Appeals to INEC to sustain viewing portal initiative
By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
Barely 24 hours to the Ondo governorship election, Yiaga Africa, has tasked election actors on credible and acceptable election across the 18 Local Government Areas of the State.
This was contained in a pre-election statement signed by Co-Chair, Yiaga Africa WTV Working Group, Dr Aish Abdullahi, and Co-Chair, Yiaga Africa WTV Working Group, Ezenwa Nwagu.
October 10, 2020, Governorship Election will be held amid the Coronavirus pandemic by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as 17 political parties are gunning keenly for the highest position in the State.
The statement also indicated that 1, 478, 460 registered voters on the ballot having representing 81per cent have collected their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs), and are expected to participate in the election.
As indicated in Yiaga Africa’s first pre-election observation report, three political parties dominated the political campaigns in the build-up. They are the All Progressives Congress (APC), People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).
However, Yiaga Africa’s pre-election observation findings revealed a consistent trend of violence and arms stockpiling across some local government areas in the state. More worrisome is the attack on some female party supporters in Oba-Akoko who were allegedly beaten and stripped naked for wearing politically branded t-shirts and fez caps of one of the candidates.
According to the statement, notable LGAs where violence and arms gathering incidents were observed include Akoko South West, Akure South, Akure North, Akoko South-East, Akoko North-West, Irele, Idanre, Ese-Odo, Okitipupa, Ilaje, and Owo.
Yiaga Africa considers these LGAs as potential hotspots for violence ahead of the election. The organization is further concerned that election-day violence may occur in these locations if the security threats are not neutralized. The organization is further concerned with the security agencies’ seeming failure to curb acts of lawlessness and impunity perpetrated by armed political thugs and political actors during campaigns.
Given the background of pre-election violence and gangster politics, the state may witness a further decline in voter turnout. The low turnout may further enhance chances for electoral manipulation in the strongholds of the major political parties, particularly in rural areas where election rigging usually takes place.
Meanwhile, Yiaga Africa also noted that INEC has shown commitment and readiness for the election. According to the statement level of preparations increased by in all 18 LGAs based on reports from Yiaga Africa’s Long-Term Observers deployed in the LGAs.
Yiaga Africa commends INEC for its resilience and determination to proceed with the election despite the 5000 smart card readers destroyed under a questionable fire incident at the INEC office in Akure, which appears like an attempt to scuttle the Commission’s preparations and undermine its ability to conduct the polls.
The statement also made it clear that Yiaga Africa is however, concerned with INEC’s reliance on members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) for deploying sensitive election materials on Election Day. Given the partisan background of some members of the Union, they could be used by politicians to undermine the election by deliberately causing late commencement of polls due to delay/refusal to convey election officials and materials to the polling units.
Pointing out another issue Yiaga Africa observed this in the recent Edo election, where members of the NURTV refused to deploy early to the registration area camps citing reasons such as inability to fuel their cars and renegotiate on the contract sum on the day of the election.
The statement reads in part, “Yiaga Africa commends the online election results viewing portal piloted by INEC during the 2020 Edo governorship election. The viewing portal is an initiative of the Commission designed to enhance the transparency of election results management.
“Yiaga Africa calls on INEC to sustain the portal while improving on its usability functions. Yiaga commends the peace-building initiative led by the National Peace Committee, headed by the former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar. The pre-election period incidents of violence necessitated the need for the National Peace Committee to engage political parties and their candidates to sign and pledge to the peace accord.
“On Election Day, Yiaga Africa’s WTV Data Centre Ondo will open at 6:00 am and will remain open until counting has finished at all sampled polling units and all WTV citizen observers have sent in all eight of their observation reports. Yiaga Africa’s data center is open to the public and media at all times.
“Throughout Election Day, Yiaga Africa will provide – as appropriate – updates on the conduct of the election based on the near real-time reports from its observers. These will be released at the data center and posted on social media at Yiaga Africa’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/yiaga.org) and Yiaga Africa’s Twitter page (@YIAGA).
“On Saturday, October 10, 2020, at 10 pm, Yiaga Africa will release its estimated projections based on its preliminary data. On Sunday, October 11 2020, at Bliss World Hotel, Akure, Yiaga Africa will share its preliminary WTV findings on the conduct of set-up, accreditation, voting and counting.
“Immediately after INEC announces the official results for the gubernatorial election, Yiaga Africa will hold its own press conference and issue its election results verification statement. Verification of the election results will be based on the INEC official results as announced by-poll officials at the WTV sampled polling units.
“Yiaga Africa appeals to INEC’s permanent and ad hoc staff, all security agents, political party candidates and their supporters as well as all Ondo people to work together to ensure that the Ondo governorship election is credible and peaceful. We wish to encourage all registered, PVC-holding voters of Ondo to go out on Saturday, October 10 2020 to vote their choice in the Governorship election.”
On Matters Arising on the 2020 Ondo Governorship Election the statement identified logistics deployment in riverine communities of Ilaje and Ese Odo Local Government Areas and called the attention of INEC and security agencies to notorious blind spots in riverine communities of Ilaje and Ese-Odo LGA known “for election rigging, perennial logistics challenges, and threats to polling officials and election materials posed by activities of militants in the region. To ensure the early commencement of polls in those areas, INEC should ensure adequate logistics preparations coupled with heightened security deployment to protect election materials and officials.”
The statement also pointed out election logistics and early commencement of polls as major concern as in the recent governorship election, Yiaga Africa reported the late opening of polls in several polling stations. “Yiaga Africa Edo PVT findings show that only 4% of polling units commenced accreditation and voting at 8:30 am. Although INEC has shown readiness to deploy its officials and materials early to the polling units, Yiaga Africa is concerned with the Commission’s reliance on the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) to transport election materials and personnel to the polling unit.”
On Election Day Violence and Security Deployment, the statement said, “Based on pre-election violence reports, Yiaga Africa is concerned about threats of violence on election day. While the contesting political parties and candidates have committed to a Peace Accord, the security agencies need to deploy with competence, professionalism, and neutrality on Election Day. Upholding these principles will prevent incidents of violence on Election Day and secure lives and properties.
“There are also concerns about the coordination between the federal security agencies and Ondo state-recognized security organizations like the Western Nigeria Security Network, otherwise called Operation Amotekun. The lack of clarity in the role of security outfits recognized by the state on election day could trigger interagency rivalry and make the process prone to violence and manipulation.”
Other issues of concern include declining turnout of voters, which the statement traced to 2011 where voter turnout has not exceeded 43% in Ondo State. “In the 2011 presidential election, turnout was 32% while 41% turnout was recorded in the 2015 presidential election.
“Turnout for the 2015 State Assembly Election was 34.9%. For the 2016 governorship election, turnout stood at 35%. In 2019, it was 33% for the presidential election and 29.3% for the state assembly election.
“Based on Yiaga Africa pre-election survey, 87% of respondents expressed willingness to vote, thereby indicating enthusiasm on the part of voters to participate in Saturday’s election. However, the pre-election violence has created an atmosphere of apprehension, leading to further decline in voter turnout. This apprehension is affirmed by 53% of respondents who expressed concerns that political parties will deploy violence during the election.”