By Chuks Okocha
As the people of Edo State vote tomorrow in the gubernatorial election to choose their next governor, a civil society group, Yiaga Africa, has called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security agencies to ensure strict compliance with the electoral laws and guidelines in administering the election amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement issued by the Yiaga Africa Executive Director, Samson Itodo, and made available to journalists in Benin-city, the group said the polling officials should enforce the use of facemask and gently remove any voter showing the signs of COVID-19 from the polling unit.
According to Yiaga Africa, “INEC must show utmost professionalism in election administration and ensure timely, effective tact, and secure the deployment of its staff, materials (sensitive and non-sensitive) and other resources needed for the election to enable early commencement of polls.”
Yiaga Africa urged INEC to ensure transparency in the management of cancellation of votes and determination of the margin of lead in line with extant electoral laws. Uniformity of processes and consistency in applying its guidelines should also be maintained across all polling units and local government
He said: “INEC should ensure proper coordination with security agencies for the effectiveness and safety of personnel and materials deployment. This includes ensuring the safe delivery of personnel and materials after the election.
“INEC ad hoc staff must ensure that polling units are located in areas accessible to all voters, especially PWDs, to avoid disproportionately disenfranchising voters or limit their rights to participate in the election.”
Yiaga Africa also charged security agencies to maintain the utmost levels of neutrality and professionalism in enforcing election day security, insisting that They must respect the law and citizen’s constitutional and civic rights and refrain from excessive force.
The group urged political parties, candidates, and their supporters to show commitment to electoral accountability by respecting the rules governing the conduct of the elections and refrain from employing violence to win the election at all cost. “Parties should continue to call on their supporters to shun every form of violence,” the group stated.
On the citizens, Yiaga Africa said voters should be encouraged to show up at the polling unit and cast their votes in a peaceful manner as elections are decided by those who come out to vote.