Programme Director of European Centre for Electoral Support, Ms Maria Mauro, has said the level of poverty in a number of third world countries, Nigeria inclusive, makes it difficult to limit electoral crimes.
She said this in Abuja on Wednesday during the public presentation of a report by a non-governmental organisation, NESSACTION, on the recently concluded governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states.
“It is very difficult to limit some of the electoral crimes (observed in the two states) when the socio-economic situation of the people is poor,” Mauro said.
She commended Independent National Electoral Commission for taking some steps towards the involvement of youths in its decision-making process.
Also speaking during the event, an INEC Commissioner, Mr Solomon Soyebi, said the poor attitude of some critical stakeholders in the electoral process was largely responsible for the increasing rate of electoral crimes, especially violence and vote-buying.
He expressed sadness that the violence which was witnessed especially during the Kogi elections was perpetuated by youths.
Soyebi said, “This trend of violence in our electoral process is scary. It is a new trend which we all must stop. In the case of Kogi, someone jokingly said, there were more bullets in Kogi than ballots.
“In spite of all we have done to discourage vote-buying, it looks as if we actively advertised it. People are just willing to go there to buy and sell their votes.
“There is so much we (INEC) can do to improve the system, but there is little we can do about people’s attitude.”
He commended the NGO for coming up with the report and making suggestions on how each of the stakeholders could improve on the quality of engagement to make the process better.
Earlier, Executive Director of NESSACTION, Ms Eniola Cole, while presenting the report said observers sent out by the group to the two states returned with disturbing eyewitness accounts of violence, vote-buying and other electoral crimes which marred the process.
She said, “In Kogi, we felt the presence of 35,200 security agents. We saw how political thugs stole the rights of voters and other political parties in the presence of security agents who worked in complicity.
“We saw political thugs induce through vote-buying, bribery of agents and officials, violence and intimidation of voters and observers.
“We also saw voters assault a party agent for saying the money had finished after they had cast their ballots for his party. We saw observers face intimidation and threat to life for daring to do their jobs.”
In Bayelsa, she said, “We felt the absence of 31,041 security agents and witnessed inadequate deployments of security agents. We saw political thugs induce through vote-buying bribery of agents and officials, violence and intimidation of voters and observers.”
The group recommended that all major stakeholders and actors in the electoral process including INEC, political parties, civil society organisations and the media should be involved in sensitising the voting public on the need to resist the temptation to trade their future by selling their votes.