Abuja – YIAGA Africa, a Civil Society Organisation (CSO), said the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) ban on phones in voting booths during the Osun governorship election would reduce vote buying and selling.
Mr Ezenwa Nwagwu, a board member of YIAGA Africa in a statement said that the group under its Watching The Vote (WTV) project deployed 561 observers to monitor the pre, during and post election environment of Osun.
Nwagwu said that 500 stationary observers, 32 mobile citizen observers and 30 collation observers would be sent to 250 polling units across the 30 Local Government Areas of Osun to observe the election.
“As noted during the 2018 Ekiti governorship election, the Osun governorship election may be decided by the highest bidder.
“This is based on prevalence of voter inducement that precedes Election Day voting.
“With this in mind, WTV welcomes the reorganisation of polling units by INEC in its bid to protect the secrecy of ballot.
“ Specifically, we welcome the ban on use of phones in the voting cubicles or voting booth, if properly enforced, WTV believes it will reduce the incidence of vote buying and selling at the polling unit.”
Nwagwu urged voters to resist any attempt by politicians to subvert the process through material inducement or cash.
He also urged voters to make informed voting choices based on capacity, character and competence of candidates and not amount of cash or gift items distributed by parties and candidates.
He said that the group also identified some early warnings that needed attention.
He said that the WTV observers reported cases of violent physical or verbal attacks, vandalism, destruction of properties, inflammatory and inciting statements and recruitment of political thugs by a candidate or the supporters.
He said that these incidences could potentially lead to breach of peace if not abated.
He said that the group was concerned with the growing rate of fake news and misinformation in the public space ahead of the election.
Nwagwu said that this was dangerous and could negatively influence political behaviour in this election.
He said the group urged INEC and security agencies to remain alert and counter fake news and misinformation in a timely and expeditious manner.
The official said that sponsors and peddlers of fake news and misinformation should be reprimanded and sanctioned in line with legal stipulations.
He said that the group reiterated its call that security agents on election duty should uphold the principles of non-partisanship, transparency, civil policing and professionalism in the conduct of their affairs.
He urged security agencies deployed for the election to respect the rights of citizens and observers, including the right to freedom of movement on Election Day for duly accredited observers.
He, however, expressed concerned with the influx of top government functionaries from other states into Osun, adding that such officials should be barred from moving around with security agents.
Nwagwu said that on Election Day, WTV observers would report to their assigned polling units at 7:00 am and remain there throughout setup, accreditation and voting, counting and the announcement and posting of the official results.
He said that throughout the day, every citizen observer at sampled polling units will send in eleven coded text messages to the Osun data centre located at Ideal Nest Hotel, Osogbo.
He said that once the text messages are received at YIAGA Africa’s data centre, they would be processed and reviewed to ensure the information is complete, authentic and accurate.
“We urge the electorate to remain calm even in the face of challenges that may arise as every Osun voter has the right to participate irrespective of party affiliation.” he said.
Nwagwu said that in the interests of transparency and accountability, INEC should make polling unit results publicly available in a timely manner.
This, he said, would enhance the confidence of political parties, contestants and the public in the accuracy of the official results.
He encouraged all registered, with their cards to go out on Saturday, Sept. 22 to vote their choice in the Governorship Election. (NAN)