By; ALEX UANGBAOJE, Kaduna
Despite the postponement of the presidential and National Assembly elections slated for 16th, February 2019, over logistics issues, Stop Violence Against Women in Politics (Stop-VAWIP), said 95% of issues surrounding the rescheduled elections was still characterized by logistics issues.
Stop-VAWIP, is a campaign that seeks to mitigate violence against women in politics and encourage women to actively participate in the political process. The work to ensure immediate service are available women who are victim of violence who may not otherwise have access to the social and legal assistance they need.
Stop-VAWIP, at a press conference on Monday, to highlight its initial findings and recommendations from their Survivors Service Centre in Kaduna, noted that of the over 100 calls received by the centre during the elections, about 95% of it were on logistic challenges.
Rebecca Sako-John, Executive Director, Legal Awareness for Nigeria Women (LANW), who is also the campaign coordinator in Kaduna state, stated that the issues stems from malfunctioning of card readers, insufficient materials (e.g, ballot papers, ink) and late arrival of INEC officials in several locations in the state.
She enumerated some of the affected locations as, “Kaduna South, Chikun, Birnin Gwari Kaduna North, Sabon Gari and Igabi.
“One of the issues reported was at Stadium Roundabout, where security personnel blocked voters from polling units including those who traveled a long distance to vote, which almost devolved into a security crisis.
“In terms of security breaches, callers from Gwaraji and Joga in Igabi LGA and Giwa in Giwa LGA reported of some skirmishes. Callers reported that in Gwaraji, Joga, KofarGidanGandu at Limancin Corner in Zaria LGAs, no security personnel were available.”
The Stop-VAWIP campaign is a nationwide initiative led by the National Democratic Institute (NDI), a non-profit, non-partisan organization that supports and strengthens democratic institutions worldwide through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government established in 2015.
“The Stop-VAWIP Survivors Service Centre, was established as a centre to receive calls to its violence against women hotline. The centre has served as the central location for all operations, including where incidents of violence against women from the hotline are tracked and crucial support is bridged to survivors through collaboration between the security services,the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Police, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA),and other service providers.
“The Stop-VAWIP campaign deployed a critical system for coordinating service delivery and timely access to services for survivors, otherwise known as the response procedure. Through the procedure, hotline operators would share incident information with service providers with the mandate to respond to such incidents.
“These stakeholders constitute the Stop-VAWIP Action Committee, or SVAC: a collaboration between security, government agencies and civil society in Kaduna state. The SVAC, evaluate cases as they are received to determine how to verify and escalate them. As incidents are verified, the response mechanism deploys respondents to survivors and/or the location of the incidents, hence leading to an effective response to incidents before, during and after the election.
“These respondents include police, social workers and other victim support services. In addition to the Stop-VAWIP Action Committee and trained hotline operators, the Stop-VAWIP campaign trained about 69Local Government Area (LGA) coordinators/Mobilizers spread across the 23 LGAs to verify incident reports and provide support to VAWIP survivors.” Mrs. Sako-John added.
She said said though they are happy that very minimal incidences of VAWIP were reported across the State, the Stop-VAWIP Survivors’ Service Center noted with great concern the following;
“Giwa LGA topped the LGAs with VAWIP cases. Giwa LGA witnessed a high turnout of voters perhaps due to the fact that Alh Shehu Bala, one of the candidates for House of Representatives position, is from the LGA. Due to the large turnout of women, the women at a point in the elections fought themselves to gain access to the polling unit.
“As this settled down, some altercation was witnessed between men and women arising from perceived preferential treatment of women to the extent that a man joined his wife to slap another woman. Also in Giwa, LGA, the female family members and children of the household of late Mallam Sani Mai were psychologically traumatized following a raid by security personnel instigated by party agents allegedly in search of an opposition party loyalist. In the process, the security agents broke down doors, physically assaulted the family and left live bullets in their wake.
“In Lere LGA, a woman was not only intimidated her PVC was forcefully snatched and broken into pieces. For some women, their spirits were dampened by inability to locate their PVCs at all or successfully changing polling units to new area of residence.
“In some polling units, PU officials and the voters used alphabetical order of names to accredit voters instead of separate queues for males and females in order of first come first serve thus making women, the elderly to stand unnecessarily longer before casting their votes. In a Polling unit in Ungwan Liman, Kaduna North a lady wearing an INEC accredited observer tag was canvassing for votes for a political party to women on the queue.
“It was observed that in many polling units and areas like in Gwaraj, Jogain Igabi LGA where there were some skirmishes and many other places like in Kaduna South Kabala West etc, instilling some reasonable fear in the women and might have discouraged some of them from coming out to participate in the elections. People called from Birnin Gwari complained of attacks allegedly carried the previous day by security agents
“Female candidate, Zainab Saka Yusuf who ran for House of Representative position for Kaduna South was threatened to accept cooked up results where there has been irregularities.”