Urhobo Historical Society

Environmental Rights Action [ERA]

-------- Original Message --------
Date: Thu, 17 Apr 2003 21:44:23 +0100
From: "ERA/FoE N" <Eraction@infoweb.abs.net>
Reply-To: NDPA@yahoogroups.com
To: "ERA/FoEN" <eraction@infoweb.abs.net>



The Democracy Outreach Program (D.O.P) of Environmental Rights Action, (ERA), Nigeria and Africa's leading Environmental Justice advocacy civil society organization is participating in the ongoing Nigerian General Elections as Independent Domestic Election Monitors/Observers, duly registered with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Our purpose is to contribute to the consolidation of the democratization Revolution which is unfolding in our country by conducting snap observation and monitoring exercises to draw out the strength s and weaknesses of the electoral process in Nigeria and to raise popular awareness about the rights of the people to choose those who will govern them, and their sacred duty to safeguard, defend and promote the realization and full actualization of this right.

This is an executive summary of the National Assembly (NASS) Elections which took place Saturday 12th April, 2003. The full and detailed report will come out within one week of the release of this summary.

Subsequently, we will come out with executive summaries and full detailed reports of each of the remaining stages of the General elections.

Our snap observation/monitoring exercise covered some states of the
south-south [Niger Delta – Editor] for the NASS Elections.


Generally in Rivers and Bayelsa States, the elections commenced contrary to the earlier advertised time by the INEC well into the afternoon. In most of the places visited in Port Harcourt and its suburbs, INEC officials were not at their posts until between 11am and 12 noon, while election materials did not arrive until about 1pm and 2pm. Actual voting commenced in most places between 2.30pm and 3.30pm, while voting stopped between 5pm and 6pm.

In parts of Rivers and Bayelsa States observed by our monitors, the elections could be characterized as a low Intensity Armed Struggle. Weapons and firearms of various types and sophistication were freely used.

In Sagbama in Bayelsa state, INEC office, as well as the Government lodge were torched and set ablaze by community members over allegation that voting had already taken place the previous night at the government house in Yenagoa.

In Abuloma and to a lesser extent in Amadi-Ama areas of Port Harcourt Local Government Area (PHALGA), voting which commenced very late was preceded in the morning by sporadic shooting into the air and intimidating activities of political thugs who occupied the vacuum created by the conspicuous absence of law enforcement agents at the polling centres throughout the morning hours and the early afternoon.

In Nembe in Bayelsa, there was also armed disruption of the exercise by political thugs allegedly belonging to the Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP). There was a sustained shoot out on Friday night as well as on the Saturday of the elections resulting in fatalities.

When voting eventually commenced, the exercise went on in a fairly orderly manner, except for the fact that turn out was low due to a combination of reasons including:

  1.. Lateness in commencement of voting.
  2.. The early intimidating and armed violence of thugs.
  3.. The heavy downpour which occurred in parts of the two states later in the afternoon.
  4.. The non arrival of voting materials in many places, etc.

In Ozuboko-Ama where there are five voting units from unit 037 to 041,
actual and genuine voting took place throughout at only one unit, 041. At the other 4 units, 037 - 040, after the first hour of voting when genuine voting took place, the rest of the day was spent stuffing the ballot boxes with ballot paper being thumb printed by the presiding officials. Booklets were taken into private homes to be . thumb printed and then brought back. The entire massive multiple voting was recorded for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

In Somiari at one of its two polling units (unit 046), an attempt to seize ballot papers and the ballot boxes was resisted by community members. It was also alleged that those who attempted to seize the papers were working for PDP.

At the only unit (unit 043) in Ukukalama, the coordinating officials did not know that the ballot papers were to be stamped and duly signed before use by the presiding officer.

At Amadi-Ama, eight polling units were manned at the community secondary school. These were units 31-36 and 51 and 52. Here too, there were instances of multiple voting, and stuffing of the ballot boxes in favour of PDP particularly in units 33 and 51.

In Diobu, thugs hijacked ballot boxes, ballot papers and election materials in the open glare of INEC officials and policemen, went away with them, stuffed the boxes with ballot boxes which were mass thumb printed, and brought them back.

At the earlier mentioned Ozuboko centres where massive rigging took place, the community association leaders, the INEC officials, including the supervisor, as well as the policemen seemed to be working together because everything went on under their joint direction and coordination. And as in the Diobu case, the beneficiary of the electoral fraud was the ruling PDP.

In Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa State, armed thugs took over the streets and patrolled throughout the day, brandishing guns, machetes etc, intimidating voters and preventing many people who would have otherwise voted from voting.

In Bori, headquarters of Khana LGA, and the political headquarters of Ogoniland, armed youths/thugs took over the town and there was sustained gunfire between 8pm on Friday night and 6am on Saturday morning. Thus by Saturday, Bori was nearly totally deserted and the intimidated residents failed to turn up for the elections.

In any case election did not commence till about 3pm anywhere in Ogoniland.

In Bodo City, another Ogoni community in Gokana LGA, armed thugs took over the polling centres and forced prospective voters at gunpoint to vote for the PDP. Even the wife of the ANPP senatorial candidate, Dr. Ben Naanen, was forced at gunpoint to vote for the "rival" PDP candidate, Mr. Lee Maeba. This scenario was repeated in almost all the Ogoni communities where ERA monitored the election.

In Emohua community, youths resisted attempts by armed PDP thugs to force people to vote for the PDP in pitched battles.