A coalition of domestic and international election observers accredited to observe last Saturday’s Ekiti governorship election on Tuesday highlighted some weaknesses of the exercise, while at the same time praised the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC).
The observers praised INEC for the proper conduct of the poll in line with global and constitutional dictates and standards.
However, they criticised the deployment of over 30,000 security agents for the exercise. They said the conduct of some of the security operatives largely marred the electoral process.
The observers said that the election fell short of global best practices and electoral standards.
The observers, comprising representatives from over 50 domestic organisations, human rights groups and international election monitoring groups, condemned the deployment of security agents for the poll, among other irregularities.
Some of the observer bodies include Centre for Credible Leadership and Citizens Awareness, (Nigeria), Justice and Equity Organisation, (Nigeria), International Republican Institute (South Africa), and Patriotic Women Foundation, (Abuja) as well as the other bodies from the African Union among others.
According to them, vote buying, where voters showed which party they voted to party agents who went behind to settle them, ballot box snatching, sporadic shootings and driving away of some party agents as well as intimidation, oppression and forceful influence of electorates’ free will, were among the anomalies that characterised the poll.
The observers held that the July 14 poll cannot be recommended as a template for the forthcoming 2019 general elections as it fell short of global standards.
Dr.Gabriel Nwambu, of the Centre for Credible Leadership and Citizens Awareness, Abuja, said: ” Modern democracy guarantees freedom of electorate to determine who to vote, saying anything against this was an usurpation of their right.
” Polls also should comply with globally accepted standards, hence observers’ job is to assess the level of compliance of electoral umpire to constitutional regulations which serve as a way to give direction for future exercise
“Reports of observers remain a potential tool for election tribunals and other monitoring and relevant bodies for post election activities. Fifty one reputable domestic observer groups were on ground in all the 177 wards, 16 Local Government Areas and all the polling units in the state to monitor the poll.
” Ekiti has a record of being a serial politically volatile state in Nigeria and this became manifest before during and after the poll
” On July 14, domestic observers witnessed large turnout of the electorate from 6:30 am, earlier than the stipulated time of 8:am
” The exercise witnessed a high level of unprecedented electoral related challenges. Such abuse will remain contentious until justice prevails, especially in the areas of cash inducement, arrests of political stalwarts by security agents and snatching of electoral materials by political thugs among other abuses.”
The observer cited some units and wards in Aramoko, Ekiti West Local Government Area , and Efon Alaye, Erungbua settlement, Efon Local Government Area in which there were large numbers of accredited voters.
He observed that while many voters, including pregnant women, Persons Living with Disabilities and aged people trooped out to vote, card readers were slow, voting buying and cash inducement held sway.
“Finger biometric capture was slow. Party stalwarts were indicating to voters where to thumb print. Poll was delayed due to slow pace of machines.
” Party agents had huge cash and were close to voting points. Security agents were indifferent to cash inducement of voters. The whole process falls short of the compliance with international best standards”, he said
One of the International observers, Mrs. Virginia Marumoa-Gae, of the International Republican Institute (IRIS) in South Africa, noted that accreditation and voting began simultaneously as early as 6 a.m on Saturday, July 14, with large numbers of voters who arrived earlier than the scheduled 8 a.m.
She said trouble began at 11 a.m when vote buying started and this caused chaos across all the wards and polling units.
” Voters showed their ballot papers to party agents to collect money, thugs disrupted voting process by shooting, but the police and other attaching security agents did well by establishing their presence at the polling units as stipulated by the constitution
” We also noted that the INEC has improved on card readers this time,” she said.
Marumoa-Gae said Ekiti people largely conducted themselves in a peaceful way, but noted with others that areas such as the use of money to buy votes, use of illiterate as party agents, psychological conditioning of the electorate that election is do or die and proper education of participants should be addressed ahead of the 2019 poll.
Also speaking, Mrs. Yemisi Ige of the Patriotic Women Foundation, a human rights organisation based in Abuja, noted that while INEC did its best within the framework of electoral regulations, conspicuous lapses in security caused many of the anomalies that greeted the poll.
She said: ” The July 14 was full of human rights violations, political party agents arrest, disruption of polls leading to cancellation of polls results.
She added that the deployment of 30, 000 policemen was unwarranted as it scared some voters away and is a clear case of violation of humans rights.
Ige alleged that the development disenfranchised many voters as those who voted were either induced or forced to vote a certain party and made the poll to fall short of best global practices.