By Chibuike Nwabuko
Abuja (Sundiata Post) – In an attempt to curb electoral violence in Nigeria, the House of Representatives on Tuesday resolved to investigate the alleged security breaches and incidences of violence during the Bayelsa and Kogi States gubernatorial elections conducted on Saturday, 16th November 2019.
Sundiata Post recalls that the Kogi and Bayelsa elections were characterized by violence and paramount and mre condemning was the burning to death of a women leader of a political party and her family in their house in Kogi state.
The motion was passed sequel to the adoption of a motion sponsored by Hon. Toby Okechukwu who frowned at the spate of killing of innocent citizens despite the deployment of 66,241 police personnel to the two states.
In leading the debate Hon Okechukwu stated that the motion is one that is devoid of party interests and looks to ensure there is no repeat of such wanton disregard for public safety and elections process guidelines in subsequent elections in the nation.
He also queried the statement credited to top officers of the Nigerian Police Force that the Police had prior intelligence that the elections would be violent and that fake officers were responsible for the said violence.
“The House is aware of reports released by Civil Society Organisations that security officials were complicit in the violence and disruption that characterized the Kogi and Bayelsa elections. Also aware that Governor Seriake Dickson reported that soldiers were deployed to Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
“The House is also aware that Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA) and Situation Room called for cancellation of the elections following the role of security agents who though saddled with the constitutional responsibilities of maintaining the rule of law and the defence of citizens’ rights, were alleged to be colluding with thugs to steal ballot boxes or actively participating in disrupting polling units.
“The House recalls that 66,241 police personnel were deployed for the elections comprising 35,200 to Kogi and 31,041 to Bayelsa States respectively, as confirmed by the Deputy Inspector General of Police, AbdulMajid Ali in charge of Operations on November 14, 2019.
“The House is disturbed that in spite of such massive deployment of security personnel coupled with the intelligence reports, the elections witnessed such degree of violence resulting in the death of one Mrs Salome Abuh,” the lawmaker decried.
Hon. Okechukwu argued that the level of security breach could either mean the security personnel were overwhelmed due to lack of manpower and lack of equipment or they were in collaboration with the hoodlums.
Also speaking, Hon. Solomon Bob who is a co-sponsor of the motion stated that the incidents of violence in Bayelsa and Kogi shows immaturity of the players in the electoral process.
He called for the deepening of the characters of politicians and their agents to respect the sanctity of ballot boxes as tools of the wishes of the people, adding that the House cannot afford to be silent on the issue on behalf of the Nigerian people.
While supporting the intendment of the motion, Hon. Kingsley Chinda who underscored the need reminded that the House has the constitutional mandate to make laws for the good of Nigerians, and called for thorough scrutiny of the violence witnessed during the elections, with the view to proffering solutions through the electoral laws.
While contributing, Hon. Bamidele Salam who called for debate devoid of party sentiments argued that the “verifiable violence in Kogi and Bayelsa should be condemned with all seriousness.”
On her part, Deputy Majority Whip, Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha expressed sadness that violence is becoming a culture during elections and called on members to do all possible to ensure it is tackled effectively.
She suggested calling the police to explain the remote causes of the violence that seemed to reach a new height during recent elections, just as she commended Mr. President for ordering thorough investigations into the violence.
Also speaking, Hon. Yusuf Gagdi who called on members to be patriotic and look for the good of the nation and not debate along party or ethnic lines called on all the security agencies to ensure anyone found culpable be made to face the full extent of the law.
While speaking, Hon. Mohammed Tahir Monguno stressed the need for a paradigm shift and attitudinal changes in the manner politicians view elections, as well as the syndrome of “do or die” affairs to a platform/vehicle to serve the people.
He proposed the establishment of an Electoral Offenses Commission to be saddled with the responsibility of punishing electoral offenders as a way of ensuring commitment to eliminating electoral violence and malpractices.
However in his contribution, Hon. Shettima Ali wondered why the motion was brought up to investigate the issue when President Muhammadu Buhari had already ordered a comprehensive investigation on the issue.
He stated that violence cuts across all political divides.
In his remarks, the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Idris Wase who condemned the spate of electoral violence in every part of the country during all past elections called for a committed, holistic and lasting means of bringing the trend of violence to a halt.
On his part, Hon. Toby Okechukwu in exercising his right of reply reiterated that the motion is completely devoid of party sentiments.
He reminded members that he didn’t discuss the outcome of the elections, just the violence.
While venting his view, the Speaker of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila called on members to ensure that the outcome of the investigation should not be prejudicial to the Court proceedings already instituted by the parties in contention during the election.
Hon. Gbajabiamila proposed an amendment to ensure the report doesn’t contain a reference to any political party as it is primarily aimed at correcting the acts of violence.