Amidst the many controversies trailing the forthcoming general elections, the issue of vote buying and hate speeches have been identified as the major cause of tension and national insecurity, which impede free and fair elections in Nigeria.
The observation was part of a 10-point communique issued at the end of a one-day stakeholders’ pre-election dialogue and workshop held on Saturday in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State.
The dialogue session under the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room was organised by the Development and Integrity Intervention Goal Foundation, a non-governmental organisation, in collaboration with the Independent National Electoral Commission, Ebonyi State and the Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Centre.
The participants observed that vote buying and selling as well as other forms of inducement of voters pose major threat to economic and political development of the country and called on INEC to collaborate with the Security Agencies and other critical stakeholders to end the menace.
The participants, however, regretted that Nigeria’s electoral laws are weak and needed to be strengthened by the Federal Government to be able to address emerging challenges in the country’s electoral processes and system.
Speaking at the event, the Resident Electoral Commissioner in the State, Prof. Goodwill Obioma, explained that INEC has tremendously improved in it’s processes and technology for the 2019 elections to make it much more functional.
According to Obioma, accreditation of voters and voting are to run simultaneously unlike the 2015 elections, while there has been enhancement in the energy capacity and optical performance of the Card Readers.
He added that the creation of a personnel group known as Registration Centre Technicians in each of the wards across the State would further enhance quick response to issues pertaining to performance of the Smart Card Readers.
Obioma, who decried the low rate of Permanent Voter Cards collection in the State, called on the participants and other stakeholders such as the National Orientation Agency to intensify sensitization at the grassroots.
He noted that the INEC in the State has devolved collections centres to polling units and other special centres like the markets, mechanic villages and other named public places in order to make collection more convenient to voters.
The State Commissioner of Police, Muhammad Mustapha, on behalf of other security agencies in the State assured of adequate security before, during and after the elections, calling on all and sundries to collaborate with them by volunteering prompt and correct information to them.
The Director of DIG Foundation, Oliver Ajah, explained that the objectives of the workshop were to facilitate Civil Society engagements in electoral observation and review of the election process in Ebonyi State as well as advocate for stakeholders’ support for peaceful, credible and transparent 2019 elections.
Resource persons at the event were drawn from the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, NOA and Legal Unit of Ebonyi State INEC.
Other participants included the representatives of political parties; Civil Society Organisations; Military, represented by the Cantonment Commander, Nkwoagu Military Cantonment, Lieutenant Colonel S. O Sadiq; and traditional rulers led by the State Chairman of the council, Ezeogo Charles Mkpuma.
Others were the State Coordinator of the National Youth Service Corps Ann Ibe; Zonal Head, Legal Unit of ICPC, Enosa Omoghibo, as well as representatives of different media organizations.