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Rivers of violence: INEC suspends PHALGA bye-election – troubling signs for 2019

Politics

Rivers of violence: INEC suspends PHALGA bye-election – troubling signs for 2019

Since 2015, at least six different elections, bye-elections and rerun elections have been held in Rivers state. Every single one has been marred by violence and thuggery. And somehow the government and the security agencies have still been unable to find a solution.

Saturday marked the latest phase in the Rivers election war between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC). In recent weeks, from Bauchi to Katsina, bigger elections (House of Reps and Senate seats) have been conducted without much disruption. In Rivers, it was a single state house of assembly (Port Harcourt 3, PHALGA, State) constituency that was at play. Yet in the end, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was forced to suspend it.

“As a result of the widespread and wanton disruption of the electoral process as reported from the field by the Supervisory Presiding Officers and Supervisors from the Commission, and also, having reviewed the situation, the Commission… has decided to suspend the elections forthwith,” the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in Rivers state, Obo Effanga, said in a press release.

Why this is troubling

Security agencies who are supposed to be enforcers of the law were actively involved in the violence and malpractice.

In a clue that may signify that the disruptions were led by the APC, INEC said that “miscreants and hoodlums accompanied by heavily armed security personnel in uniform stormed the various polling units and registration areas disrupting voting activities, destroying and carting away election materials including smart card readers and ballot boxes.”

If security personnel were involved, it most likely had the backing of federal government forces which control the nation’s security architecture.

INEC also decried the fact that its electoral officials were “manhandled, injured and held hostage.”

If INEC and the Federal Government are unable to conduct a peaceful and fair elections in a single state constituency in Rivers state, then it bodes well for 2019 when elections are expected to be held statewide and nationwide.

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