ENUGU, Nigeria (VOICE OF NAIJA)- As the Imo Governorship Election scheduled for 11 November, 2023, approaches, concerns are growing about the integrity of the electoral process in Imo State.
This is as the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) and South-East Based Coalition of Democracy and Human Rights Organizations have raised questions about the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) ability to ensure a free, fair, secured, and credible election in the state.
The Board Chairman Intersociety, Emeka Umeagbalasi, said this during a press conference put together by the groups on Sunday, in Enugu.
Speaking on the theme: November 11 (2023) Imo Governorship Poll: Is INEC Truly Organizing Free, Fair, Secured And Credible Election Or Planning To Harvest And Write Results For The Incumbent, Umeagbalasi suggests that there is a risk of “harvesting and writing results” to favour the incumbent Governor, Hope Uzodinma.
The central concern of the groups revolve around the integrity of the election results, as it warns against harvesting and writing of results in the state.
The groups point to the 2020 Supreme Court verdict that installed Hope Uzodinma as Imo Governor, alleging that it was based on “harvested results” from 311 polling units where voting did not take place or was canceled due to violence and malpractices, expressing fear that a similar scenario may play out in the upcoming election.
Intersociety and SBCDHROs project that in a genuinely fair election, the true winner would likely garner 90,000 to 130,000 votes from a pool of no more than 300,000 lawful votes cast. They cite the chaotic situation in Imo State since January 2021, with more than half of the local government areas affected, and a significant portion of registered voters uprooted, leaving only 600,000 eligible voters.
The groups express deep concern that INEC may declare an incumbent victory with an unrealistic number of votes, possibly ranging from 500,000 to 1 million, saying that, “Such a declaration, if it occurs, is believed to be the result of harvested and written results.”
Also, Intersociety and SBCDHROs emphasized that their primary interest in the Imo State election is to restore the sanctity of the ballot box and protect Imo voters. To this effect, they called for measures to ensure the safety and security of voters and their properties. This includes securing voting environments and residences, protecting sensitive voting materials, and preventing subversive elements within security forces from interfering.
Furthermore, the group wrote about 8 letters to key authorities, including INEC, the Police Service Commission, the Army, and the Department of State Services, expressing their concerns and urging action to safeguard the election. They also address issues related to vote-buying, violence, and transparency in the electoral process.
According to them, the choice of Owerri, Imo State, as the location for significant political events like the “South-East Govs’ Security and Economic Summit” and the “Senior Police Officers Conference” has raised concerns.
The Intersociety suggest these events could undermine the independence and credibility of the upcoming election and may as well be financially motivated to gain political favour for the incumbent Governor.
Also, the group alleged that the close relationship between DIG Frank Mba and Governor Uzodinma raises concerns about potential bias in the policing of the election.
They expressed worry that the relationship might undermine the safety, popularity, and credibility of the 11 November, 2023, Imo Governorship Election.
Intersociety said that the movement and service activities of DIG Mba, CP Mohammed Barde, and specific police units in Imo are closely monitored.
Intersociety and SBCDHROs disclosed that they have taken steps to collaborate with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to combat vote-buying and other corrupt practices during the election. Their aim according to them is to track, arrest, and prosecute vote buyers and their recipients, as well as those who aid and abet such activities.
The Call for Transparency and Vigilance As the election date approaches, they call for transparency, vigilance, and adherence to democratic principles to ensure that the upcoming Imo governorship election is free, fair, and credible.
They urged all stakeholders, including political candidates and their parties, to be vigilant and protect the sanctity of the electoral process.