Perpetrators Of Anarchy In Bayelsa Election Should Be Punished, Says Right Group
LAWYERS in Defence of Democracy has called on the Federal Government to properly investigate the alleged role of the military and Police in the anarchy that led to the cancellation of the Southern Ijaw Local Government election in the Bayelsa guber election by the Independent National Electoral commission (INEC).
The group maintained that it is important the government investigated the process so that those who corrupted the process are brought to book and punished to serve as deterrent in future elections.
“It is clearly a dangerous situation, which calls for a thorough investigation by the Federal Government before it becomes a routine in future elections but more particularly, in the immediate, when the rescheduled Southern Ijaw election is held.”
Speaking in Lagos at a press conference, the Lead Advocate of the group, Ikechukwu Ikeji said that with the cancellation, it is hoped that the people of the Southern Ijaw would be allowed to exercise their inalienable franchise to vote according to their choices.
“The investigation must commence without further delay. Such investigation must also look at the roles of these government agencies, including INEC, leading to such mind boggling violence as widely reported in the media to unravel any complicity. Is it not curious that the Police claimed that nobody died while there was pictorial evidence of several deaths recorded.”
Ikeji stated that what the group saw, as an accredited observer in the election, was nothing short of anarchy as there was extreme display of desperation on the part of politicians in unimaginable and unthinkable dimensions leading to a gross manipulation of the electoral process.
“The election was rightly cancelled. We condemn this desperate mentality of the politicians involved in these regrettable incidents of violence. It was a do-or-die kind of politics displayed by the politicians, which was clearly aimed at disenfranching the people to satisfy their selfish interest.
“It must be noted that prior to the ill-fated conduct of the election in Southern Ijaw, concerned stakeholders and election observers had informed INEC and security authorities that political thugs and criminal elements had taken over the entire Southern Ijaw and advised that the election be postponed but this advice was ignored.”
The body also noted that though the political leaders must be blamed in the whole scenario, there was however worrying cases of seeming collusion among the military top brass, the Police and other highly placed individuals in the Federal Government.
This, according to Lawyers in Defence of Democracy, calls for concern because “it is not that we have not experienced electoral malpractices in the past but in a new political environment were the change mantra is the order of the day as an important element of President Muhammadu Buhari’s leadership and government. There is palpable belief that some highly placed individuals at the Federal level are involved in the orchestrated attempts to rig the election in Southern Ijaw. This should agitate our minds and we condemn this situation in very strong terms.”
According to him, the whole shameful episode is now before the international community, which suggests that democracy is heading towards the rocks in the current dispensation if care is not taken. He also stated that with the scenario on ground, it raises the imperative to call to order those who are clearly abusing their offices all in the name of politics.
“President Buhari certainly cannot afford to fail the nation because the consequence would be disastrous for all of us. In this regard, we hereby call on the Federal Government to do all within its powers to ensure a violence free rerun whenever the rescheduled election is to be conducted in Southern Ijaw, by ensuring that credible personnel from the various security agencies are in charge of security in the entire area.”
Lawyers in Defence of Democracy insisted that INEC must hold free, fair and credible election as the entire world watches and assess the impartiality of its new leadership. It however praised the courage displayed by Bayelsans for fearlessly standing firm to defend their rights to vote even in the face of intimidation by security agencies.
“They have proven that no amount of abuse of power through intimidation and violence can kill the will of orchestrated attempt to rig the election in Southern Ijaw. We must all rise against this regrettable situation, which can only tarnish the nation’s image in the comity of nations. Democracy must survive in our country.”
A member of the group, Miss. Uju Okeke said that allowing violence during election is a deliberate ploy to disenfranchise women from the electoral process and making their votes count.
“Electoral violence affect women more as many would become widows. Government should conduct an investigation into the violence and ensure that the perpetrators are punished to deter others.
“If the perpetrators are not punished, it means women should not be part of the electoral process because they cannot exercise their voting right in a violent atmosphere,” Okeke said.