Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA) Africa on Thursday said Ekiti governorship election may be determined by highest bidder due to prevalence of vote-buying.
Executive Director of the group, Mr Samson Itodo, said this in a presentation on the pre-observation of the election made available to newsmen in Abuja.
Itodo said that YIAGA Africa deployed 500 observers in its “Watching the Vote (WTV)” project to monitor statistical sample of 250 polling units located in all the 16 local government areas of the state.
He said that YIAGA AFRICA was worried about the level of voter-inducement in the state by politicians and their supporters.
“Cash and material inducements such as free Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) or fuel for petrol engines are doled out to voters in exchanges for their votes.
“This ugly trend of voter inducement or vote-buying undermines the political legitimacy and makes a mockery of our democracy.
“We are concerned that this election may be determined by the highest bidder if the Independent National Electoral Commission does not take intentional steps to protect the secrecy of the ballot.‘’
Itodo said that 29 per cent of the observers reported seeing the distribution of money or gift items by candidates in Ekiti East, Ekiti West, Gbonyin, Ido/Osi, Ijero, Ilejemeje and Irepodun/Ifelodun Local Government Areas.
He said that 50 per cent of the observers also heard additional reports of such acts taking place in Ado-Ekiti, Efon, Ekiti South-West, Emure, Ikole and Oye.
He advised voters to resist any attempt by politicians to subvert the process through material inducement or cash, and urged them to cast their votes according to their preferences.
He also said that the group observed that hate speech and inciting statements by key political actors in the state, especially the dominant political parties, was on an increasing level in the state.
Itodo said that unguarded statements could lead to a breach of peace in the state.
He advised key contenders in the governorship race to desist from making inciting statements and urge their supporters to refrain from any act that could potentially result in electoral violence.
He also urged the security agencies to sanction any individual or group propagating hate speech in the run-up to the election.
Itodo said that YIAGA AFfrica’s WTV was also concerned about issues capable of undermining the credibility of the election, if not addressed.
He said that judging from history, YIAGA Africa was concerned that polling officials would not adhere to INEC directive or comply with the guideline.
He insisted that pasting results of the election at the polling units would enhance the integrity of the elections.
The director of the group advised that Supervising Polling Officers (SPOs) and INEC monitors should ensure that Presiding Officers posted the polling unit results at the polling units using FORM EC 60 E, summary of results.
He said that INEC should also endeavour that all polling staff who flouted the directive were duly sanctioned.
Itodo said that the WTV Project would closely observe the newly-piloted e-collation process, and urged INEC to ensure transparency and openness in the result collation and transmission process.
He also encouraged voters to take pictures of the results posted at the polling unit using the FORM EC 60 E, adding that collation centres were accessible to accredited observers, party agents and media.
Itodo said that experience had shown that duly accredited observers and journalists were sometimes denied access to collation centres at the ward and local government level by security agencies.
He appealed to INEC and the security agencies to ensure that accredited party agents and observers were granted access to collation centres as their presence would enhance the integrity of the process.