- Urges INEC, security agencies, traditional rulers, national peace committee to curtail violence
By Chuks Okocha
Given the pervasive threat to safety and security in the coming October 10 governorship election in Ondo state , a civil society coalition group, the Yiaga Africa has urged the federal and state government to desist from partisan use of the police and security forces to manipulate the electoral process.
The civil society group said that there was a wave of under reported violence going on in Ondo state, especially the incidence of verbal and physical attacks and vandalilism in Akure South, Akoko South-East, Idanre, Owo and Akoko South West local government areas of the state.
According to the report signed by the Executive Director of Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo, “At the beginning of political campaigns, Yiaga Africa observers reported incidents of physical violence and verbal attacks trailing political party campaigns. At least one incident of physical and/or verbal attacks during political party rallies, meetings and campaigns occurred in Akoko South-West, Akure South, Idanre, Owo and Akoko South-East LGA. In addition, there were reports of vandalism/destruction of properties such as cars, belonging to candidates and/or supporters, by perceived opponents.”
The group said that specific cases of voter inducement were reported in Akoko South West, Akure South, Akoko South-East, Akoko North West, Ifedore and Odigbo LGAs, where only “39% (1,822,346) of the entire population are registered to vote, a good number of registered voters 1,478,460 (81.1%) have collected their PVCs. This implies that only about 31.6% of the populations are eligible to participate in this year’s governorship poll. Since 2011, voter turnout has not exceeded 35% in Ondo state”.
For instance, Yiaga Africa said, “A supporter of ZLP wearing a ZLP face cap was also macheted to death in Idanre by political thugs. Political thugs also attacked and injured supporters of the PDP in what appears to be a coordinated attack in Owo LGA. Yiaga Africa findings that most of the victims and perpetrators of the attacks and intimidation belong to the APC and PDP.”
In the statement, Yiaga Africa, urged INEC to collaborate with other stakeholders like the National Peace Committee, traditional/religious institutions, security agencies, media, and CSOs to de-escalate the rising political tension and violence by signing peace accord or pact between the candidates for the election
According to Yiaga Africa, “INEC should sustain the use of the election results viewing portal and ensure timely post of the Form EC 8 A at the polling units. Also, INEC should post information on polling unit where elections were cancelled or PUs where elections didn’t hold on the results viewing portal.
“INEC should collaborate with the Presidential Task Force and State Task Force to ensure strict compliance with COVID-19 guidance enunciated in INEC policy on voting amidst COVID-19 and other health safety protocols. Polling officials should be required to undergo COVID-19 testing before and after the election. Public engagement on new health protocols and Voters Code of Conduct should be intensified across LGAs and communities”, Yiaga Africa counselled. .
Yiaga Africa urge INEC to take concrete steps to address the perceptions of its lack of independence, impartiality, and professionalism, explaining that this will include proactive disclosure of election-related information, consistency in the application of electoral guidelines, and transparency in the results collation process.
The group called for the curtailment of proliferation and use of firearms and other weapons and ensure appropriate sanctions for those implicated in thuggery and violence as well as employing preventive measures to neutralize existing security threats in Ondo state to enable the voters to exercise their constitutional right to vote in a peaceful and secure environment.
Also, Yiaga Africa called for improved inter-agency collaboration and cooperation to forestall rivalry and unhealthy competition in the management of election security, while political parties and candidates should conduct issue-based campaigns rather than engage in voter inducement and recruitment of thugs and cultists for violence.
According to Yiaga Africa’s Executive Director, “political parties and candidates should subject themselves to public scrutiny on their campaigns manifestoes through debates, town halls, and direct public engagement.
“Political parties should conduct voter education on INEC’s policy on voting amidst COVID-19 as part of their role in increasing voter turnout in elections”, the statement stated.
It also called on the Citizens to work with security agencies by reporting incidents or threats of violence, or perpetrators of violence, while urging voters to exhibit a high sense of responsibility by complying with health safety guidelines before, during, and after the election, explaining that this will reduce the prevalence rate of COVID-19 infections in the state.