Ahead of the governorship elections slated for October in Ondo State, Civil Society Organizations(CSOs) have charged security agencies to arrest unauthorized persons found with arms during the elections.
In a communique issued at the end of stakeholders meeting towards peaceful and credible elections in Ondo state the groups urged Security agencies to be strict and decisive by calling politicians to order while Political parties should sign a peace accord and make a commitment towards a peaceful election and failure to do so; relevant security agencies should prosecute those found culpable.
According to the Communique signed by Faith Nwadishi the Executive Director Centre for Transparency Advocay (CTA) on behalf of the groups she stated that “in preparation for the forthcoming governorship election in Ondo state on 19th October 2020, the Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA) engaged Stakeholders cutting across, the security personnel, youth and women groups, People with Disability, the media, the Civil Society Organizations among others during various advocacy visits in Akure followed by a stakeholders meeting on August 28th, 2020 to rub minds and discuss issues pertinent to achieving a free, fair and credible 2020 governorship election in Ondo State. The theme of the meeting was; “Towards a peaceful and credible October 10th Governorship Election in Ondo State”.
She pointed out that “the objective of the meeting that was held at the National Orientation Agency Hall, Akure, Ondo State was; to work towards synergizing and partnering with citizens and critical stakeholders like the security agencies for a credible, free and fair election in Ondo State.
Prior to the meeting, the CTA team paid Advocacy visits to security agencies including the DSS, the NSCDC, the Nigerian Police while other Para-military organizations and the Nigerian Army were notified of the presence of CTA and were invited to the stakeholders meeting. Other critical agencies visited include; the National Orientation Agency and the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Participants commended INEC on the series of training it has conducted for security agencies and consultation with other stakeholders on the electoral process, and for issuing in a timely manner guideline for the conduct of the election in the context of Covid-19 pandemic. Also, participants commended the National Orientation Agency for grass root penetration and voter education, the security agencies on their diligence in ensuring adequate security.
At the end of the meeting, participants made observations and raised concerns, after which they proffered recommendations and resolved as follows:
1. That hate speech and attacks at campaigns by politicians are precursors to violence
2. That the health challenge posed by the Covid-19 pandemic might lead to voter apathy.
3. That Health Personnel may not be deployed at polling centers and units on Election Day
4. That there might be late commencement of voting on Election Day
5. That security personnel may not be deployed timeously and adequately
6. That security personnel might be encumbered and overwhelmed if they combine security job on Election Day with temperature check for voters as planned by INEC and might not be able to carry out their functions in an efficient and professional manner
7. That thugs are emboldened to snatch ballot boxes because security agencies at the polling units are not allowed to carry arms.
8. That some Adhoc staff engaged by INEC on election duties is ignorant and not knowledgeable to understand their duties and functions.
9. That the role of the Judiciary in the electoral process has become worrisome.
1. Political parties and actors disregard for the Electoral Act and the electoral processes.
2. Political actor’s utterances and actions creating fears in citizens might lead to voter apathy.
3. Unarmed security personnel at polling units.
4. Ignorant Adhoc staff and electoral officers.
RECOMMENDATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS
1. Security agencies should be strict and decisive by calling politicians to order while Political parties should sign a peace accord and make a commitment towards a peaceful election and failure to do so; relevant security agencies should prosecute those found culpable.
2. INEC should collaborate with health personnel to ensure the protection and safety of voters and election workers in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.
3. Participants called on INEC to strictly deploy materials and personnel and ensure early commencement of voting.
4. INEC should liaise with NCDC and the Ministry of Health to provide health services and those security agencies should concentrate on their mandate of providing election security.
5. That ballot boxes are important election material and should be protected by armed police and other security personnel from the beginning to the end of voting while providing metal detectors and increased patrol.
6. Participants called for security agents within voting areas and polling units to be allowed to carry arms to deter a breach of peace and disruption of election by criminal elements.
7. INEC should train its Adhoc staff adequately.
8. The judiciary should take responsibility in collaboration with INEC to train their officers to help the electoral process.
9. That there should be reforms and modification of our relevant laws, in particular, the Electoral Act.
10. That citizens and stakeholders must work together and support INEC for a credible election and must begin to demand accountability from those they have voted for.
11. INEC should continue with the prosecution of electoral officers who go contrary to their mandates.
12. Security agencies should arrest and prosecute unauthorized persons found with prohibited firearms. There should be no sacred cows.
13. Civil Society Organizations should remain a watchdog and not be compromised.
14. Citizens should realize that their vote is power; use it.
15. That the WAI Brigade of National Orientation Agency should be allowed to perform election security duties.
In conclusion, all stakeholders present made commitments to support INEC by playing their roles to ensure a peaceful and credible governorship election in Ondo State on October 10, 2020.