Nigeria: Voters Shun By-Elections to Fill Vacant Seats

In several states including Kaduna, Yobe, Plateau, Ebonyi and others where bye-elections were held yesterday, most voters stayed away from polling units leaving election officials waiting in vain.

In other states where voters turned up to exercise their franchise, there were allegations of vote-buying and intimidation.

This is just as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has suspended the re-run elections in specific constituencies Enugu, Akwa Ibom and Kano states due to disruptions, irregularities and abduction of election officials.

INEC national commissioner and chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Sam Olumekun disclosed this in a statement.

He said in Ikono/Ini Federal Constituency of Akwa Ibom State, elections in two polling units (Village Hall, Edem Urua 003 in Ini LGA and Village Hall Mbiabong Ikot Udo 003 in Ikono LGA) were suspended because all election materials were carted away by hoodlums.

Olumekun said the suspension of elections in all eight polling units in Enugu South 1 State Constituency of Enugu State was due to unavailability of the original result sheets for inspection by voters before the commencement of polls.

He noted that in Kunchi/Tsanyawa State Constituency of Kano State, suspension of elections in all ten polling units in Kunchi LGA followed the invasion, vandalisation and disruption by thugs.

“The decision of the commission aligns with the provisions of Section 24(3) of the Electoral Act, 2022. Further necessary measures for the affected constituencies will be announced after the commission’s meeting on Monday.

“INEC invites the security agencies to investigate the incidents, while the commission commits to thoroughly interrogating any breaches involving its officials,” Olumekun added.

Violence Mar Akwa Ibom NASS’ Bye-Election, IGP Squad Arrests Key PDP Officials

Despite the deployment of 2,000 Police officers, the bye-election for Ikono/Ini Federal Constituency was marred by late arrival of materials and violence, with some people feared dead, while others sustained varying degrees of injury.

Diversion of ballot materials also characterised the poll, leading to the arrest of some hoodlums and three top Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftains, LEADERSHIP SUNDAY gathered.

Amongst those reportedly arrested by the Special Inspector General of Police (IGP) Squad include the transition committee chairman for Ini local government area, Hon Inibehe Umah; the House of Assembly member for Ini State Constituency, Hon Lawrence Udoide, and the former Assembly member for Ini State Constituency, Hon Emmanuel Ekpenyong, alleged to be working with thugs sponsored by the PDP candidate, Dr Glory Edet, to divert polling materials to an unknown destination for thumbprinting.

The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), SP Odiko MacDon, could not ascertain whether the apprehended suspects have been taken to the state headquarters at Ikot Akpanabia, near Uyo the state capital, but promised to give an update.

However, accreditation of voters started very late at about 10am in some of the polling units visited by our correspondent around the Itak area of Ikono LGA, where the incumbent House of Representatives member, Emmanuel Ukpong-Udo, of the Young Progressives Party (YPP), earlier declared winner with wide margin in the first contest, holds sway.

Across the over 17 polling units, there was large voter turnout especially Unit 2 (Holy Child Primary School), and Unit 14, Ward 11, amongst others.

Speaking with Journalists, the presiding officer for Unit 2, Mrs Mildness David, attributed the late arrival of materials and accreditation to lack of vehicles to convey electoral materials to the Ward Registration Area at the Holy Child Primary School, for onward distribution to the earmarked polling units.

Kano re-run: Police arrest thugs for disrupting election process

Kano Police Command said it has arrested dozens of thugs allegedly hired to disrupt the rerun election process in some parts of the state.

Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Usaini Gumel disclosed this to newsmen in Kano yesterday saying the thugs were arrested in possession of arms and were allegedly hired by a politician contesting in the election.

The thugs were arrested around the Kunchi/Tsanyawa area, one of the constituencies in Kano State where the rerun election was taking place.

“We saw a truck that was faulty by the road side. We saw people in large numbers by the roadside. At first, they gave us the impression that it was the fuel of the vehicle that got finished. But upon close observation, we saw them in possession of arms.

“One Abdulrazaq Muhammad aka Mai Salati, from Kano Municipal told us one Gwarmai who is contesting in the area invited them over.

“We will get the Gwarmai to know if he is truly a candidate contesting and why he invited them to the area.

“We suspect they are in the bush to ambush on the electoral officers while on their way with the election results,” CP Gumel stated.

Low Turnout In Yobe As INEC Officials Wait For Voters

Officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission at the Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim 014 polling unit in Damaturu, the state capital arrived at the polling unit early on Election Day.

LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered that the officials waited several hours for voters to turn out to cast their votes.

Speaking with LEADERSHIP Sunday, the agent of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mallam Idris said that only 36 voters had cast their ballots some hours after polls opened.

Also, there were no more voters on the queue but only party agents, election officials, and security officers were left at the polling unit.

LEADERSHIP Sunday learnt that election materials arrived on time and voting commenced as scheduled.

In another development, Yobe State Governor, Hon Mai Mala Buni cast his vote in the Yobe East Senatorial district by-election at Yerimari Bulturam PU 004 in Buni Gari of Gujba local government area of the state, describing the process as timely, smooth and peaceful.

“The peace here is beautiful. I am happy the community is fully resettled and they now conduct the election here unlike in the past when they were displaced and conducted previous elections outside their community.

“Government will continue to provide infrastructure to improve the lives of the people and for them to execute their civic responsibilities,” Buni said.

Buni called on communities where the elections were being conducted to conduct themselves peacefully.

“We are known for peaceful elections; this time must not be different,” he said.

Low Turnout Of Voters In Plateau North, Jos North/ Bassa

Plateau North and Jos North/ Bassa Federal House of Representatives re-run elections commenced without hitches with low turnout of voters. Although voters were seen at most of the polling units as early as 8.am.

Our correspondent observed that the poor turnout earlier recorded in the morning was as a result of the cold but accreditation and voting commenced simultaneously.

Our correspondent also learnt that the exclusion of the PDP in the ballot paper by INEC also contributed to the low turnout of voters for the exercise.

However, the ruling party the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) asked its supporters to vote for the candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Prince Pam Mwadkon Dachungyang for the Senate (Plateau North), and the Labour Party candidate for House of Representatives for Jos North/Bassa federal Constituency, Hon Daniel Asama.

LEADERSHIP Sunday recalls that the Appeal Court sometime in November 2023, nullified the elections of former Senate minority leader, Simon Mwadkwon and member representing Bassa/Jos North Federal Constituency, Hon Musa Agah all of the Peoples Democratic Party, on the ground of lack of structure.

The Appellate Court also ordered INEC to conduct rerun elections within 90 days directing all parties to participate but PDP supporters were surprised when they discovered at the eve of the ordered rerun that the party’s logo was not on the ballot paper.

The turnout was not very impressive, as compared to the general election that witnessed large turnout of voters.

In most of the areas visited by our reporter, there was voter apathy even when election materials were delivered early.

Low Turnout, Vote-Buying Mar By-Elections In Kaduna

The by-election in some federal and state constituencies in Kaduna State witnessed low voter turnout and vote-buying.

Our correspondent who visited Sabon Yelwa Yaka Road polling unit 002 and some polling units in Chikun and Kaduna South local government areas observed low turnout of voters.

It was further observed that many polling units visited were not having queues as officials were waiting for voters.

In some polling units, voting commenced at 8am, while others started about 8:30am.

An agent of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) at one of the polling units in Yelwa, Chikun local government who identified himself as Jeremiah Hassan accused money-bag politicians of buying votes. “Since Friday night, some big politicians were moving round some polling units with money and sharing to voters before proper voting today (yesterday). It’s very shameful that people are collecting money to vote against their choice and tomorrow they will continue to lament,” he said.

Ebonyi Bye-election Witnesses Voter Apathy

The Ebonyi South Senatorial by-election held in the five local government areas of the zone witnessed low turnout as few voters were seen at most of the polling booths visited by our correspondent.

As at 1:25pm when LEADERSHIP Sunday visited the Umuobasi Hall 1, Obiozara Ward 1, in Ohaozara LGA, out of 422 registered voters, only 60 had voted in the polling unit.

Speaking with LEADERSHIP Sunday, the presiding officer, Mr Okorie Ekwe said that materials and INEC ad-hoc staff arrived at the polling unit at exactly 7:30am and commenced accreditation at about 8am adding that the election was free, fair and credible.

At the Ishieke Village Square, Obiozara and the Main Market polling unit, the story was the same as few voters were seen coming to exercise their franchise.

In Amaenu Town Hall Polling unit in Ugwulagwu, the chairman, Coalition of United Political Parties, Mr Chinedum Enekwachi alleged vote-buying, intimidation of voters, ballot box-snatching and other irregularities at the polling unit.

Mr Enekwachi said that following the heavy presence of heavily armed military personnel, the people, especially elderly men and women, were reluctant to come out to vote to avoid intimidation and harassment.

At the polling unit 005, Ohaizu Ward A and Ukpa/Amachara Primary School, Ohaizu PU001 in Afikpo local government area of the state, there was also low turnout of voters.

When LEADERSHIP Sunday visited Akpoha, Unwana, Ozzizza and Ebii all in Afikpo local government, there was a reasonable presence of voters at the polling units visited.

A resident of the area, Mr Sunny Nkama who spoke with LEADERSHIP Sunday noted that materials arrived early adding that the election also was violence-free.

Meanwhile, soldiers restricted several journalists on election duty from moving around to monitor the bye-election in Ebonyi South Senatorial zone.

Twice, a military convoy stopped journalists and refused them passage for more than 40 minutes each.

As a result, a journalist who left early from Abakaliki, Ebonyi state capital could not cover the Minister of Works, David Umahi while casting his vote at his Umunaga polling unit in Ohaozara local government area.

Massive Voters Besiege Polling Units In Bauchi

The re-run election in Bauchi State experienced massive turnout of voters in most polling units especially in Bauchi metropolis, headquarters of the local government area and one of the three areas along with two state constituencies the elections were held.

The re-run elections in Bauchi State were conducted in four state constituencies in three local government areas of Bauchi, Ningi and Katagum.

According to the re-run setup, the three local government areas have 42 polling units in 16 wards or registration areas with Bauchi having 4 wards, 10 polling units; Zungur Galambi has 4 wards and 12 polling units; Ningi and Katagum LGAs have each 4 wards and10 polling units respectively.

Similarly, there was a large turnout of voters especially women at the Tudun Wada 1 and Kofar Fada polling units in the Madara/Chinade State Constituency of Bauchi State in the rerun election.

At the Tudun Wada polling unit, an agent of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Suleiman Samaila Chinade told journalists that the rerun was going on smoothly and people were voting for candidates of their choice.

Vote-buying Mars Re-run Election In Sokoto

The re-run election for the Yabo/Shagari House of Representatives seat recorded impressive turnout in polling units where the election was rescheduled.

However, excessive vote buying was the order of the day as witnessed in some of the pulling units visited by our correspondent.

Recall that the court of appeal in its ruling ordered a re-run election in Yabo/Shagari federal constituency and two state assembly constituencies of Bodinga North and Tambuwal West respectively.

Indeed, the election was an open bazaar as agents of the two leading political parties in the state, as the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party allegedly doled out between N20,000 and N35,000 to each voter.

One of the voters, Abubakar Ibrahim, who spoke with our correspondent said he was offered a sum of N20,000 by an agent while another agent offered him the sum of N30,000.

“I was offered the sum of N20,000 by one party agent while another person promised me N10,000 before I vote and to receive additional N20,000 after voting making N30,000.

“I am still taking my time to know who to vote for depending on how much they can offer me,” he said.

Also at Gidan Masha in Lambara ward of Shagari local government area of the state, massive vote buying was witnessed as voters were offered between N25,000 and N35,000 depending on their bargaining power.

Another source who spoke with our correspondent on the condition of anonymity confirmed that in another polling unit, apart from the cash being offered to voters, a particular political party even offered water pumping machines in exchange for their votes.

“Some of our people were given water pumping machines in exchange for their votes. You know this is a village and most voters here are farmers, so in exchange for their votes they gave out water pumping machines in some of the polling units,” he said.

Throughout the polling units visited by our correspondent, there was no breach of security just as election officials and materials arrived at polling units on time and voters conducted themselves in an orderly manner.

Taraba SDP Candidate Denies Stepping Down

The candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in yesterday’s bye-election for the House Representatives for Jalingo/Yoro/Zing federal constituency, Hon Innocent Jabanyang has denied stepping down for anybody in the election.

Earlier on Saturday, the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), in Taraba State said the religious body which had endorsed Jabayang have shifted their endorsement to the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the election following Jabayang’s decision to step down for the candidate of the PDP, Hon Sadiq Abbas.

The leadership of CAN in an interview with journalists in Jalingo said “CAN did not pressurise the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Innocent Jabayang to step down for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Sadiq Tafida for the bye-election into the Jalingo/Yorro/Zing federal constituency.

State CAN chairman, Rev Magaji Jirapye, who dismissed the speculation, told journalists that the SDP candidate in the election who had earlier got the endorsement of CAN willingly withdrew from the race after speaking with the governor.

“CAN was informed about the decision because of our earlier resolve to support the aspiration of the SDP candidate.

“When he (Jabayang) willingly decided to withdraw to support the PDP candidate, the governor reached out to us because of our earlier resolve and we held a meeting with the SDP candidate and he confirmed his decision to us.

“We did not force him to step down as is being speculated. The statement we issued to Christians followed our earlier stand endorsing Hon Innocent Jabayang,” Jirapye said.

When contacted, the candidate of the SDP, Hon. Jabanyang said he was still in the election and hopeful of getting the votes of the majority of the electorate from the constituency.

Jabanyang who spoke through his special assistant on Media Affairs, Mr Raphael Jellason urged his supporters to remain steadfast and protect their votes to victory.

LEADERSHIP Sunday had earlier reported that the by-election was marred with low voter turnout as many polling units visited by our correspondent were without voters though security personnel and INEC ad-hoc staff were on ground.

The by-election followed the death of Ismaila Maihanchi who won the February 25, 2023 election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party but died before the inauguration of the 10th Assembly.

Ebonyi Bye-election: PDP, APC Bicker Over Vote Buying, Ballot Box Snatching, Intimidation

The PDP candidate, Barr Silas Onu and the state chairman of the APC, Chief Stanley Emegha yesterday disagreed over allegations of vote buying, ballot box snatching and intimidation of voters made against the ruling party, APC by the PDP.

Speaking with LEADERSHIP Sunday, the candidate of the PDP, Barr Onu accused the APC-led government in the state of using soldiers and suspected thugs to intimidate the voters and snatch ballot boxes in polling booths.

“There was no election in Ohaozara LGA. A chieftain of the party from Ohaozara LGA was seen using thugs, compelling people to vote. In fact, they were holding people’s hands to thumb-print. When you vote for the PDP, they will thumbprint for another party to invalidate it.

“Apart from that, they have been snatching ballot boxes. I do not know what they want to do with it but because the election petition tribunal and the Supreme Court have said that BVAS is of no use, they are now carrying ballot boxes, going somewhere to thumbprint, not caring what accreditation figure in BVAS will say.

“What they intend to do is to get the result sheet, write the accreditation figure, write their result and move on. This is not healthy for our democracy. The fact that they tried to stop me through a procured court judgement and that did not stop me is a testament to their desperation in this election.

“So, we will review everything. We have one or two areas we already have them by the box and we will see what happens after the elections,” Barr Onu said.

Reacting to the allegation, the state chairman of the APC, Chief Stanley Emegha described the allegation as false, mischievous and a calculated attempt by the opposition to whip up sentiment and attract unmerited sympathy.

Chief Emegha maintained that the opposition are in the habit of crying foul every time they lose an election adding that the party was not prepared for the election.

“The complaint of the opposition is well understood. They weren’t prepared for the bye-election. We were confident of victory even before the election. What will be our benefit snatching ballot boxes or buying votes when the people that came out to vote were all APC supporters” he queried.

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