Ahead of today’s governorship elections in Edo State the Center for Transparency Advocacy (CTA) has charged the security agencies especially the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to be firm, while not going outside the law, in enforcing the electoral law including arresting people engaging in unwholesome practices such as vote trading.
In a statement signed by its Executive Director Faith Nwadishi the group noted that “the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will on September 19, 2020 conduct the Edo State Governorship Election one of its off-season election. As citizens wait for the remaining hours to the election, expectations are high, campaigns have ceased since midnight of September 17, 2020, and INEC has continued to assure citizens of its readiness to conduct a free, peaceful and credible election. Expectedly, the election will hold across the 18 Local Government Areas, 192 Wards and in 2627 Polling Units in the state.
“As part of preparations for the election, Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA) an accredited Domestic Observer Group by INEC organized several activities that included, participation in Zoom meetings organized by INEC, held interactive zoom meetings with different stakeholders on the preparation for the elections and dissemination of the INEC guidelines on conducting elections in a COVID19 context. Other activities were voter education in the Eighteen LGAs of the state which gave the team the opportunity of a first-hand assessment of the preparations and citizens expectations. Other stakeholders met were civil society organizations, the media and NOA. There was a stakeholder’s meeting on the 25th of August 2020 and consultative meetings with security agencies (DSS, Police, FRSC, NSCDC, NIS and others), INEC, National Orientation Agency and the media.
She stated that “the stakeholders and Heads of Agencies visited pledged to support the Election Management Body to organize and achieve a violence-free and credible election in Edo State.
“Inline with CTA’s traditional commitment to quality and professional observation, we have trained 40 observers who will be deployed across the 18 LGAs of the state for a spot on and credible reports on Election Day. Their mandate is to report without bias, activities on the field regarding the election across polling units including the activities of all critical stakeholders including security agencies, INEC officials, Observers and Political Party agents among others. Equally, innovatively, CTA will work with voters across the state. Having established two situation rooms both at Benin and Abuja.
Nwadishi noted “@Here below are a summary of our initial findings;
The statement read” Preparedness by different stakeholders:
According to the timetable released by INEC, as at the time of this release, INEC has carried 13 out of the 14 items as mapped out for this election. The only item remaining is the voting on election day- September 19, 2020. INEC has deployed 5 additional Resident Electoral Commissioners to Edo State and will be deploying over 17 thousand Adhoc staff. 53 domestic and 6 foreign observer groups were accredited by INEC for the elections. Sensitive materials are domiciled at the Central Bank of Nigeria, Benin City. INEC assured of the readiness of its ICT deployment including the use of the card readers, structuring the card readers to available networks in the various communities and the use of the Z-pad as an additional form of authentication and transmission of result in Form EC8A in real-time from polling units. To have feedback from observers on the field, the following are INEC Hotlines for the Edo election; 08037534901, 08163380281
The security agencies have assured citizens of the provision of adequate security and to protect lives and property before, during and after the election. The peace accord signed by the political parties and their candidates is expected to lead to a peaceful and violence-free election. The Nigeria Police will be deploying about 30 thousand personnel to Edo State to ensure a peaceful election. Also, other security agencies and paramilitary organizations will be deploying its personnel in reasonable numbers for the purpose of security. The Police issued ‘guidelines for citizens on election day’, they also gave the following nos for calls 08154352118 and for SMS/WhatsApp 08154350436.
The Police Service Commission assured that the personnel to be deployed by the Nigerian Police will be professional in the discharge of their duties. Citizens and observers can call the following numbers to report misconduct by police officers on election duty; 07034072677, 08050517678, 08052265260, while the EFCC gave the following numbers as hotlines; 07016003049, 09031377137 and 08023356036.
As against 19 political parties that fielded candidates for the 2016 election, only 14 political parties are fielding candidates for the Edo 2020 election. Out of the 14 political parties who have fielded candidates for the governorship election only two have campaigned across the wards in the 18LGAs of the state. According to INEC data, there are 12 males and 2 female candidates. At the height of the campaigns, there were allegations and counter-allegations by the two major political parties against each other of massing thugs for violence. There were several peace meetings convened to get the commitment of the candidates in ensuring a peaceful election. They however signed the peace accord on September 15, 2020 facilitated by the National Peace Committee.
Edo state with a population of about 5million people and 2,210,334 registered voters, will have only 1,726,466 (78%) voters deciding who the next governor will be. 483,868 people will not be part of the election due to uncollected voters’ card. Aside from concerns for security and COVID 19, Edo citizens are ready for the elections.
It is important to note that during our interactions with stakeholders, citizens expressed the fear of potential violence across the entire 18 LGAs and 14 Local Government Areas have been identified as flashpoints, we urge that particular attention is paid to these LGAs. They are; Etsako West, Etsako East, Etsako Central, Owan West and Akoko-Edo in Edo North Senatorial District, Oredo, Orhionmwon, Egor, Ovia North East, and Ikpoba-Okha LGAs in Edo South Senatorial district and Esan Central, Esan North East and Esan West in Edo Central Senatorial district.
However, we call for particular attention to Estako West, (Both the former APC Chairman and the Incumbent Deputy govern and deputy governorship candidate are from this LGA). Also, to note are Oredo and Orhiomwon, (the LGAs of the two most popular candidates of the 14 governorship candidates for the election). The mandate of ‘You must deliver your area’s mantra for politicians, will be the main reason for the violence.
The police also reported the influx of small arms and warned on the consequences. The fears raised scared not only the citizens but elections monitors and observers.
COVID-19 AND ADHERENCE TO SET PROTOCOLS
It is imperative that more sensitization should be carried out intensely within the few hours remaining before the election. It is also important that health personnel are deployed to polling areas to guide people on Election Day. Strict adherence to the Covid-19 protocol is imperative while Personal Protective Equipment at the polling areas are mandatory and enforced.
The INEC’s directives on special treatment for Nursing mothers, pregnant women, PWDS and the elderly should be adhered to by the ad-hoc staff on the field.
CTA calls on Edo citizens to eschew violence during this period and at all times as election should not be a do or die affair. Violence only brings sorrows and will in no way contribute to the growth of democracy in the state.
CTA supports the need to arrest individuals involved in election violence and prosecute them to create deterrence and fight impunity.
Particularly, thugs that might be mobilized for the purpose of creating chaos and violence should be prosecuted. Their sponsors should be identified and also prosecuted. This will go a long way in curbing the desperation of the political class in our electoral process
Vote trading has become a cankerworm eating deep into our polity and has become an ugly feature of elections in Nigeria today. Politicians have devised many ways to buy votes through gifting people with wrappers, food items and enticing palliatives. This should worry every well-meaning Nigerian. Politicians must desist from vote-buying. Voters should not sell their votes as that will amount to selling their future and mortgaging the future of younger and unborn generations. The law enforcement agencies especially EFCC should be firm, while not going outside the law, in enforcing the electoral law including arresting people engaging in unwholesome practices such as vote trading.
Just like the security agencies and INEC staff, Election observers should be neutral, professional and report factually while in the field.
Citizens, observers and stakeholders expect a violence-free election. They expect a free, a fair and credible election.
The Centre for Transparency Advocacy commends the efforts of the General Abdul Salam Abubakar led Peace Committee in making the political parties and their candidates to sign the peace accord. CTA especially commends the Oba of Benin for calling the political parties and their candidates to order.
His charge for a peaceful election should be a reference point in our election history and the roles that our traditional institutions should play in ensuring peaceful and violence-free elections in Nigeria.
We have deployed observers across the state to cover the elections and we shall be sharing reports with the media and on our social media handles as they come in. CTA will maintain a situation room at Elysium 130 hotel, sapele road, Benin City
CTA calls on all eligible and registered citizens to come out and vote for candidates of their choice, as it is their right to do so. Your vote is your power and must count.