The Impartial Nationwide Electoral Fee (INEC) has fastened the Edo State governorship election for September 19. Assistant Editor LEKE SALAUDEEN writes measures that must be put in place by the company to keep away from violent and inconclusive election.
The folks of Edo State will go to ballot on September 19 to elect a brand new governor to pilot the affairs of the state within the subsequent 4 years.
The ballot guarantees to be one of the crucial keenly contested within the state. Like 2016, the candidates of the 2 dominant events will slug it out, however on totally different political platforms.
For example, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who was the Peoples Democratic Get together (PDP) candidate within the final contest is now operating on the ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC), whereas Governor Godwin Obaseki who was elected on the platform of the APC is the PDP standard-bearer. So, what has modified are the platforms, not the dramatis personae.
Given the volatility of Edo State and the method via which the 2 main contestants emerged, observers are sceptical concerning the capability of the Impartial Nationwide Electoral Fee (INEC) to conduct a violence-free election within the state.
That is in opposition to the backdrop of its expertise in Kogi and Bayelsa governorship held final 12 months. At the very least, 10 folks had been reportedly killed in each states in election-related violence. Already, mobilisations in the direction of the Edo election are already heating up the polity.
Observers are of the view that to conduct a reputable and clear contest in Edo, the fee should keep away from the shortcomings witnessed in Kogi and Bayelsa. They insist INEC has an obligation to reside as much as expectation because it prepares for the ballot.
The credibility of an election begins with a reputable voter’s register. All registered voters ought to be capable to vote with out hindrance.
Analysts say a reputable voters’ register determines the acceptability of the election outcomes. From expertise, many registered voters have been disenfranchised by the INEC.
They had been turned again by polling officers as a result of their names couldn’t be discovered on the voter’s register, even after they current voter’s playing cards issued in the course of the registration.
The fee owes it an obligation to halt the air pollution of the poll field. One-man, one-vote will not be assured when many individuals are excluded from voting as a result of INEC’s lapse.
The observe of the show of voters’ register and verification forward of the election must be reintroduced in Edo. The fee would have ample time to deal with complaints reasonably than wait till the day of the election.
INEC must be strict in monitoring the marketing campaign rallies of political events fielding candidates for the governorship ballot, to make sure they abide by the foundations of the sport.
The Electoral Act stipulates that the electioneering marketing campaign ought to begin three months to the elections. The fee is empowered to watch the rallies to make sure that the campaigns are issue-driven.
However, as an alternative of promoting their programmes to the citizens, politicians use the discussion board to blackmail or run down opponents. The fee can also be anticipated to watch the spending of political events in the course of the campaigns and rallies.
The easiest way to do that is to carefully monitor marketing campaign funds; how they’re raised and spent by the events. The fee is empowered to sanction events that transcend the benchmark.
Electoral violence has additionally turn out to be a characteristic of periodic polls. Thugs and cultists, who’re often armed with subtle weapons past the attain of the police, are sometimes recruited by determined politicians to create panic, molest voters, scare away citizens, invade polling cubicles, snatch poll containers, inflict ache, maim and kill, within the curiosity of the best bidder and in expectation of a fats reward for unleashing terror.
Thus, electoral safety is essential. When safety brokers police the votes democracy will thrive. What has been skilled through the years is that safety males who’re supposed to guard the voters are utilized by determined politicians to intimidate voters within the stronghold of the opposition.
There have been instances the place uniformed males gave cowl to social gathering thugs to grab electoral supplies for thumb printing in hideouts, just for the poll containers to resurface later.
Civil rights activist, Dr Soji Adesanya mentioned that the behaviour of the police and different safety businesses on ballot days often underscore the partisan curiosity of the safety operatives who’re speculated to be impartial.
He mentioned safety brokers are usually not anticipated to intimidate voters, including that their mandate is to take care of regulation and order.
He mentioned: “It’s only in Nigeria that you simply discover safety males carrying weapons throughout elections to intimidate voters. Election day is a day when voters ought to be happy to carry out their civic proper of electing their leaders with out intimidation or molestation.
The electoral umpire must be able to invoke the varied provisions within the structure in opposition to electoral malpractices.
Electoral officers who act in live performance with politicians and the police to commit atrocities in opposition to the poll field must be prosecuted.
“It’s inconceivable for INEC to recruit everlasting workers for elections, therefore the usage of ad-hoc workers. It’s cost-effective. Nevertheless, the fee ought to endeavour to recruit folks of excessive integrity. The Nationwide Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members have been very helpful on this regard.
However the fee ought to organise in-house coaching for them, two weeks earlier than the election, in order that they’ll perceive the election process, timing and operation of card reader machines.”
Expertise has proven that a few of the ad-hoc workers study on the job, thereby slowing down the voting course of. INEC ought to be sure that the ad-hoc workers allowances are paid promptly.
Some ad-hoc workers had disrupted elections by refusing to maneuver to the assigned polling items due to unpaid allowances.
The late arrival of polling supplies is chargeable for the late graduation of voting. The accreditation of voters is predicted to start out by 8.00 am.
In some instances, polling officers and supplies don’t get to the polling centre till 12 midday. In consequence, accreditation begins hours delayed. Out of frustration, voters usually return dwelling. Within the course of, they’re disenfranchised.
The fee ought to present transport that will convey the polling officers and supplies to their vacation spot to ensure their security and immediate graduation of the voting train.
There is no such thing as a gainsaying the truth that the introduction of the everlasting voter card (PVC) and digital sensible card readers have been a large enchancment within the electoral course of.
This technique of verification has helped in decreasing the incidence of multiple-registration and a number of voting to the barest minimal.
Having been launched in the course of the 2015 basic elections, the cardboard reader is meant to be INEC’s major methodology of accrediting voters throughout elections.
However the digital system nonetheless malfunctions and fails to recognise legitimate voters in numerous polling centres.
The issue was first seen in 2015 when it did not learn voters’ biometric information in polling centres throughout the nation. Essentially the most outstanding case was that of the previous President Goodluck Jonathan.
The fee had assured Nigerians that the sensible card readers is not going to fail once more in the course of the 2019 elections as a result of the units have been upgraded and enhanced previous to the election and located to be failure-proof. However that was not the case as there have been widespread experiences of card reader malfunction.
This included the shortcoming to confirm some voters and in some instances, the cardboard readers didn’t operate in any respect.
This finally hampered the electoral course of by inflicting delays and in some instances, outright disenfranchisement of voters.
These malfunctioning card readers inadvertently triggered delays within the voting course of as a result of the voters needed to be verified manually, utilizing their names and pictures.
This leaves room for electoral fraud and human manipulation, the very issues which the sensible card readers are speculated to fight.
If after 2015 basic elections and several other elections in between the issue of card reader failure are nonetheless being witnessed, it calls to query the credibility of the entire system and the seriousness of INEC as an electoral umpire.
Nevertheless, INEC nonetheless has greater than two months earlier than the Edo governorship election to enhance on these flaws concerning the sensible card readers. Failure to take action might trigger pandemonium on the polling items and thereby disrupt the entire train.
Adesanya mentioned collation and declaration of outcomes are crucial phases within the election course of. He mentioned: “Failure to finish the collation and transmission of leads to a fast, clear and correct method can jeopardise public confidence and the credibility of the elections and can almost definitely impinge on the acceptability of the ultimate consequence by candidates and political events.
“There are conditions when the integrity of a well-run electoral course of is severely compromised throughout collation and declaration of outcomes. Collation and declaration of outcomes are subsequently crucial moments that require correct care and a spotlight.”
The Director of Centre for Democracy Improvement, Ms Idayatu Hassan mentioned the election-monitoring physique noticed over the past basic elections that the ward stage collation is a serious problem within the electoral course of. She mentioned: “It is a crucial vulnerability that receives little home scrutiny or worldwide consideration.
Left unresolved, the widespread issues of collation on the ward stage will proceed to embolden election spoilers, weaken public belief in INEC and undermine the credibility of election outcomes.”
Hassan mentioned some states skilled important issues in the course of the collation course of on the ward-level. These lapses, she added, accounted for 46 per cent of incidents of concern famous by CDD observers in the course of the election.
The scenario, she mentioned, was notably worrisome in Rivers State, the place there have been clashes between political thugs and safety personnel, which quantities to proxy battles between high politicians intent on disrupting the method in a number of collation centres.
She added: “Disruptions of collations on the ward stage, in bid to govern the method to offer political events and their candidates alternatives to dispute the end result and legitimacy of elections, notably in wards the place such was the order of the day.
Such disputes regularly exacerbate political tensions, empower political thugs and even assist gas long-running communal conflicts.”
Adesanya mentioned rigging is often perpetrated in the course of the collation of outcomes. To have a reputable and clear election in Edo, he prompt that “INEC ought to make sure that the collation centres are accessible and secured”. He added: “Solely social gathering brokers must be allowed into the venue.
Solely poll containers accompanied by accredited polling officers and social gathering brokers must be obtained by the collation officers.
The outcomes not signed by all social gathering brokers shouldn’t be accepted. The collation must be finished within the presence of social gathering brokers and the consequence be introduced on the spot.”
On its half, INEC has warned that the place an election is disrupted in Edo and Ondo, the fee is not going to make a declaration on the end result.
The fee’s Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu assured that the fee would take proactive measures in defending the integrity of the electoral course of.
He mentioned the choice was taken in opposition to the backdrop of its expertise in current low season governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa, which had been characterised by violence and electoral violations.
His phrases: “The place the election is disrupted and the fee can not vouch for the integrity of the method, we is not going to go forward to make any declaration. This we’ve instructed the political events point-blank; you both behave for the elections to be concluded in a free and truthful method or we do what the regulation says.
“We’re assembly with all the safety businesses. However what are the proactive measures the fee goes to take, if there’s a replay of what occurred in Bayelsa and Kogi? We are going to shield the integrity of the method.”
Yakubu assured that enough safety can be put in place for each officers and voters consistent with advisories and guideline listed by the Nigeria Centre for Illness Management (NCDC).
The CDD Director additionally known as for sanctions in opposition to political events and people who make efforts to jeopardise the electoral course of.
She mentioned unruly behaviour of politicians and their supporters shouldn’t be condoned. She canvassed for assist for the fee within the space of disaster administration, combating misinformation and dissuading dangerous behaviour.
Hassan additionally urged the worldwide group to assist INEC within the procurement course of to scale back price. She equally enjoined the fee to embark on civic training in adherence to the rules launched by the authorities.