity for them to discuss with INEC how election observation engagement can sustain and add value to the nation’s democracy.
It was also to clarify grey areas for future review of the guidelines for observation, and provide common understanding on the way forward. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)