By Gabriel Ewepu
ABUJA – AN election observer group, YIAGA AFRICA, Friday, disclosed of deploying 48 long term observers ahead of the Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections holding on November 16, 2019.
This was contained in a statement signed by the Executive Director, YIAGA AFRICA, Samson Itodo while speaking on the need to carry out the deployment much earlier before the elections.
Itodo in the statement explained that the YIAGA AFRICA’s Watching The Vote (WTV) project did the deployment of the 48 long term observers after intense training in order to observe the pre-election environment, which all are resident of the Local Government they deployed to.
According to him 21 observers were deployed to Bayelsa State, while 27 deployed to Kogi State. He said they are to observe voter education, violence indicators, hate speech, and other pre-election activities.
The statement reads in part, “The Bayelsa and Kogi elections are anticipated to be keenly contested, with a lot of expectations from all election stakeholders and it becomes pertinent to engage the process from the pre-election period. Having observed the political party primaries in both Bayelsa and Kogi and States, YIAGA AFRICA’s Watching The Vote (WTV) project has concluded that training and has deployed 48 Long Term Observers (LTO) to observe the pre-election environment.
“Out of the 48 long terms observers who all resident of the Local Government they are observing from, 21 are deployed in Bayelsa State 27 is deployed in Kogi State.”
“The Long Term Observers are also expected to recruit polling unit observers from sampled polling units that will observe the governorship election on November 16th, in both states. The Long Term observes who also double as Local Government Supervisors are deployed to each of the 8 Local Government Areas in the Bayelsa State and the 21 Local government areas in Kogi State to report on events, activities and critical incidents using a specialized checklist and critical incident form.
“The observation reports from the field are sent in form of coded SMS to the WTV Data Center bi-weekly commencing from September 13th, 2019, while the critical incidents are sent in as they occur and properly Kogi governorship elections after verification.
“YIAGA AFRICA’S Watching The Vote Pre-Election observers will observe issues related to the; activities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ranging from recruitment and training of ad hoc personnel, identification of polling units, meeting with stakeholders, voter education and information campaigns to the collection and distribution of Permanent Voters Card, activities of political parties like rallies and campaigns, activities relating to security agencies and incidents capable of undermining the electoral process.
“Pre-election observers will also observe and report Voter information campaigns by National Orientation Agency (NOA) and other Civil Society Organisations.
The statement also pointed out that attention will be given to some group of people who are key voters in the electoral process, “At YIAGA AFRICA, we believe and promote social justice and inclusiveness thus voter education and campaigns targeted specifically at Youths, Women and Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) will be followed closely and duly reported by Observers during the pre-election period.
“Even as political parties launch their campaigns across the state, our election observation team are interested in campaigns and rallies associated to various political parties while also observing if youths, women and PWDs are also in anyway canvassing for votes.”
The statement also maintained that “Through the Pre-Election observation, YIAGA AFRICA will track early warning signs and any form of an incident that can hinder the successful conduct of the elections. In this vein, WTV pre-elections observers will observe and report issues relating to hate speech campaigns, intimidation and harassment of any electoral stakeholder and attacks on media or INEC officials.
“LTOs will also report government restrictions on political activities or unjustifiable military influx into the state. This will enable YIAGA AFRICA to verify and report this information to relevant authorities for proper action. Pre-elections observation findings will be shared to the public via various channels of communication including social media.
Meanwhile, the statement made it stands known that “As a civic hub dedicated to the promotion of electoral integrity and credible elections and as an INEC accredited observer group, YIAGA AFRICA, will also be deploying citizens’ observers to observe the Election Day activities. YIAGA AFRICA invites the people of Bayelsa and Kogi States, Election Stakeholders and citizens to follow the pre-election observation report and engage using the findings of the reports.”