The Catholic Caritas Foundation of Nigeria, CCFN, and the Justice Development and Peace Commission, JDPC, has condemned the violent conduct of the March 18 2023 governorship and State House of Assembly elections in the South East and South-South regions of Nigeria.
Both arms of the Catholic Church stated that the democratic ethos of transparency, liberty, tolerance, and respect for human dignity was thrown to the winds in the election, coupled with voter apathy that was occasioned by the poor turnout of citizens for the election.
In a press briefing in Enugu, on Tuesday, the Church disclosed that its 6000 election observers in Nigeria reported widespread violence that in some places resulted in deaths, suppression of voters, non-use of BVAS and other various degrees of electoral malpractice.
The Executive Director of JDPC/Caritas in Enugu Diocese, Rev Fr Dr Donatus Onuigbo disclosed that the observers reported that about 23 BVAS machines and election result sheets were seized and destroyed by contending groups in Ebonyi state, four persons including INEC ad-hoc staff shot by political thugs, while two persons were killed in Akwa-Ibom state.
“In Enugu state, our observers reported that thugs from a particular political party went around the polling units in Amechi Akwunanaw causing mayhem; at about 12: 28pm it was reported that voting was abruptly stopped in polling unit 003 Awada primary school in Obosi ward, Idemili north LGA of Anambra state; most disheartening and comical was a report we got from Emeoha LGA of Rivers state and in about three towns in Enugu state, that a town-crier went from street to street announcing that anyone who was not ready to vote for a particular party should not border coming out as their safety would not be guaranteed,” the Church reported.
It strongly condemned the state capture of democracy in Nigeria, where private interests determine the will of people and called for arrest and prosecution of all those who participated in any form of violence and other forms of electoral fraud for the good of the country, Nigeria.
“We call on INEC to live up to the expectations of the people. The INEC should be the engine room of our democracy and as we continue to interrogate these serious and fundamental breaches of our extant laws and guidelines grinding the conduct of elections in Nigeria, there is need to ensure that the civil and democratic process of election in Nigeria is not hijacked by the enemies of democracy,” the Church said.
It commended the INEC and security agents that stood firm in the face of intimidation and threats to their lives and prayed that the blood of the innocent citizens who died in the process of the election be the seed for enduring and lasting democratic tenets in Nigeria.