THE CONDUCT OF THE 2015 PRESIDENTIAL AND NATIONAL ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS
PRELIMINARY STATEMENT BY THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE OF NIGERIA ON THE CONDUCT OF THE 2015 PRESIDENTIAL AND NATIONAL ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) is an organ of communion between the 56 ecclesiastical jurisdictions that make up the Catholic Church in Nigeria. It consists of all Bishops, both serving and retired (Emeriti), and cover the geographical space contiguous withthe 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria believes that a well ordered society that promotes the dignity of the family and the common good is essential for the spiritual growth of the citizens. This is why the Bishops constantly engage government and her institutions towards the mandate of securing the life and welfare of Nigerians.
INEC and 2015 Accreditation of Observers:
With regard to the 2015 election, the Catholic Bishops received accreditation for JDPC, under the auspices of Caritas Nigeria, its relief and development agency. Contrary to expectations, INEC could not fulfill its obligation of providing enough identity cards for all its approved observers, in spite of the extension of six weeks. For instance, whereas in Lagos State the JDPC planned to deploy 712 observers, as already approved by INEC, INEC could only provide 100 identity cards, and refused all entreaties to use alternative means of identification. This also happened in Abuja and a few other places. We call on the INEC chairman Prof Atahiru Jega to investigate what happened in order not to rubbish the great efforts he had put into building the credibility of INEC. We need not emphasize the fact that election observation by civil society organisations has the added value of enhancing the credibility and acceptability of election results.
Congratulations to Nigerians:
The CBCN congratulate Nigerians for generally conducting themselves peacefully during the elections, for their patience and resilience even into the next day. Hopefully, the results will reflect the true choices Nigerians have made.
Accepting of Results:
We hereby call on all the political parties to accept the results as will be declared by INEC, and enjoin their supporters to keep the peace. This is the only country we have and it is everybody’s task to keep it as one. We enjoin the security agencies to be at alert and contain any post-election violence, and to be holistic in their approach to security by ensuring that in their attempt to prevent post-election violence, they do not leave the space open for renewed attacks by Boko Haram which is still a serious threat to the peace and security of our land and its people.
Preliminary Report of Incidents:
While our final report will be made later, we however, make the following preliminary observations based on reports from our observers and other sources:
- Logistics Issues:Perhaps due to logistic challenges, many observers reported late start of the accreditation process by INEC. Our observers in Abraka, Ethiope East LGA in Delta State, Karu Nasarawa State, Abuja Zones 4, Bende area of Lagos State, Kwajim Magaji Primary School, Kano report that as at 10.30am accreditation had not yet started. Up to 11 am, there were no INEC officials in FCT Area 10, Lekki, Lagos.
We hope that INEC has learnt enough lessons not to repeat these logistic failures in the next elections.
- Card Reader Issues:While INEC gave so much promise on the effectiveness of the card Readers before the elections, there appears to have been a general challenge with them; for instance in Nsukka, as reported by our observers, the situation with the card readers was so bad that many polling agents abandoned them and resorted to manual identification of voters in the register, as later directed by INEC.
We call on INEC to properly investigate what really happened after all the assurances given about the effectiveness of the card readers.
- Serious Breaches in Some States:In some States there were serious breaches of the electoral process with the possible collusion of law enforcement officials. In certain cases, no elections took place at all at some polling units, while at least one polling unit was reported for thump printing in Akwa Ibom State with the aid of a security official.
We hope that there will be significant improvement in the next election and the culprits would be brought to book as a deterrent to others.
- Violent Incidents During the Elections:We were hoping that the use of smart card readers would render useless ballot stuffing and ballot box snatching. But the report from Rivers State indicates the contrary.
We express serious concern about what will likely happen in Rivers’ State with regard to the gubernatorial elections where the stakes seem higher. We call on security authorities to evolve a special security plan for Rivers State.
- Prayer for Nigeria:We pray that God will spare Nigeria and make us come out of these elections a better, prosperous and secure nation.