Report on the Election Incidence Assessment/Rapid Appraisal Visit to Asari Toru LGA

15 March 2016 by Election Reports 323 Views
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The presidential elections had barely ended when the flood gates were opened on reports of alleged malpractices and irregularities during the polls streamed in. accusations

and counter accusations were made by both the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC)

each leveling accusations against the other of election malpractice and or gross violation of human rights during the election. Also both parties alleged that their members were attacked physically during the elections, resulting in heinous injuries and sometimes death of individuals. The All Progressives Congress alleged that the PDP executed a well thought-out ploy to ensure that its members were stopped from taking part in the elections, and where the members defied all odds to take part; they were the targets of PDP thugs and orchestrated violence. Based on these reports, Community Initiative for Enhanced Peace and Development’s (CIEPD) Conflict Watch Center (CWC), convened a stakeholder meeting to look at the conduct of the 2015 presidential elections, with a view to highlighting incidences of election irregularities occasioned by violent conflict deployed by any of the political actors. This meeting took place in CIEPD offices on the 1st of April 2015, and yielded several findings, some of which formed the foundation/basis for the rapid appraisal visit to Buguma and its environs in Asari Toru LGA.
Situational Analysis
Asari Toru and its sister local government councils of Akuku Toru and Degema, occupy unique and un-enviable positions in the political dynamics of Rivers State, and indeed the Niger Delta. Several things make these local government areas unique. The first is that they are the situations of historical economic contestations in the oil exploration and exploitation industry. The headquarters of local government councils Buguma (ASALGA), Abonema (AKULGA) and Degema (DELGA) are traditional overlords to several outlying islands and fishing ports where oil and natural gas had been discovered and are being exploited. This has created decades long tensions between these islands/fishing ports and the overlord communities, and leading gross misrepresentation of the former (a perfect example is in AKULGA, where close to 85% of the wards are in Abonnema). Building on this, the second unique feature of this area is the prominent role it played, and still plays in the “Niger Delta struggle”. Some of the most active “warlords” and “generals” of the militancy era are from the area. Thus there are political and non-political stakeholders such as Alhaji Mujahid Asari Dokubo, General Farah Dagogo, Egberi Papa and Busta Rhymes all operating within the environment, making it one of the most militarized places in the Niger Delta with a high number of weapons in the wrong hands. The third unique factor is actually a conglomeration of the first two, and is the involvement of the above-mentioned figures in illegal oil industry activities, especially in the highly volatile, keenly contested Cawthorne Channel. The fourth unique feature is that the area witnessed, more than other such areas, the entrance into the political arena of ex-agitators of the Niger Delta struggle. The fifth unique feature of the area is that it is the only credible power base of the Labour Party in Rivers State, thus creating a three party dynamic instead of the usual two that obtains in most parts of the state.
Problem Statement
The stakeholder meeting convened by CIEPD-CWC identified deliberate acts of mis-information and dis-information by the political parties, and the compromise of both the media and civil society as potential pitfalls in obtaining and analyzing quality election related violent conflict data.
Goal
The overreaching goal of the incidence assessment/rapid appraisal visit to Asari Toru was to obtain first-hand information of the conduct of the presidential elections in the local government and to record occurrences of election related conflict in preparation for the gubernatorial elections of April 11th 2015.
Objectives
The following objectives were set for the visit:
• To invite stakeholders who signed the Asari Toru Election Peace Pact to a post presidential election review of the pact;
• To conduct informal rapid appraisal key informant interviews of stakeholders on the conduct of the presidential elections and the occurrence of violent and non-violent election related conflict incidents in the local government council.

Summary of the Results of the RA
The following is the summary of the results of the rapid appraisal:
• That gross election misconduct took place in Asari Toru local government council during the presidential elections;
• That the incidence of violent conflicts were high during the presidential elections, and include such alleged occurrences such as:
I. The forced house arrest of the current Caretaker Committee Chairman Ojukaye Flag Amachree by men in military uniform for the duration of the presidential election, thus forcefully preventing him from exercising his right to vote;
II. The forceful removal of ballot boxes and other election materials by men carrying automatic rifles and other weapons, who purportedly worked on behalf of the PDP, from election centers and polling units;
III. The indiscriminate employment of weapons such as rifles, hand guns and dynamite as tools of terror, especially on the eve of the elections by alleged members of PDP;
IV. The indiscriminate harassment and intimidation of APC members by alleged PDP members, leading to grave bodily harm in some instances;
V. The destruction of personal property when alleged PDP members broke down house doors to beat APC members in their homes, before and during the elections;
VI. The alleged participation of men of the armed forces and the police in some of the actions mentioned above.

Conclusion
In view of the fact that Nigerians are trying to come to terms with the reality of the outcome of the presidential elections, including its successes and its shortcomings, it is important that the Nigerian Army tow the line of the police and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps in reassuring Nigerians or their readiness to help arbitrate a free and fair elections during the gubernatorial elections on Saturday the 11th of April 2015.

CIEPD

The Conflict Watch Center (CWC) is an intervention of the Community Initiative for Enhanced Peace and Development designed to identify, track and report on conflict early warning signs in the Niger Delta.

Website: www.ciepdcwc.org

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