From Msughshima Andrew, Makurdi
In pursuit of electoral peace in Benue State, a Non Governmental Organization, NGO, Search For Common Ground, (Search) and stakeholders have called on relevant security and law enforcement agencies to ensure that punitive measures are meted out to electoral crimes offenders henceforth.
They made the call in a communiqué released, after a one-day town hall Post Election Dialogue meeting organised by Search in Makurdi.
According to the communiqué, signed by all stakeholders, it was necessary for all stakeholders to speak about the last elections and identify the issues that arose during and after the elections with a view to proffering solutions and suggestions for a more peaceful electoral climate in Benue state.
The stakeholders stated that to ensure electoral peace in future elections in the state and Nigeria at large, electoral offenders must be punished to serve as deterrent to intending offenders.
They further called on government to improve on economic empowerment of the youth to curtail their being used as electoral thugs.
The stakeholders also suggested that Civil Society Organizations, CSOs, National Orientation Agency, NOA, in partnership with Religious leaders should hold periodic sensitization for youths on the need for peaceful coexistence.
“INEC, Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) and other relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, should provide adequate training and retraining of all ad-hoc staff, party agents and members before elections commences.
“Traditional Rulers should periodically call on their sons and daughters to account for their stewardship.”
They also called on INEC to ensure that proper documentation of voters in all communities while advising also that the electoral umpire should partner more with CSOs in the state to achieve its mandate.
The stakeholders at the meeting included representatives of the traditional councils, Civil society Groups, Security forces, Media, Youth Groups, Religious Groups and representatives of some political parties.
They raised issues about the last election concerning inadequate security personnel at the polling units, vote buying at the polling units, intimidation of women by thugs and party agents, use of vulgar and provocative language in campaign songs.
The meeting also noted lack of experience on the part of ad-hoc staff, party agents going against electoral rules and guidelines, non -accreditation of observers, unnecessary involvement of politicians in collation and transportation of electoral results, fear of being attacked leading to suppressed views by members of the public among others.
The communique further called on the National Orientation Agency to collaborate with other relevant stakeholders to re-orient the mindset of the electorates on the electoral processes.