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Nigeria 2023: Low Turnout In Lagos As Thugs Attack, Suppress Voters

Nigeria’s gubernatorial election in Lagos State on Saturday 18 March was marred by violence and voter intimidation leading to low turnout.

Preliminary reports obtained from various councils across the state showed that polling units were sparsely populated or completely empty as of noon

“I had to run out, they destroyed the side mirrors of my car… They brought out knives and wanted to stab me. What happened to the free and fair election they promised us? Nothing is free and fair. You are intimidating people,” Chioma Akpotha, a veteran actress, said in a live Instagram video.

Another voter in the Oniru area of Lagos,

told The Africa Report that thugs threatened all those who were not willing to vote for the All Progressives Congress (APC) to return home immediately.

The Africa Report had reported earlier that there was looming electoral violence in Lagos as thugs loyal to the APC had before the day of the election warned all those who were not planning on voting for the APC to stay at home.

Transport kingpin Musiliu Akinsanya aka MC Oluomo, a member of the APC’s Presidential Campaign Council and the head of the Lagos State Parks Management Committee, had issued threats while addressing his boys. He later backtracked, saying he was only joking after the viral video drew the ire of the public.

Traditional rulers who are known supporters of the ruling party also imposed midnight curfews to perform ‘Oro’ rights, slaughtering animals and placing the heads of goats in calabashes strategically placed near voting centres ostensibly to scare voters.

A Channels Television journalist, Olu Philips, who was on the ground at Folorunsho Primary School Oshodi area of the state was threatened and prevented from entering a polling station to do a live video coverage until policemen returned to escort him inside.

Viral videos show thugs wielding sticks shouting that those who are not planning on voting for the APC should sit at home.

At a polling unit in Muyibi, Ajegunle, an opposition stronghold in Lagos, ballot boxes were overturned while ballot papers fell into gutters.

Electoral changes

Some voters expressed frustration with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over unexpected changes to the voting process.

At Victoria Garden City (VGC), a upmarket private neighbourhood with thousands of voters, election officials relocated the voting cubicles outside the secure estate leaving voters vulnerable to attack.

Pleas for the electoral officials to return the voting cubicles into the secure estate fell on deaf ears.

“We are fully set up and all the polling units are here but INEC said they would not be coming into VGC but set up on the expressway. Thousands of people are here to vote but they want us to go to the expressway. It has never happened before. They are saying they aren’t coming in,” said Omoni Oboli, a veteran actress.

Also at some polling units, electoral officials said they would not upload the election results to the result viewing portal from the polling unit but would only do so after results had been taken to collation centres.

This is at variance with the guidelines INEC had set out.

“We are not uploading the results from here,” an unidentified electoral official said repeatedly at a polling unit at Ward 2, Aguda, Surulere, even as some angry voters walked away in frustration.

A Spokesman for INEC told The Africa Report that the commission would investigate this change in protocol.

Opposition kicks

Governorship candidate of the Labour Party, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, who enjoys a large following among urban youths and non-Yoruba speakers, decried the voter intimidation and suppression while speaking with journalists after casting his vote in Ikeja, the state capital.

“It is very unfortunate that Lagos State has been under the rule of people that only bring thuggery and violence every four years. When they had the opportunity to do well and create a group that would be actually happy to vote for them. But they always choose violence,” Rhodes-Vivour said.

Also, a leader of the PDP in Lagos State, Bode George, expressed disappointment with the conduct of the poll, saying, “What is all this? They forget that the international community is watching. What kind of nation do we want to be in the eyes of the comity of nations?”

However, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said all voters should remain vigilant even as he said acts of violence would not be condoned.

“We seek for a free, transparent and credible election. I want to ask all voters to remain vigilant, if you see something say something. Any form of violence is not acceptable,” he said.

Activist, Ene Obi of the Situation Room, an election monitoring group, said preliminary reports showed voter intimidation, suppression and violence in various parts of Lagos as well as in Rivers, Enugu and Kano.

“We noticed a crisis in some parts of Lagos where people were being beaten. We have received many reports on that. If you go to our data room, we are being inundated with many reports,” Obi stated.

Source : Theafricareport

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