Anambra Election…expresses worry over IPOB sit-at-home orders

… observes vote buying in 10 local government areas

By Gabriel Ewepu

ABUJA-AHEAD of the November 6 Governorship election in Anambra State, Yiaga Africa, Saturday, called for early preparation on security by the government in order for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to conduct a credible election.

This was part of recommendations made by Yiaga Africa in its report tagged, ‘#WatchingTheVote 1st Pre-Election Observation Report for Anambra 2021 Governorship Election.

According to the report the Anambra election is postulated to be competitive and defined by money and political godfathers. Amidst this apparent competitiveness of elections in the State, Anambra remains one of the states with very poor voter turnout. The state has consistently recorded a low voter turnout.

It also recalled that voter turnout in the 2013 governorship election was 26 per cent and for 2017 was 21 per cent, representing the worst in the history of governorship elections in Nigeria. Similarly, the recent (2019) Presidential election in Anambra State recorded a 26 per voter turnout.

The report reads in part, “Key Recommendations- Security Agencies; As security  is indispensable  in the conduct  of free, fair and credible elections,  we recommend  early planning and coordination  to meet the security challenges in Anambra State.

“Security agencies should employ preventive measures to neutralize existing security threats in the state, to enable voters to exercise their constitutional right to vote in a peaceful and secured environment.

“Federal and state government;  Yiaga Africa calls on the Federal and State governments to as a matter of urgency deploy intelligence in resolving  the unstable security  situation in Anambra and other states in the South-East which have  a negative impact on the economy, peace and security of lives and property.

“Due  to the agitation of the secessionist group and the threat to safety and security in the  election, Yiaga Africa urges federal and state government security agencies  to be non-partisan before, during  and after the governorship election in the state.”

The report also recommended that political parties they embark on voter education, to encourage voters to turn up and vote on Election Day and candidates should desist from the inducement of voters, and invest in issues-based campaigns.

The recommendation to INEC was sustaining the voter education engagements across the state in collaboration with NOA, CSOs, and other relevant stakeholders to intensify voter education engagements across the state.

“INEC  should leverage available  partnerships  and invest in  popularising  the new polling  units in the state  and the planned deployment  of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).

“INEC should ensure  proper coordination  with  the security agencies, especially in addressing the security concerns in the state”, it added.

It also recommended that election stakeholders, especially Civil Society  and International  Partners, to invest in multi-stakeholder collaboration for in-depth scenario planning and risk mitigation strategies towards the election, and also engage both the Federal and State government towards a peaceful resolution of the secessionist agitation in the South-East region.

While on media, it recommended that for promoting social, cultural, and political objectives, media organizations should use their platforms to educate citizens on how to exercise their democratic right to increase citizens’ participation.

Meanwhile, on the heels of the recommendation, the report indicated that Yiaga Africa  Watching  the  Vote recruited  and trained  25 long  term citizen observers (LTOs)  and deployed  them across the 21  LGAs of Anambra State to systematically observe  the pre-election  environment  in their various local governments. 

The observation  also includes monitoring  of early warning signs of electoral violence  that  may  influence the outcome  of the election in Anambra State. The observers  are equipped  with a  checklist  to record  the relevant information  and provide  verifiable  findings of  the  pre-election happening  in  their various LGAs.

According to the report the key findings were in Election Preparatory Activities by INEC, which it pointed that the commission  is  currently cleaning  up the updated register  of voters after the Continuous  Voter Registration  (CVR) and the Display Claims and Objections conducted  in all the wards of the 21 LGAs in the state.  The WTV also received reports of ongoing recruitment of polling officials (ad-hoc staff) in the state.

On Voter Education by INEC, NOA and CSOs, Yiaga Africa found out through its Njikoka Orumba South WTV LTOs that there  was  generally low voter education  across the state. Although voter education initiatives were observed as INEC was  found to be the lead institution undertaking  those voter education  activities, followed  by CSOs. Very few voter education and other election-related activities were undertaken by NOA.

On Campaign Activities by Political Party- Only a few political parties have kicked off their campaign activities such as campaign rallies in the state as WTV observation  findings, however,  revealed  that apart  from APC, APGA,  PDP and YPP, there  was  little visibility of campaigning activities by the  other political parties. 

On Indicators of Voter Inducement, the findings made indicated that WTV observed signs of voter inducement in the form of purchase of PVCs and distribution of money and gift items to voters. WTV LTOs witnessed or heard of distribution of money or gift items by candidates or their supporters in 10 local government areas ahead of the election.

It also expressed worry over activities likely to impede the election process, which include the weekly and randomly imposed sit-at-home order by the secessionist group; Indigenous  People  of Biafra (IPOB), and that if it persists, the election  would record the lowest voter turnout in the country’s recent history.   

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