Civil Society Groups in Nigeria under the banner of “Situation Room”, have condemned the announcement by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, that it was postponing the governorship election in Edo State.
The groups said there was no cogent and verifiable reason for the ‘advice’ issued by the Police and State Security Services, on which basis, the INEC rescheduled the elections till September 28.
The electoral body, which had earlier insisted on conducting the governorship elections tomorrow (Saturday), made a U-turn late Thursday, saying it finally received official communication from the security agencies drawing its attention on the need to postpone the election citing threats of terrorist activities in Edo State and other states of the Federation.
The Situation Room, however, described the postponement of the election as an unwarranted assault on democracy.
“This is part of a disturbing trend in the erosion of public trust in our public officers, public institutions as well as growing skepticism about the general direction of our democracy under this administration”.
According to the groups, the electoral body was boxed into a tight corner; to either go ahead with the elections, ignoring the security advice and be blamed for the consequences of possibly contrived violence, or as is the present situation, postpone the elections and dash the hope of millions of Edo citizens, who were already primed to cast their votes and fulfill their rights as democratic citizens.
The groups said that the postponement for whatever reasons, sends foreboding signs that our democratic principles and electoral practice is again under threat from non-democratic forces that are at once familiar and yet new.
“We can argue that since the hard fought elections of last year, we have simply had a change in government but not a change in the conduct of public officials, which sometimes border on impunity and recklessness”, the groups said.
They, however, appealed to the people of Edo state to be calm and law abiding ahead of the new date now fixed by INEC.
“The Situation Room also calls on the people of Edo State to remain vigilant and be ready to protect their constitutional rights to vote”, they said.
They also called on President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate this incident by ordering a credible investigation of the Police and the DSS action in this matter, and bring into account all persons responsible for the violation of the laws and the Constitution.
The Situation Room comprises of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working in support of credible and transparent elections in Nigeria and includes such groups as Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), CLEEN Foundation, Action Aid Nigeria, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Enough is Enough Nigeria, WANGONET, Partners for Electoral Reform, JDPC, Centre for Citizens with Disability (CCD),Stakeholders Democracy Network (SDN) and Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA).
Others are Development Dynamics, Human Rights Monitor, Election Monitor, Reclaim Naija, Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, CITAD, CISLAC and several other CSOs numbering more than seventy.