Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Kogi State, Prof James Apam, has raised concerns over widespread electoral violence in the eastern senatorial district of the state during the February 23, Presidential/National Assembly elections in the state.
Apam raised the concerns yesterday in Lokoja during a review of the February 23 polls at a stakeholders meeting preparatory to the March 9, State Assembly and Dekina/Bassa constitueny supplementary elections in the state.
He expressed dismay over the electoral violence, which claimed three lives and led to disruption of elections in over 157 polling units in the senatorial district with 89 units in Dekina/Bassa Federal Constituency alone.
The REC regretted that a pick-up van loaded with electoral materials was burnt down by thugs in Dekina while in Ogori-Magongo Local Government, eight polling units with card readers and other materials destroyed.
Apam, therefore, appealed to the electorate and all electoral stakeholders in the state to have a change of mind and avoid violence in next Saturday’s elections.
He implored perpetrators of violence in the area to desist from encouraging youths and providing arms for electoral violence, saying that the nation was retrogressing rather than progressing in its development.
The REC assured that card readers would be fully deployed and used in the Saturday Governorship/State Assembly elections throughout the country.
He pointed out that should the card reader be by-passed, compromised or not used for any reason at any polling unit, results from such unit would be cancelled.
Apam, however, declared the readiness of the commission for the March 9, State Assembly and Dekina/Bassa supplementary elections in the state adding that distribution and despatch of materials would commence on Thursday.
Stakeholders at the meeting expressed disappointment over alleged compromise on the part of some INEC Presiding Officers, absence or inadequate presence of security officers.
Secretary of Jama’atul Nasril Islam (JNI), Alhaji Isah Ajiboye, in his contribution, urged traditional and religious leaders to address the challenge of electoral violence and commended the Attah Igala, Dr Ameh-Oboni for placing ancestral curses on perpetrators of electoral violence in Kogi East.
One of the stakeholders, Dr Omakoji Oyiguh representing Onu-Igala Lokoja, commended INEC for trying to deepen democratic practice in the country but regretted the failure of security agencies to secure lives and property during the exercise.
Oyiguh held that the Nigerian nation owed the Igala people of Kogi East Senatorial District an apology for failing to secure the lives of the electorate, adding that three persons, including a 300-level student of Kogi State University, Anyigba, Daniel Usman, lost their lives.
Hakeem Busari, Commissioner of Police, Kogi State Command, represented by DCP Operations, Kabiru Gwarzo, regretted that most of the complaints from stakeholders over the February 23, outing were “genuine and true”.
He, however, urged the electorate to come out en-masse and exercise their franchise on Saturday, saying, “We are trying our best to ensure security of lives during and after the elections”.