Following widespread irregularities, harassment and suppression by the military in Rivers state, INEC has suspended all electoral processes in the state, according to a statement by the spokesman of the commission, Festus Okoye.
Backstory: Since Saturday, the news from Rivers state have been disturbing. The Nigerian Army reportedly acting in cahoots with a chieftain of the ruling party, Rotimi Amaechi, who is the leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), have interfered with the process in several local government areas, raising questions about the fairness of the process.
What INEC said: “Based on reports from our officials in the field, INEC has determined that there has been widespread disruption of elections conducted,” the INEC statement said.
Among the issues listed by INEC include: violence in a substantial number of polling units and collation centres, abduction of INEC staff, seizing and destruction of result sheets.
“In addition, safety of our staff appears to be in jeopardy all over the state and the Commission is concerned about the credibility of the process,” INEC said.
What next?: INEC officials met on Sunday and decided to suspend all electoral processes until further notice in line with provisions of the Electoral Act. The Commission says it has also established a fact-finding committee to assess the situation and report back within 48 hours.
Reaction: The British High Commission has released a statement on social media, expressing “extreme concern” by the reports of military interference in the election process in Rivers. “INEC must be allowed to do their job in safety, without intimidation,” the statement said.
Why it matters: INEC has done the right thing by suspending the election to protect its staff and the people of Rivers state. This provides a solid window for president Buhari to act as commander-in-chief. It is troubling that the security agencies, including the Army and the Police have openly displayed partisanship in the state. The president warned in the buildup to the elections that electoral malpractices will be dealt with, however the law enforcers in this case have turned into the law breakers with the connivance of officials from the president’s own party. This is not to say that the APC has been the only side responsible for the malpractices, however the overwhelming evidence from observers imply that they are responsible for the overwhelming majority of incidents. It is time for Pres. Buhari to display fairness and call his transportation minister to order. And his Army too.