As INEC, Police face another integrity test
By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
An election observer group, YIAGA AFRICA, Friday, disclosed of deploying 114 election observers to Akwa Ibom, Imo, Kano and the Sokoto States on Saturday 25 January 2020, ahead of court-ordered rerun elections to be conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
This was made known by the Executive Director, YIAGA AFRICA, Samson Itodo, in a statement, where concerns were raised over some issues ahead of the election.
The statement reads in part, “YIAGA AFRICA’s Watching the Vote (WTV) will on Saturday 25th January 2020 deploy 114 observers to observe the elections in four (Akwa Ibom, Imo, Kano and Sokoto) out of eleven states where the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will conduct court-ordered rerun elections.
“Observers will be deployed to observe the conduct of the elections at the polling units and the results collation process at LGA results collation centres. Of the total number of deployed observers, 100 will be stationary in selected polling units, while 14 will serve as mobile observers.”
The group also noted that “These elections will be the second set of court-ordered rerun elections conducted by INEC since the 2019 general elections. The Kogi West Senatorial district and Ajaokuta Federal constituency rerun elections were the first set. Election tribunals ordered the rerun elections due to election irregularities, violence, and disqualification of candidates for filing fake academic credentials.”
Meanwhile, the group said the rerun election serves as another test of the integrity and commitment of INEC, Police and President Muhammadu Buhari, to free, fair and peaceful elections.
“This rerun election is conducted against the background of recent marching orders given by President Buhari to the Police to ensure elections are conducted in an atmosphere devoid of violence, intimidation or malpractice. INEC also warned that it would not conduct elections or collate results where the security of election materials and personnel are not guaranteed by security agencies, especially the police”, it stated.
On its pre-election observation according to the group reveals some concerns which include INEC’s preparations; Poor Voter Engagement and Potential for Low Voter Turn-out; and Threats of Violence and Insecurity.
“Yiaga Africa received reports from observers in Isiala Mbano, Okigwe and Onuimo LGAs in Imo State; Bebeji, Doguwa Kiru and Tudun Wada LGAs in Kano State; and Sokoto North and South LGAs of Sokoto State indicating a high level of preparations by INEC for the election as early as the second week of January 2020. Save for Akwa Ibom, all the other states provided stakeholders with information on the recruitment and training of Adhoc staff for the election.
“Based on reports from WTV observers, voter education and mobilization were low in all states especially in Akwa Ibom, Imo and Kano state. Yiaga Africa predicts poor voter turnout for the elections based on our interaction with voters who expressed concerns with the paucity of information on the elections. Across the 11 states with rerun elections, there are a total of 1,322,929 registered voters.
“Based on reports from WTV observers, there is increasing tension in Imo state following the ruling by the Supreme Court on the governorship election. Citizens are worried that this tension could linger until the elections and has the potential to escalate to physical violence if adequate security is not provided and deployed security personnel fail to act responsibly and professionally.
“In Kano, there is a possible security threat to corps members in Kiru LGA due to alleged involvement of a corps member in the death of a child. INEC has indicated it will refrain from deploying corps members as Adhoc officials in Kiru LGA.
“For successful conduct of the rerun election, Yiaga Africa expects effective coordination and information sharing between INEC and security agencies, especially the police. Security deployment goes beyond the number of personnel deployed, but also includes the ability of deployed personnel to effectively prevent and respond to violence or disruption of the electoral process.
“Yiaga Africa calls on security agencies to ensure adequate security of election materials, personnel and voters across all states, especially in Kano, Imo and Akwa Ibom. INEC should ensure adequate and timely deployment of personnel and materials to all polling units. The Commission should strengthen its oversight to ensure strict adherence to its guidelines, particularly the use of the Smart Card Readers for accreditation and results collation.”
It also called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to efficiently address issues of vote-buying and selling on Election Day.
“In conclusion, Yiaga Africa calls on eligible voters in the respective states to come out in their numbers with their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) to cast their votes for their preferred candidates. In our quest to deepen electoral integrity, we will continue to observe the electoral process and provide real-time information and data on the conduct of the rerun elections”, it added.