By Myke Uzendu
Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room has scored the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), high on the just concluded Ondo state governorship election but regretted that vote buying took a very dangerous dimension.
The group further commended INEC on the introduction of Zpad for the uploading of election results. It described the election as very peaceful but remarked that voter turnout was very low.
The group in its second interim report on Sunday signed by Esther Uzoma, observed that the conduct of the Ondo State governorship election appears to have built on the gains of the Edo State governorship election.
It further said that INEC’s processes improved and was mostly hitch-free which reflected in the relatively smooth Ward Collation process and observed professional conduct of security personnel.
The group however condemned high degree vote buying during the polls.
“The menace of vote-buying is still prevalent in the electoral process, with several reports of the trend worsening. Although there are concerns over observance of COVID-19 prevention protocols, there was marked improvement from the most recently conducted governorship elections.
“Vote buying has sadly, become a staple in the electoral process in Nigeria. Despite INEC stating that it was liaising with security agents to arrest the situation, the incidents of this trend increased in the Ondo State Governorship election.
“Reports received by Situation Room showed that vote buying was evident in a number of polling units and largely went unchecked. Voters were seen selling their votes for sums ranging from N4,000 and N5,000, to N7,000, depending on the political parties or location. The improper positioning of voting cubicles and ballot boxes in some polling units observed, made it easier for party agents to deduce patterns of voting as the secrecy of the ballot was not observed’.
Situation Room called on INEC, security agents and other stakeholders to seek out more practical ways of enforcing punitive measures against offenders, to serve as a deterrent to political actors and the electorate, moving forward.