A major election monitoring group has dismissed yesterday’s re-run election in Osun State as fraudulent and anti-democratic, calling for an immediate investigation into the the roles of government institutions who participated in it, as violence mared the entire process.
The conduct of security agencies drew the most condemnation and warning from the Centre for Democracy and Development, one of Nigeria’s most respected pro-democracy think-tanks.
“In the light of these anti-democratic acts, which have undermined the sanctity of the ballot therefore, we hold strongly the view that the re-run poll of yesterday, September 27, 2018 does not meet up with the minimum standards for free, fair and credible elections,” the CDD said in a statement to newsmen yesterday afternoon. “It falls short of global best practices in democratic elections which Nigeria aspires towards.”
Results of the re-run election have started trickling in as of 3:30 p.m., after voting centres closed at about 2:00 p.m across the seven polling units identified for the exercise.
The Independent National Electoral Commission fixed the re-run for yesterday after declaring the 2018 governorship election inconclusive when it held on September 22. Ademola Adeleke, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, scored 254,698 votes to beat Mr Oyetola, his main All Progressives Congress rival who polled 254,345 votes.
The electoral body said the re-run was necessary because the margin between the PDP and APC (353 votes) is less than the number of registered voters (3,498) in the seven polling units where elections were cancelled for disruption or technical difficulties.
The PDP protested the decision, demanding that its candidate won the election and should be declared winner. The party also approached the court in an unsuccessful bid to procure an injunction against the re-run. The opposition party eventually agreed to participate in the poll, although with strong reservations that it would not be free or fair.
Idayat Hassan, director of CDD, said her organisation observed widespread misconduct by security agencies, including intimidation of accredited journalists, observers and even voters of the opposition party.
“CDD field observers deployed to observe the process and ensure its credibility, especially in Orolu and Osogbo LGAs, were intimidated, threatened and in some cases arrested by security forces,” CDD said.
“CDD observers reported palpable tension in Ifon, Orolu LGAs due to the high-handed conduct of the security agents who seemed bent to sway the vote the way of certain partisan interests.
“At Ajegunle Roundabout, which leads to Polling Unit 003 Ward 9 Gbogbo Primary School in Orolu LGA, security personnel mounted barricades to obstruct observer and deny them access to the polling unit.
“Observers who attempted to carry out their legitimate duties were arrested and taken to nearby police station. They were only released after being denied the opportunity to keep an eye on the process so as to guarantee its credibility,” the statement said.
The body also highlighted the arrest of Kemi Busari, a PREMIUM TIMES journalist deployed as a CDD observer for the exercise, dismissing the police’s claim that he was taking picture near the polling area.
“The police officer’s stance contradicts the statement of INEC, which made it clear that voters and participants were allowed to go with their phones to polling units but not to polling booths after ballot paper must have been issued to an accredited voter,” CDD said.
“This particular incident clearly demonstrates the fact that the law enforcement agents were not properly informed about or deliberately ignored the INEC directive, which banned the use of phones in the voting cubicle, not around the overall polling environment,” CDD said. “In the face of the intimidation and unjust arrests, observers were forced to leave the Polling Units.”
The think-tank also confirmed widespread reports that potential voters of the opposition were being driven away from polling areas by security agencies.
“CDD also observed attempts by members of the security forces to prevent some voters who allegedly belong to opposition party from accessing PU012 Olode Ward 07 in Ife-South LG, even after showing their PVCs.
“Also, despite all efforts by INEC and civic group to ensure violence-free polls, some political actors mobilised thugs and hoodlums to intimidate voters, journalists and observers.
“Chang Mantu, a senior police officer involved in the coordination of security in the Osun election, explained in Osogbo that there was an attempt by some party men disguising as observers to gain access to Orolu in the early hours of yesterday. He said they were arrested by the police.
“According to him, they loaded in a bus and when they were screened, they were found to be members of a political party. He explained the development was the reason why there were restrictions into the area as it was difficult for security officials to know those who were genuine observers and journalists.
“Our observer also reported that election was disrupted in PU 17, Ward 5 Osogbo LGA as a result of sporadic shooting by some
hoodlums. In terms of the sanctity of the vote, CDD observers reported over five attempts by impostors to vote with PVCs from other Wards at PU012 Olode Ward 07 in Ife-South LGA.
“Although these attempts were unsuccessful, they nonetheless reflect the kind of impunity,
which undermines the credibility of the process,” it said.
The police strongly denied all allegations of misconduct, telling newsmen yesterday afternoon that there is no truth to claims of voter intimidation or harassment of observers and journalists.
Ali Janga, a police commissioner who monitored Orolu Local Government Area where most of the complaints about brutal attacks by political thugs and misconduct amongst security agencies emanated, said the election was peaceful and only those who whose PVCs showed they were not registered to vote in the areas where re-run election was underway were being turned back.
The police also paraded some persons they claimed were members of the opposition but impersonated as election observers.
The CDD recommended a thorough investigation of security agencies’ involvement in the re-run election, warning that the same fate could undermine the 2019 general election.
“The acts of intimidation by security forces and the violence unleashed by party thugs are suggestive of an attempt to compromise the integrity the poll.
“Coming as the last off cycle election before the 2019 general election, the conduct of the security forces, politicians and their supporters are sources of concern to strengthening our democratic process.
“We recommend an urgent investigation of the roles and conduct of the security forces and political thugs in the Osun re-run with a view to sanctioning infractions,” CDD said.
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party has described the rerun election held in Osun State as the biggest electoral robbery ever witnessed in the history of the state.
The Chairman of the PDP in Osun State, Mr Soji Adagunodo, said this in a statement made available to our correspondent in Osogbo, yesterday.
Adagunodo said the alleged brazen electoral fraud would be resisted by the party, saying the stolen mandate would be resisted in court.
He said the election was openly rigged by the All Progressives Congress with the support of security personnel in broad daylight,
Adagunodo said, “Thousands of eligible voters were chased away from their homes in Orolu, Ife North and Ife South Local Government Areas in the early hours of today.
“Scores of our supporters in those local governments were shot and stabbed on their way to polling centres and in the full glare of security men. Hundreds of people holding PVCs from other polling units were accredited and allowed to vote in Osogbo and Ife South Local Governments.
“PDP agent in Olode was axed and abducted at 7am today. Media men and election observers were denied access in several polling units. By the time access was granted to journalists about 11am, ballot boxes had been stuffed by APC agents acting in connivance with INEC officials.”
The PDP chairman said it was regrettable that election in seven polling units could not be freely and fairly conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
He said, “We reject any returns of results from this sham and call on the INEC authorities in Abuja to direct that the so-called supplementary election result collation be put on hold now.
“We equally invite leaders of thought in Nigeria and the International community to rise up now to rescue Nigeria’s democracy from being ruined.
“We equally call on all members and supporters of our party to resist any attempt to foist concocted election results on the people of Osun using all legal means at their disposal.”
However, the Peoples Democratic Party governorship candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke, yesterday rejected the results of the rerun goverorship election in Osun State even before the official announcement.
In a statement by the spokesperson, Adeleke Campaign Organisation, Olawale Rasheed, Adeleke said he would head to court to challenge the result, saying that the All Progressives Congress, APC, massively rigged the election.
According to Adeleke, his supporters were harassed, intimidated and prevented from voting in some of the units while describing the exercise as a sham.
“We report to the whole world the brazen theft and daylight swindling of Osun people who were criminally denied their rights to vote and be voted for by an anti-people conspiracy among INEC, security agencies and the ruling All Progressive Congress. An unprecedented travesty of justice and the shattering of democratic values are ongoing in Osun state.
“The whole world is witnessing a charade in the name of an election, a deliberate effort at the imposition of a discredited leadership on the suffering people of Osun State through undisguised brutal force, applying all standards, today’s supplementary poll is a non-event as all norms of electoral process were violated.
“Voters are deliberately refused access to polling points at gun points. Those allowed to voting centres are forced to vote for APC. PDP party agents are arrested, beaten up and shut out of polling centres. PDP agents are barred from many units. Roads are blocked to stop voters and observers.
‘Journalists and election monitors are blocked from accessing many voting areas. Those who attempted gaining access are attacked by hooded thugs. PDP leaders are hounded and arrested. It was a brutal unleashing of force against unarmed election stakeholders,” the statement said.
31 States Lack Insurance Cover For Workers
Thirty-one states in the federation have no insurance cover in place for workers as of March, despite the provision of the requirement in the Pension Reform Act 2014.
Figures obtained from PenCom on ‘Status of implementation of the CPS in states as at March 2021’, last Saturday, showed that only five states, including the Federal Capital Territory, have insurance in place for their workers.
Other compliant states are Lagos, Osun, Ondo and Edo, which also have pension schemes for their workers, according to PenCom.
A former President, Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Peter Esele, said it was not appropriate that most states lacked insurance cover for their workers.
Esele stated, “It speaks volumes to the fact that when the private sector has not shown respect for group life insurance, they are actually borrowing a leaf from the state governments.
“Ordinarily, what you should expect is that respect for our laws should be what state governments should be all about, but what they have done now is to show lack of respect for the law and their citizens because, ordinarily, it is in the best interest of not only the workers but also the management, that is, the government.
“It is so that whatever happens, the families of the people working with them are safe. For them not to have done that is sad and discomforting.”
The Director, Centre for Pension Rights Advocacy, Ivor Takor, urged state and local governments to comply fully with the regulations in the CPS.
He expressed worry that most states had yet to comply with the law.
The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Insurance and Actuarial Matters, Hon Darlington Nwokocha, said the lawmakers were reviewing the insurance laws which would enhance the sector’s performance and assist the implementation of the compulsory insurance laws.
The Director-General, National Pension Commission, Aisha Dahir-Umar, said the commission was engaging states to ensure full compliance with the PRA.
She noted that it had continued to review the implementation of the scheme in the states.
Also, the Commissioner for Insurance, Mr Sunday Thomas, said the National Insurance Commission was seeking compliance on the compulsory insurance schemes.
Thomas stated that NAICOM had visited some of the state governors to solicit the support for compliance with insurance laws.
Also, PenCom, in a recent circular, ordered employers of labour to comply with the Group Life Insurance Policy as stipulated in the Pension Reform Act 2014.
PenCom also ordered employers to display a copy of the GLIP certificate in a conspicuous place within the premises before the end of July 31, 2021.
It stated this in a circular to all employers and employees titled ‘Re: Compliance with PRA 2014 on Group Life Insurance Policy for employees and display of insurance certificate for 2021’.
The commission said, “In accordance with the provisions of Section 4(5) of the Pension Reform Act 2014, every employer shall maintain a Group Life Insurance Policy in favour of all employees.
“The GLIP should be a minimum of three times the annual total emolument of the employees. Similarly, Section 5.5 of the revised guidelines on GLIP for employees provides that the employer shall display a copy of the GLIP certificate in a conspicuous place within its premises, for the information of the employees and as evidence of having taken such policy.
“Employers that have not displayed a copy of the GLIP certificate within their premises are advised to do so on or before 31 July, 2021. Failure to provide GLIP is a violation of Section 4(5) of the Pension Reform Act (PRA) 2014.”
PenCom disclosed that only 15,418 organisations got its clearance to do the business of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government between January 4 and May 10.
It said the clearance was given to them for having pension accounts and life insurance cover for their employees.
According to the commission, the clearance enables them to do the business of the Federal Government for the 2021 financial year.
PenCom said companies that had no insurance cover for their workers would no longer be allowed to do any government business.
One In 100 Die By Suicide, WHO Alerts
The World Health Organisation (WHO), has said, suicide remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide and responsible for one in 100 deaths globally.
In its latest estimates entitled, “Suicide worldwide in 2019”, WHO noted that every year, more people die as a result of suicide than HIV, malaria or breast cancer or war and homicide.
The latest estimates noted that in 2019, more than 700 000 people died by suicide: one in every 100 deaths, prompting the WHO to produce new guidance to help countries improve suicide prevention and care.
The WHO guidance is to help the world reach the target of reducing the suicide rate by 1/3 by 2030.
Speaking on the new estimates, Director-General of the WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the world cannot and must not ignore suicide.
“Each one is a tragedy. Our attention to suicide prevention is even more important now, after many months of living with the Covid-19 pandemic, with many of the risk factors for suicide 6 job loss, financial stress and social isolation still very much present.”
He said the new guidance would provide a clear path for stepping up suicide prevention efforts.
“Among young people aged 15-29, suicide was the fourth leading cause of death after road injury, tuberculosis and interpersonal violence. The rates vary, between countries, regions, and between males and females.”
The report also explained that more than twice as many males die due to suicide as females (12.6 per 100 000 males compared with 5.4 per 100 000 females).
“Suicide rates among men are generally higher in high-income countries (16.5 per 100 000). For females, the highest suicide rates are found in lower-middle-income countries (7.1 per 100 000).
Suicide rates in the WHO African (11.2 per 100 000), European (10.5 per 100 000) and South-East Asia (10.2 per 100 000) regions were higher than the global average (9.0 per 100 000) in 2019. The lowest suicide rate was in the Eastern Mediterranean region (6.4 per 100 000).
Globally, the suicide rate is decreasing; in the Americas, it is going up. Suicide rates fell in the 20 years between 2000 and 2019, with the global rate decreasing by 36 per cent, with decreases ranging from 17 per cent in the Eastern Mediterranean Region to 47 per cent in the European Region and 49 per cent in the Western Pacific.
“But in the Americas Region, rates increased by 17 per cent in the same time period. Although some countries have placed suicide prevention high on their agendas, too many countries remain uncommitted.
“Currently only 38 countries are known to have a national suicide prevention strategy.
“A significant acceleration in the reduction of suicides is needed to meet the SDG target of a one-third reduction in the global suicide rate by 2030.”
However, WHO has released comprehensive guidance for implementing its LIVE LIFE approach to suicide prevention. The four strategies of this approach are: limiting access to the means of suicide, such as highly hazardous pesticides and firearms; educating the media on responsible reporting of suicide; fostering socio-emotional life skills in adolescents; and early identification, assessment, management and follow-up of anyone affected by suicidal thoughts and behaviour.
WHO further recommended the banning of the most dangerous pesticides given that pesticide poisoning is estimated to cause 20 per cent of all suicides while national bans of acutely toxic, highly hazardous pesticides have shown to be cost-effective.
Other measures recommended by WHO include restricting access to firearms, reducing the size of medication packages and installing barriers at jump sites.
On responsible reporting by the media, the guide highlighted the role the media plays in relation to suicide.
“Media reports of suicide can lead to a rise in suicide due to imitation (or copycat suicides) – especially if the report is about a celebrity or describes the method of suicide.
“The new guide advises monitoring of the reporting of suicide and suggests that media counteract reports of suicide with stories of successful recovery from mental health challenges or suicidal thoughts. It also recommends working with social media companies to increase their awareness and improve their protocols for identifying and removing harmful content.”
WHO also noted that support for adolescence (10-19 years of age) was a critical period for acquiring socio-emotional skills, particularly since half of the mental health conditions appear before 14 years of age.
“The LIVE LIFE guidance encourages actions including mental health promotion and anti-bullying programmes, links to support services and clear protocols for people working in schools and universities when a suicide risk is identified.
“Early identification, assessment, management and follow-up apply to people who have attempted suicide or are perceived to be at risk. A previous suicide attempt is one of the most important risk factors for future suicide.
“Health-care workers should be trained in early identification, assessment, management and follow-up.
“Survivors’ groups of people bereaved by suicide can complement the support provided by health services. Crisis services should also be available to provide immediate support to individuals in acute distress.
The new guidance, which includes examples of suicide prevention interventions that have been implemented across the world, in countries such as Australia, Ghana, Guyana, India, Iraq, the Republic of Korea, Sweden and the USA can be used by anyone who is interested in implementing suicide prevention activities, whether at the national or local level and in the governmental and non-governmental sectors alike.
On his part, suicide prevention expert at the World Health Organisation, Alexandra Fleischmann said, “While a comprehensive national suicide prevention strategy should be the ultimate goal for all governments, starting suicide prevention with LIVE LIFE interventions can save lives and prevent the heartbreak that follows for those left behind.”
Wike, Others Grace Prof Antonia Omehia’s Thanksgiving
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike and other eminent personalities were among personalities that graced the thanksgiving ceremony in honour of Professor Antonia Celestine Omehia, yesterday.
The thanksgiving organised by former Governor of Rivers State, Sir Celestine Omehia was to mark the conferment of his wife, Professor Antonia with the rank of Professor of Library and Information Science by Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Rumuolumeni.
Professor Antonia Omehia is a lecturer in the Library and Information Science Department of Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Rivers State.
Governor Wike, his deputy, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo, former Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt Hon. Austin Opara, former Presidents, Nigeria Bar Association ( NBA) Onueze C.J Okocha (SAN), and Okey Wali (SAN) were among other dignitaries who attended the thanksgiving ceremony at Omehia’s residence in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
Former Governor, Sir Celestine Omehia said his family decided to organise the thanksgiving to honour God for his wife’s unparalleled academic excellence and passion for scholarly research.
He acknowledged that it is not an easy feat to attain the rank of an academic professor. According to him, his family will remain eternally grateful to God for granting his wife the grace of academic excellence.
Former NBA President, Okocha, who spoke on behalf of Rivers’ elders, said Professor Antonia Omehia has indisputably distinguished herself in academics, because professors are scholars that are experts in their fields and teachers of the highest rank in the university.
He heaped praises on Sir Omehia for allowing his wife to soar in her academic pursuit, because most men often feel intimidated when their wives excel in life.
The legal luminary said when women excel in academics, they should be celebrated.
He commended Professor Antonia Omehia for making her husband and children proud by virtue of her unquestionable commitment to academic excellence.
”We are proud of you for honouring our brother.”
Eminent personalities that also attended the thanksgiving included: Chairman of Greater Port Harcourt Development Authority, Chief Ferdinand Anabraba, former Minister of Transportation, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, Senator (Dr) Bennett Birabi, Davies Ikanya among several others.
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