The 2019 general elections in Nigeria have come and gone, but with various bitter experiences, challenges and many lapses yet to be covered by the electoral umpire, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the legislature and other relevant agencies of the government.
Akwa Ibom State was not an exception to this, as there were cases of thuggery, ballot box snatching, intimidation of voters, arson and murder.
On Thursday, Stakeholders in the electioneering process in the State gathered in Uyo, the State capital at a town hall meeting to analyse the just concluded general elections in the State. The meeting held at WatBridge Hotel, was organised by Youth Alive Foundation (YAF) in collaboration with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) on electoral violence in Akwa Ibom to implement the Nigeria Election Violence Report (NEVR) project.
The NEVR project is a project is aimed at increasing public knowledge and awareness of the dangers of election violence before, during and after elections. Also to increase the participation and involvement of election stakeholders in the mitigation and prevention of election violence in Nigeria, which YAF coordinated the South-South region of the project.
Onyeka Ajah, Programs Lead at Youth Alive Foundation stated that the town hall meeting was a forum to share findings, make recommendations and seek way forward to improve future election processes in the State and country in general. This will be achieved through the collation of data by volunteer organizations that were selected and trained for the NEVR project as election monitors for the 2019 Polls.”
“Mr Unyime Essien, the coordinator of NEVR project in Akwa Ibom stated;
“All collated reports for both the presidential and governorship polls from all 29 monitors were uploaded on the NEVR website (nevr.org) and before this was done, it was verified by a team of Local Monitors, Media personalities and Journalists.” In Akwa Ibom, it was carried out in two local government areas in each of the three Senatorial Districts of the State. They include Uyo, Nsit Atai, Oron, Eket, Essien Udim and Etim Ekpo.
Talking about the Nigeria Election Violence Report (NEVR) Project, Mr. Ndifreke Patrick of Greater Tomorrow Initiative (GTI), said before the elections, Akwa Ibom was projected as the second most volatile State which led to voter apathy with voting strength dropping below 40 percent. He alleged that Eighty Percent of the violence occurred at the points of collation.
Also speaking the Akwa Ibom State Police Public Relation Officer Mcdon Odiko attributed the pockets of violence experienced in the State due to the desperation of politicians. He however acknowledged inadequate manpower and equipment as a major setback to the effective policing of the just concluded elections.
Odiko, however advocated for the arming of security personnel at the polling units in subsequent elections. Others also advocated for electronic voting in Nigeria, which will eliminate electoral violence during future polls.