By Miriam Humbe
YIAGA AFRICA, a non-governmental organization (NGO) has maintained that if voters are denied their rights to vote, the country stands to further deepen the voter apathy in its elections.
YIAGA also expressed concerns that the country may no longer consider herself a democracy if its citizens lose confidence in elections.
Executive Director, Samson Itodo said this at the round table on tackling voter suppression in Nigeria elections organized by YIAGA on Tuesday in Abuja.
He said we impute on our democracy and the democracy loses its vitality when people are unable to cast their votes.
He said the round table provided the opportunity to strengthen the nation’s legal framework and prevent one’s institutional voters oppression.
“We are confident that whatever recommendations from the meeting will be adopted by these institutions believing that they are also committed to improving the country’s electoral processes,” he said.
Also, the Head of Election Department of YIAGA, Paul James said for the 2019 general elections, YIAGA AFRICA data revealed possible incidents of vote suppression as reflected in the percentage of cancelled ballots in some states.
He said there were 60,000 or more cancelled ballots – Rivers, Nasarawa, Akwa-Ibom, Cross River, Plateau, Kogi, Benue and Kaduna States.
In a paper presentation, he explained that for the 2019 Presidential Elections, cancellations were announced in all states except the FCT.
He said 3.3% of the ballots from the 2019 Presidential Election were cancelled this is four times higher than the rate from 2015 with less than 1%.
Also, the National Commissioner on Registration and Election Review Committee for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof Antonia Simbine said the factors in which voters are denied access to vote are not contrived or intentional .
She revealed that there are some factors of too much deployment in some specific areas and there arises the need to suppress crisis in such areas.
On deliberate reasons why voters are not allowed to vote , Simbine said it is strange to her with all the efforts the commission is making in ensuring free and fair elections .
“We are not aware about these challenges and we need to make efforts to continue to improve the electoral processes,” he said.