Elections Report 09

Released on 11/02/18

This is the ninth edition of Niger Delta Watch 2019.

During the week of 28 January, with less than two weeks until the Presidential and National Assembly elections, particularly in Rivers State, major campaign activities are being carried out by the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), while the major opposition party, All Progressive Congress (APC), is still held down by the uncertainty around their participation in the Rivers State elections. While there were fewer reported election-related incidents in the week under review compared with previous weeks, we did receive a report of violence in Emohua as well as a fire at the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Oyigbo Local Government Area (LGA), which turned out to be the result of an accident rather than politically related.

In Bayelsa during the reporting period, party campaigns intensified, with candidates covering as much ground as possible in a bid to gain voter support. This has included the ongoing giving of money and gifts to community members by political party members during rallies. The public are relieved that campaigns have generally been peaceful, given the history of political violence in Bayelsa which had led people to expect an all-round more violent campaigning period. Yet there have still been some serious exceptions which also show potential to escalate. We received the first reported fatality of the 2019 Bayelsa campaigns this week in Yenagoa LGA, as well as two further fatal incidents in Sagbama and Nembe respectively. This is a bad sign of events to come if the situation is not properly handled by the relevant agencies. The APC carried out protests to express their concern over the rising cases of violence and asked the relevant authorities to take action to stem the tide going into the general election.

This reporting period in Delta was characterised by displays of electoral violence, fraud and corruption, and political party or campaign misconduct in some parts of the State with a marked increase in serious violent incidents compared to previous weeks. We received reports from Uvwie LGA that five people lost their lives. In Burutu LGA, an APC chieftain was quoted as saying “Vote for APC and get paid, there is money to spend if you vote!” as he threw money in the air. In Warri South, APC billboards and posters were destroyed in an act which the Warri South LGA chairman lamented bitterly, blaming the main opposition, the PDP. With the elections one week away, it is imperative that security measures are strengthened, to ensure the electorate of their safety at polling units and to avoid voter apathy. It is also important that voters are educated to make use of their PVCs and votes to bring about positive change.

This week, a key issue in political discourse in Akwa Ibom has been the continuing claims by the ruling PDP that the opposition, APC, is planning to use the police to intimidate political office holders and members in the elections. There was lots of money giving from political party members to community members as well as billboard destruction. Electoral violence was reported in Etim Ekpo LGA when there was a clash between APC and PDP supporters. This is significant in light of the fact that Etim Ekpo was until last year a hotbed of cult and militant violence, which killed many and led to the initiation of an Amnesty program by the State Government in a bid to stem the crisis. Public commentators agree that the arms collected as part of the were a small percentage of what had been in use, and there are fears that the ongoing circulation of weapons, especially small arms, are a threat to the peaceful conduct of elections in those LGAs.

On social media this week, a key topic was the story of President Buhari’s son, Yusuf, attending the campaign of Atiku Abubakar. This post went viral however was later reported as false by the News Express which claimed that Yusuf was nowhere near Abakaliki at the time of Atiku’s campaign. After further investigation, it was suspected that the page responsible for posting this information, Nigeria Politics Today, is politically aligned and posing as a media page under a false identity. There were further public accusations of election rigging, this time by the PDP who accused INEC. Separately, a woman named Zara Gift Onyinye attracted widespread attention on social media when she spread misinformation about the contents of an interview between broadcast journalist Kadaria Ahmed and the pair of Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi. Zara Gift was later blocked from Facebook after she used inflammatory speech towards the Igbo people.

Each week, the Niger Delta Watch team produce a short thematic report based on cumulative incident reports received to date. This week, we have focused on incidents involving women, which we specifically tag in our database. Our major observation is that the majority of incidents involving women relate to two of our five designated risk areas – electoral preparations, procedures and standards, and fraud and corruption. Many incidents relate to the donation of money and gifts to women’s groups (as well as others) at campaign rallies and other political events.

Read the report in full.

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