Raises alarm over possible outbreak of violence
Set to deploy 28 roving observers in 5 States
By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
An election observer, Yiaga Africa, Friday, ahead of bye-election across the six geopolitical zones of the country, scored the Independent National Electoral Commission’s preparedness on average while it predicted low voter turnout.
This was contained in a pre-election report signed by Director of Progamme, Yiaga Africa, Cynthia Mbamalu, where the report indicated some observations on the pre-election environment including an average level of preparation by INEC and some campaign activities carried out by major political parties in the constituencies. Notably, Bakura Local Government Area in Zamfara state has witnessed some level of voter education and campaigns ahead of the State Constituency election.
Similarly, INEC has conducted stakeholders’ engagement with political parties, security, and observers to update the commission’s readiness to conduct the polls; INEC Preparedness for the Bye-Elections: INEC has demonstrated readiness to conduct the bye-elections across the eleven states.
The commission successfully implemented key preparatory activities ahead of the elections within the scheduled time, such as publication of notice for the election, stakeholder’s briefing, training of ad-hoc staff, and distribution of election observation kits. Similarly, Yiaga Africa also received reports of deployment of sensitive and non-sensitive materials to all locations where elections will hold.
Pre-election violence: Yiaga Africa notes cases of pre-election violence and threats to destabilize the elections in some LGAs, especially Bakura LGA in Zamfara state where political thugs assaulted Yiaga Africa LGA supervisor.
Campaigns by Political Parties: The All Progressive Congress (APC) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) dominate the campaigns in the buildup to the election, especially in Bakura-Zamfara State, Dass, Ekeremor, Sagbama, Kolokuma/Opokuma, Southern Ijaw, Yenagoa LGAs all in Bayelsa State. An average of 14 parties is on the ballot for the bye-elections.
Late Hour judicial pronouncements: There’s a cloud of uncertainty and confusion occasioned by late hour judicial pronouncements on pre-election cases challenging the eligibility of candidates and credibility of primaries conducted by some parties in some states. For instance, it remains unclear who the candidate of the APC in the Imo North senatorial district following the Court of Appeal ruling on December 4, 2020, disqualifying the candidate submitted to INEC.
Low Voter Turnout: Yiaga Africa projects low voter turnout owing to diminishing public interest in the process and low voter-education, voter mobilization, and publicity by INEC, political parties, and electoral stakeholders in the respective states.
Youth and Women Candidacy in the Bye-election: At least 35 young people under the age of 35 and 16 female candidates were fielded by political parties to contest the election. This signals an improvement in youth and women’s candidacy in elections. Except for the APC, all the parties in the election fielded young candidates.
The report reads in part, “Yiaga Africa has deployed citizens election observers to observe the rescheduled bye-elections scheduled for Saturday December 5, 2020 in six senatorial districts; (Bayelsa Central, Bayelsa West, Imo North, Plateau South, Cross-River North, and Lagos East Senatorial District) and nine state constituencies (Kosofe II State Constituency in Lagos state, Nganzai and Bayo State Constituencies in Borno, Bakori State Constituency in Katsina state, Bakura state constituency in Zamfara, Isu Uzo state constituency in Enugu state, Ibaji State constituency in Kogi, Obudu State Constituency in Cross Rivers state and Dass State Constituency in Bauchi state). The bye-elections will hold in 5,856 polling units spread across 34 Local Government Areas in eleven states. Three million nine hundred and ninety-three thousand, two hundred and seventy-two (3,993,272) registered voters are expected to participate in the polls.
“INEC should maintain a high level of integrity and transparency in managing the election. The deployment of the INEC Results View Portal (IReV) should be maintained in view of its capacity to deepen the integrity of the results collation.
“INEC should ensure strict compliance and uniformity in the application of the electoral law and guidelines. Also, effective logistics management inspires trust in INEC; as such, INEC should ensure early deployment of personnel and materials and strengthen oversight/supervision on Election Day.
“Yiaga Africa calls on security agencies, especially the Police, to be on the alert and ensure the deployment of security personnel to forestall any attempt to circumvent the election using violence and intimidation.
“Security personnel deployed for the election should conduct themselves with the utmost sense of responsibility, professionalism, and impartiality.
“Yiaga Africa calls on all contesting political parties to abide by the rules governing the conduct of elections and admonish their supporters to refrain from acts that could jeopardize the process or destabilize public peace.”
Meanwhile, the organization in its report called on voters in the 34 LGAs where elections will be conducted to come out in their numbers and elect a representative of their preference.
“Eligible voters should go out and exercise their franchise, knowing that their votes matter and their votes will count”, it added.
In the meantime, the report also disclosed that Yiaga Africa will deploy 28 duly trained and accredited Watching the Vote (WTV) roving observers to observe the conduct of the bye-elections in the affected polling units and LGAs in Imo, Plateau, Cross River, Lagos, and Zamfara States.
“Yiaga Africa citizens observers will be in at least 140 polling units in the five states. The 28 roving observers are expected to visit a minimum of 5 polling units each and report on the conduct of the process.
“The WTV observers will observe the entire election day process from the polling units’ setup, accreditation, voting, announcement, and posting of the official results and will send in periodic reports to the Watching the Vote Data Centre where they will be processed, analyzed, and shared with the public”, it explained.
However, the report clearly stated that, “Yiaga Africa is not deploying the Parallel Votes Tabulation (PVT) Methodology for the bye-elections.”