Rivers polls: Soldiers barred us from collation centre – EU observer mission

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The European Union Observation Mission to Nigeria (EOM) has said Nigerian soldiers barred them from monitoring elections in Rivers state.

The observers made the allegation in their preliminary report released in Abuja, on Monday.

While addressing journalists, the Chief Observer, Maria Arena, said they came to Nigeria on the invitation of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to monitor the elections and make recommendations.

She, however, faulted the election exercise and said they were denied access to the collation centres.

She also decried the violence, underage voting, and vote-buying, which she claimed marred the governorship and House of Assembly elections in some states.

She said: “Observers, including EU observers, were denied access to collation centres in Rivers, apparently by military personnel. This lack of access for observers compromises transparency and trust in the process.

“In Rivers, INEC suspended, until further notice, the elections due to violence in polling units and collation centres, staff being taken hostage and election materials, including results sheets, seized or destroyed by unauthorised persons.

“There is no doubt that the electoral process there was severely compromised.”

She noted that the EU deployed 73 observers to monitor voting, counting and the collation of results in 22 states. The chief observer said they monitored 223 polling units across 81 collation centres.

“Most polling units visited opened on time or less than 30 minutes late, and the procedures for the accreditation of voters were significantly improved.

“The counting of ballots was overall transparent. Positively, in almost all cases, party agents received copies of the results forms. The EU EOM also presented its assessment of the collation process for the presidential and National Assembly results.

“It concluded that inconsistent numbers, lack of clear checks and explanations, and insufficient public information undermined confidence in the integrity of process.”

Meanwhile, the Rivers State PDP campaign council has called on the INEC to use the case of the state elections to assert its independence and not allow the military and Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) to usurp its functions.

The party made the call yesterday, in a statement issued by the Director of Information and Communications, Emma Okah.

Okah said the INEC needs to be bold, independent and call the bluff of the defaulting security agencies and their alleged collaborators in the All Progressives Congress (APC) that are bent on dragging the name of the commission in the mud.

“The integrity of the electoral process is the hallmark of democracy and development and, if people can no longer trust the umpire, all the talks about civil rule is like blowing hot air,” he said.

He urged Nigerians to review the role of the military in their elections, adding that a situation where security agencies determine the measure of INEC’s success in elections, which are purely civil exercises, spells doom for the nation and calls for a rethink.

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