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WACOL Releases Report on Election Violence in Southeast

From  Ignatius Okpara, Enugu

…As Imo, Ebonyi Rank Highest

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – Popular Enugu based non governmental organization, (NGO) Women’s  Aid Collective WACOL, has released its report on the status of violence in the just concluded general elections in Nigeria as it concerns South – East region, with  Imo and Ebonyi states, ranking highest.

It said the document  was prepared through the findings  of the 125 independent monitors trained by the organization and deplored to the five states of the region which included Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo for the election violence  monitoring

Presenting the report weekend at a media conference in  Enugu, a consultant to WACOL and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Political Science Enugu state university of Science and Technology (ESUST), Dr. Malachy Ochie, said “in our mapping report we had classified the entire Imo state as a conflict-prone state and the sore thumb of the southeast in terms of expected political conflicts during the 2019 general elections.

“Imo State did not disappoint on this score, our monitors in the  state report massive violence in virtually all the LGs of the State during the elections” the report stated.

“For instance, during the Presidential and National Assembly elections, Orlu zone of the State was literally set ablaze. The Governor was allegedly said to have held the REC hostage and forced the REC to announce him as winner.

“However, the election in this part of Imo State was adjudged by observers and our monitors to be fraught with irregularities such as ballot snatching, invasion of polling units and harassment of voters by thugs.

According to the report, “shortly before the governor’s arrival, our monitor reported how a journalist, duly accredited to cover the polls, was harassed and briefly detained by the thugs acting on the orders of the governor. This happened in the presence of two female police officers at the collation centre.

“During the Governorship and State House Assembly elections in the State, our monitors reported of palpable tension on the day of the election after political thugs murdered a party agent.

“The murder took place in Nkwerre Local Government Area of the state. The killing, one of our monitors stated, made voters who had yet to cast their votes to flee the area.

“Our monitor reported that the murdered party agent whose identity had yet to be ascertained had engaged in an argument with some other party agents in one of the polling units. The party agent, who had left the polling unit after the argument, was ambushed by political thugs who shot him dea

Our Correspondent reports that the organization  is one of the civil socciety organizations (CSOs) that partnered with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) on the Nigeria Election Violence Report (NEVR) project for the 2019 general elections in Nigeria.

In her remarks, Executive Director of WACOL, Professor (Mrs) Joy Ezeilo, represented by the programme Manager, (Mrs) Anulika Ezennaya, said the  project funded by (USAID) and (UKAID) was envisioned to develop the capacity of civil society to monitor, analyze and respond to incidents of election-related conflict/violence before, during and after the elections in Nigeria; as well as to promote collaboration and dialogue between election stakeholders in order to mitigate and/or prevent election violence, and WACOL covered the southeast region for this project.

She added that to accomplish the mandate of the project,  the NGO, engaged and trained monitors throughout hotspot states in the region during the pre-election, Election Day and post-election periods in collaboration with its  local-level partners .

The report equally indicated that “we also distributed public awareness materials and engaged in public education. This combination of activities helped to strengthen partners’ ability to reinforce peace in their communities and to help prevent tensions from escalating into violence.

We thank IFES for creating NEVR website, a kind of situation room that housed SMS-based reporting from monitors in the project. This helped in no small measure to improve upon previous conflict reporting because it gave the public and other stakeholders near-instant access to incidents around the country as well as a variety of other election-related information.

“For WACOL, the NEVR Project 2019 included a Program Officer, Lead Monitors, and subordinate Monitors. Our team represented diverse civil society organizations and individuals from across the region networking as partners. Our monitors documented verified incidents of violence, tension and potentials for violence, and peace activities from January until the end of the elections in March.

“Following the training and deployment of our monitors, we also did a detailed mapping report of potential flash-points of tension/conflicts before the election on a state-by-state basis in the southeast, which we submitted to IFES. This report has been relayed to IFES and I am persuaded that it has been uploaded to their website.

“One is also persuaded to note that this project has helped our monitors to learn new skills to identify election violence and track tension levels, to interview sources to verify reported violence and assess tension levels, and to accurately document their findings. Our monitors have been alive and dedicated to their charges and we can briefly give their reports on state by state basis.

It said Ebonyi witnessed high level of violence in parts of the state, like Imo,leading to serious tension during the elections, followed by Anambra where some skirmishes were equally recorded in parts of the state.

In Enugu state, “our monitors monitored the pre-election activities (including primaries and campaigns) as well as the elections proper. Much as Enugu State cannot be numbered among states with propensity for election violence, the monitors identified potential flash points across the states particularly in Nsukka area, Greater Awgu and Nkanu areas.

“Abia state presents a different scenario from Enugu State. In our mapping report earlier submitted to IFES, we had identified Abia North Senatorial zone as a serious flash point of conflict especially Bende, Igbere, Nkporo and Arochukwu areas. Our monitors in Abia State report that even before the elections proper, these areas had been heated up because of the political heavyweights from opposing political camps.

“There are reports of security personnel getting involved in the electoral process, sporadic shootings by political thugs, and incidences of ballot box snatching or creating sufficient confusion to scare voters away.

“One of our monitors reported the invasion of INEC ward collation centre by armed thugs in Police uniform. The incident happened in Azuinyaba Ward B PU 004 Azuofia Primary School, which is the ward collation centre. Around 5.20pm on the 23/2/19 during the presidential and NASS election, while sorting and counting were on, a group of armed police men stormed the collation centre and carted away the already sorted ballot papers. This happened in the full glare of the voters.




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