PSC, Obaseki allege massive vote-buying


The Police Service Commission on Saturday said there were reports of cases of vote-buying and snatching of ballot boxes during the Edo State governorship election.

It observed that the policemen on election duty were unable to stop or apprehend the perpetrators as the operatives at the polling booths were unarmed.

The commission in its preliminary report on the poll on Saturday disclosed that residents who called its three dedicated phones lines said there were also few incidents of shooting.

The agency covered the three senatorial zones and visited 132 polling units in nine local government areas.

A statement by the PSC spokesman, Ikechukwu Ani, noted that the continued deployment of unarmed security personnel at voting units exposed the election to serious threats in some locations.

It was titled, ‘Edo governorship election: Police stretched, but state generally calm; the need for armed police at polling units re-echoes.’

The commission said it received 53 calls and 32 text messages from members of the public, adding that there were also complaints from some of the participating police officers about the non-payment of their allowances for the election.

The statement read, “There was an average of three policemen in several polling units, while in many of the units in Edo North, there was an average of seven to 10.

“The policemen in the polling units visited were professional, courteous and arrived at their places of assignment in good time. They were, however, in some places, overwhelmed by voters who turned out in large numbers.

“Most of the complaints received from callers were mainly on cases of vote-buying, snatching of ballot boxes in the face of the inability of the police to offer any resistance and skeletal shooting incidences.”

There were also complaints from some of the participating police officers, who said they had yet to receive allowances for the election, the commission said.

The report commended the Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge of Research and Planning, Adeleye Oyebade, who coordinated the security of the election, “for responding and intervening in several complaints referred to him by the commission’s monitors”.

Meanwhile, our correspondent observed that despite the presence of policemen and other security agencies, vote-buying, ballot box snatching and pockets of violence marred the election.

But overall, the exercise was peaceful, except for the interference of political thugs in the process.

Surprisingly, findings showed that politicians devised different ways to induce voters and buy their votes using secret agents.

For example, at Egor Ward 7, some vehicles suspected to be carrying cash freely entered and parked close to the voting arena without the police sending back their drivers and other occupants of the vehicles.

It was gathered that it was a similar situation in places like Orhionmwon and Ikboba Okha, where suspicious persons monitored voters who had cast their votes before secretly releasing some money to them, mostly between N2,000 and N3,000.

Our correspondent observed how one of the beneficiaries danced momentarily with about six pieces of N500 notes in his hands at Egor Ward 7.

He, however, kept mute and worked away when our correspondent approached him to ask where he got the money he was displaying.

Although it could not be verified who among the contestant(s) was/were buying votes, our correspondent also observed that some youths gathered at the back of polling units 27 and 28, Ward 5 (Eghosasere Primary School) in Orhionmwon Local Government Area to secretly monitor those who voted for their party before the cash was released.

Also at units 9, 15, 16, 19 and 20 in Ward 8, near the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency office in Ikpoba Okha Local Government Area, some agents and their collaborators monitored who some voters marked on the ballot papers and paid them after casting their ballots.

A voter who spoke to Sunday PUNCH said, “Go to the back of that fence, you will see them paying those who have voted for their party.”

The voter, however, did not give his name and claimed he did not need such money.

The Director of Programme, Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advance, Africa, Cynthia Mbamalu, told one of our correspondents that there were incidents of ballot box snatching, voters and observer intimidation as well as vote-buying among others.

She said, “We have incidents from some of the local government areas we identified to be hotspots in our pre-election statement. We have incidents from local government areas like Oredo, Orhionmwon, Igueben, Egor, and some of those reports include ballot box snatching, shooting and interference and disruption of the election process.

“We also have reports of intimidation and harassment of observers and vote-buying across some of the polling units,” she added.

Also, the Edo State Governor and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr Godwin Obaseki, has decried the high rate of vote-buying during Saturday’s governorship election in the state, saying the police and other security agencies failed in their promise to the people of the state.

Speaking with newsmen after casting his vote at Ward 4, Unit 19 in Oredo Local Government Area, Benin City, the governor also expressed disappointment over the failure of card readers in several wards across the state.

“The security agencies assured us that they wouldn’t allow anybody who didn’t have business voting into a particular place, but they are working contrary to what they promised us.’’


PUNCH


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