Promises to expose manipulated results
By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
An election observer, Yiaga Africa, Saturday, commended voters on their patience despite rainfall to cast vote for their preferred governorship candidate.
In a statement released and signed by the Co-chairs, Yiaga Africa 2020 Ondo Election Observation Mission, Dr. Aisha Abdullahi, and Ezenwa Nwagwu, lauded professionalism displayed by security agencies.
According to the statement there was an improvement in the arrival time and set up of polling units, which also INEC officials arrived in 77 per cent of polling units compare to the September 19 Edo governorship election where INEC officials arrived in 38 per cent of polling units.
The statement asserted that the early arrival may not be unconnected with the new policy introduced by INEC requiring all National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) drivers to deploy their cars to the Registration Area Camps (RAC) 24hrs before the commencement of polls, which aligns with Yiaga Africa and other civil society groups’ recommendations on transparent and efficient management of election logistics for the election.
The statement reads in part, “Yiaga Africa recognizes the patience and resilience of the people of Ondo to cast their vote despite the rainfall that occasioned delays in some polling units. The security agencies, especially the police, displayed professionalism and civility during the setup and opening of polls. Yiaga Africa hopes that this conduct will be maintained throughout the counting, collation, transmission, and announcement of election results.
“Yiaga Africa commends the good people of Ondo State for their peaceful conduct during the voting process and pleads they remain patient and peaceful through the voting and counting process. Yiaga Africa will provide updates as the process comes to an end, and collation commences. Yiaga Africa restates our commitment to sharing accurate data and information on the election and results based on its deployment of the Parallel Vote Tabulation methodology.
“If INEC’s official results fall within Yiaga Africa’s estimated rate, then the public, political parties, and candidates should have confidence that the official results reflect the ballots cast at the polling units; however, if the announced results have been manipulated and do not match the polling units’ results, Yiaga Africa will expose it.”
Some of the recommendations by Yiaga Africa to INEC include extension of voting period in polling units where election commenced late due to late deployment of election materials and personnel; INEC should ensure that the ballots are counted openly, and the Form EC60E containing polling units’ results are posted at the polling unit for the public; Ensure that the polling unit result sheet; form EC8A for each polling is uploaded on the INEC Result Viewing Portal and also post information on polling units where elections did not hold or results were canceled on the results viewing portal.
“Transparency and openness in the management of cancellation of votes and determination of the margin of lead in line with extant electoral laws and uniformity of processes and consistency in applying its guidelines should be maintained across all polling units and LGAs; INEC should ensure due diligence and oversight on the result collation process in blind spots in the riverine communities of Ilaje and EseOdo LGA.
Security Agencies to ensure adequate security is provided as collation commences across the state. Accredited observers and media reporters should be granted access to observe the collation process; Security personnel should remain professional and non-partisan throughout the election; Investigate cases of election malfeasance and ensure the prosecution of electoral offenders.
According to the statement there was improvement in the management of election logistics as Yiaga Africa also noted the improvement in the arrival time and setting up of polling units, which as at 7:30 am, INEC officials had arrived in 77% of polling units.
“This is a significant improvement compared to the September 19 Edo governorship election, where officials arrived at 7:30 am in 38% of polling units. Although polling officials arrived early in most polling stations, only 3% of polling units had commenced voting, and accreditation at 8:30 am. However, the numbers increased to 89% by 9:30 am and 94% at 10:30 am.
“The early arrival may not be unconnected with the new policy introduced by INEC requiring all National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) drivers to deploy their cars to the Registration Area Camps (RAC) 24hrs before the commencement of polls. This policy aligns with Yiaga Africa and other civil society groups’ recommendations on transparent and efficient management of election logistics for the election.
“Deployment of Election Materials and Personnel: Effective deployment of election materials and personnel remains crucial to the conduct of elections. Yiaga Africa’s WTV observers reported an average of four (4) polling officials in the polling units. Sensitive materials like the Smart Card Readers and Register of Voters were observed in 100% of polling units. In addition, voting cubicles were present in 96% of polling units, and ink pads (in voting cubicles) in all the polling units observed.
“However, in Atijaye community in Ilaje LGA with five polling units, INEC officials deployed to two polling units. This led to the late commencement of polls as community members insisted that voting would not commence until the materials and personnel for the outstanding three polling units were deployed. Yiaga Africa escalated this incident to INEC, and the issue was resolved. Voting began at 12:15 pm in the affected community. Yiaga Africa expects that INEC will extend the voting time in that community to enable the voters to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right.
However, on security the statement said there were attempts to by armed thugs to disrupt the process in some polling units.
The statement also pointed out that there were vote buying five local government areas, and also secrecy of the ballot was severely compromised despite attempts by polling officials to prevent voters and party agents from showing how ballot papers were marked.
“Election Security: As predicted in the Yiaga Africa Pre-Election Observation reports (PREO), armed political thugs made attempts to disrupt elections in some polling units. Yiaga Africa received and verified a critical incident in Ijomu Ward 4, Polling Unit 7 in Akure at St. Stephen’s Anglican Primary School where another rival thug stabbed a suspected thug attempting to disrupt the election. Sporadic gunshots by unknown armed men also occurred in Oba-Ile, Ward 9, Unit 007, Akure North, LGA.
“Voting buying and Secrecy of the Ballot: Yiaga Africa received reports of voting buying from Akure South LGA, Ose, Ondo West, Ilaje, and Akure North. Across several polling units, the secrecy of the ballot was severely compromised despite attempts by polling officials to prevent voters and party agents from showing how ballot papers were marked. These electoral offenses occurred in the presence of security personnel who made no attempt in some cases to reprimand the culprits.
“Compliance with COVID-19 Protocol: At the commencement of polls, Yiaga Africa observed compliance with INEC COVID-19 protocol on the 2-tier queuing system in 88% of polling units, the presence of infrared thermometer and disinfectant/sanitizers in 74% of polling units. However, there was a minimal observance of social distancing across all the polling units observed.
“Participation of Persons with Disabilities: In assessing the electoral process’s responsiveness to the needs of persons with disabilities, Yiaga Africa tracked the presence of disability-sensitive election materials. Yiaga Africa observers reported the presence of the Braille ballot guide in 59 per cent of polling units, magnifying glasses in 27% of polling units, forms EC 40H (PWD Voter information and statistics) in 93% of polling units and the PWD posters Form EC 30E in 90% of polling units.
“Presence of Party Agents: As indicated in the Yiaga Africa PREO reports, the Ondo governorship election will be a keen contest between three political parties. This is supported by the Yiaga Africa findings on the presence of party agents with reports showing that the All Progressives Congress (APC) party agents were seen at 100% of polling units, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) party agents at 100% of polling units, Social Democratic Party (SDP) party agents at 10% of polling units, and Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) party agents at 89% of polling units”, the statement added.