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Deploying military, setback to electoral reforms —Labour

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Urges Buhari to implement Uwais Report

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru

ABUJA—THE Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, has decried the deployment of military in the just concluded general election, describing it as a new low in the country’s electoral history.

The NLC in a statement in Abuja, entitled, “No option to democracy,” signed by its Acting President, Comrade Amechi Asugwuni, stated that the deployment of military to harass political opponents as witnessed in the last elections was a serious setback.

Labour also appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to consider revisiting the Justice Mohammed Uwais Electoral Reform report, adding that implementing the report would reduce the ugly incidence of killing and maiming of political opponents.

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Asugwuni said though the conduct of the general election was largely peaceful in many parts of the country, there were a number of logistic and security issues that dogged the election.

He noted that the rescheduling of the presidential and National Assembly elections from February 16 to March 3 and postponement of the governorship and state House of Assembly elections from March 3 to March 9, 2019, attracted widespread condemnation by Nigerians and international community and also contributed to low turnout of voters during the 2019 general election.

He said:  “The public expectation after the postponement was that Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, would put its acts together and ensure that the conduct of the elections on the postponed dates was impeccable.

“Unfortunately, that was hardly the case as the elections were blighted by perennial tardy logistics such as late arrival of election materials to polling units, failure of data capture machines in some polling units and poor knowledge of election rules by many INEC ad hoc staff.

“Furthermore, desperate politicians with an agenda to manipulate the electoral process to their advantage played out the script of ballot box snatching, intimidation of election officials, waylaying of collation centres and general perpetration of violence.

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“Going forward, there is need for serious national conversations on critical areas of improvement in the conduct of elections in Nigeria. We also call for a sincere revisit of the Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Report especially as it relates to reinforcing INEC’s independence, unbundling of INEC and setup of Elections Offences Commission.

“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to show commitment to implementing aspects of Uwais Report which relevance is validated by recent developments in our electoral space.”

“We also demand that INEC must ensure free, fair, and credible elections in some states where the process was declared inconclusive and polls rescheduled for 23rd March 2019.”

Asugwuni said  efforts must be re-doubled to develop a new national civic culture that venerates the rule of law.

He added:  “The trend where politicians consider themselves successful to the extent that they are able to manipulate our electoral laws, maim and kill their fellow citizens, bribe voters and perpetrate all sort of electoral shenanigans must be put to a stop.

“INEC shares some responsibilities in the shortcomings witnessed during the last general elections.

‘’First, despite the insistence by INEC on the use of card readers for the election, the purported failure of the card readers to read the finger prints of the electorate in many polling units resulted to widespread use of manual accreditation which many politicians took advantage of to deploy hired hands to vote with multiple Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) even in the absence of the authentic owners of the PVCs.

“We call on INEC to completely outlaw the use of manual accreditation for voting. We also call for continuous audit of the voters roll. We must take advantage of technological advancement and work with all relevant stakeholders to deploy technology in a way that minimizes to the barest human interference with our electoral process as a nation. INEC must stick to early planning and adequate training of personnel deployed on election duties.

“Finally, in the spirit of the peace accord signed by the major political parties prior to the 2019 general election, we urge all persons aggrieved by the conduct of the elections to refrain from self-help. Those with genuine grievances should resort to the legal process for the redress of all wrongs.

“As patriots who are committed to nation building, we have no other option but to collectively work towards the sustenance, improvement and deepening of our democracy. There is no option to democracy.”

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