Says INEC staff need more training
Decries electoral violence, malpractice
By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
The Ondo Governorship election has been conducted, winner and losers emerging, one of the election observers for the election, Yiaga Africa, has given its score of the election process and outcome
Yiaga presented its score in a report titled, ‘Process and Results in Verification Statement on the 2020 Ondo Governorship Election’ portraying the entire process based on its men and material on the field before, during, and after the election.
According to the report, Yiaga Africa Watching The Vote (WTV) deployed its Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) methodology to ensure the integrity and sanctity of the ballot were protected and guaranteed, which 600 stationary observers were deployed in pairs to a representative statistical sample of 300 polling units; 28 mobile observers located in all 18 Local Government Areas and 19 collation centre observers were also deployed to the 18 LGA Collation Centres and one to the state collation centre.
With this deployment, Yiaga Africa was positioned to provide timely and accurate information on accreditation and voting and counting and independently verify the Ondo gubernatorial election’s official results as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
On Election Day, Yiaga Africa released its situational report on the Election Day process. This report is an update to the findings shared on Election Day and the results verification statement.
The report also commended INEC for significant improvement in its management of election logistics, and that the people of Ondo state deserve commendation for their resilience and peaceful conduct during the voting, counting, and result collation process.
However, there were isolated incidents of intimidation and harassment of observers, voters, and polling officials by some party thugs, which led to violent disruption of the voting process in a limited number of units and likely resulted in the disenfranchisement of voters in the affected locations.
According to the report, acts of violence, intimidation, harassment, and assault directed against women especially female voters, polling officials, security, party agents or observers in six per cent of polling units.
“Nigerian elections are signposted with practices that compromise the freedom of choice and undermine political legitimacy. Yiaga Africa notes with great concern the menace of vote-buying and the impunity exhibited by major political actors in procuring votes with huge amounts of cash during the Ondo governorship election. 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.
“On Election Day, votes traded between N1000 and N7,000 at the polling unit. It is Yiaga Africa’s opinion that the massive vote buying employed by political actors in the election made it difficult for voters to freely cast their ballots in the polling units where they occurred. It is disappointing that elections are largely defined by the highest bidder and spender.
“Whilst Yiaga Africa urges INEC to undertake reforms to protect the secrecy of the ballot, it is important to note that vote-buying is a governance challenge that diminishes human dignity and questions the legitimacy of electoral outcomes. Addressing this menace requires a multi-pronged approach that fosters improved public governance, abolishes do-or-die politics, and strengthens mechanisms of accountability.
“As stated in our pre-election reports, Yiaga Africa undertook Watching the Vote to provide citizens, governorship candidates, political parties, and INEC with independent information on whether the official results truly reflect the ballots cast at polling units. If INEC’s official results fall within Yiaga Africa’s estimated range, then the public, political parties, and candidates should have confidence that the official results reflect the ballots cast in the polling units. However, if the announced results have been manipulated and do not match the polling unit results, Yiaga Africa will expose it”, the report pointed.
The report also indicated that INEC official result for the 2020 Ondo State gubernatorial election falls within the Yiaga Africa WTV estimate, and pointing out that, “Had the official results been changed at the ward, LGA or State collation centres, the official results would not have fallen within the Yiaga Africa WTV estimated ranges. Because the official results fall within the estimated ranges, governorship contestants, parties, and voters should have confidence that INEC’s official results for the 2020 Ondo gubernatorial election reflect the ballots cast at polling units.
“It is important to highlight that the counting process at polling units was transparent and included representatives from the three political parties that received the most votes”, it added.
The conclusion of the report also advised the winner of the election and his supporters to be magnanimous in victory. And it also acknowledged and commended various stakeholders who made the election process a success.
“For those candidates who did not win, we urge them to accept the results because they reflect the votes cast. Yiaga Africa calls upon all candidates, all parties, and all Nigerians to show political maturity and to maintain the peace.
“Given the significant rate of procedural infractions around counting of spoilt and counterfoil ballot paper, Yiaga Africa recommends better training for election day INEC ad-hoc officials. While these infractions do not undermine the integrity of the process, they are a sign that election day officials’ training can be improved.
“Yiaga Africa commends INEC for its efforts to improve on the election day process and efforts to comply with the COVID-19 protocol with respect to providing disinfectant/hand sanitizers in all polling units. Yiaga Africa however, believes that there are opportunities for improvement in our elections and calls on INEC to conduct a post-election audit on both the Edo and Ondo governorship elections in order to enable the Commission to assess its performance, identify operational areas for improvement and drive policy reforms to effectively plan for future elections.
“Additionally, the National Assembly should accelerate reforms to the Electoral Act to legalize the effective deployment of technological tools to promote citizen participation and enhance transparency in the electoral process. The INEC Result Viewing portal deployed for the election has demonstrated how citizens’ access to polling unit results increases the integrity of the electoral process and encourages the acceptability of electoral outcomes.
“Yiaga Africa commends the National Peace Committee (NPC) for responding to the call by stakeholders on the threat of violence as indicated in Yiaga Africa’s Pre-election observation report. The interventions contributed in no small measure to the peaceful conduct of the election.
“Yiaga Africa would like to thank the many Nigerians across the state who volunteered to serve as non-partisan WTV citizen observers on behalf of all the people of Ondo. Yiaga Africa commends the dedication of the permanent INEC staff in Abuja and Ondo state who organized the election and the commitment of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members who served as poll officials. Yiaga Africa would like to thank sister election observer groups and the international community for their solidarity and support.”
It also maintained that “Yiaga Africa, through the Watching The Vote initiative, is committed to promoting more credible elections by providing independent information on the conduct of elections and independently verifying the accuracy of election results. #WatchingTheVote is For All Nigerians, Beholden to No One, and Driven By Data.”