Ahead of the Edo state governorship election scheduled for September 19, there are reports of Voters cards being purchased across the state
In its first pre-election observation report, YIAGA Africa, a civil society organisation, raised several concerns and identified 13 out of the 18 local government areas in the state as hotspots where disruption of voting exercise might occur.
According to YIAGA communication officer, Moshood Isah, Yiaga Africa deployed long term observers
throughout the state to observe the pre-election environment and to monitor government responses
to COVID-19 in each of the 18 Local Government Areas (LGAs).
This pre-election observation also includes violence monitoring as part of an early warning system designed to prevent electoral violence and track the prevalence of human rights violations, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic
“Reports from our LTOs (Long Term Observers) suggest that the spate of violence and insecurity in the pre-election period may discourage voters from turning up to vote on election day,” the report read.
“WTV (Watching the Vote) LTOs reported the distribution of money or gift items by politicians and their supporters in all the LGAs except Uhunmwode, Akoko Edo, Etsako West, and Etsako East LGAs, while buying PVCs was recorded in Esan Central, Oredo, Orhionmwon, Ikpoba/Okha, and Igueben LGAs.”
Yiaga Africa observed the following early warning signs of violence in several LGAs; Physical violence towards women at campaign rallies in Etsako Central LGA, Vandalism or the destruction of property belonging to a candidate or his/her supporters in Oredo, Orhionmwon, Igueben, Etsako Central, Esan North East,Ikpoba/Okha, Egor and Esan South East LGAs), Candidate inciting or encouraging his/her supporters to commit acts of violence in Oredo, Orhionmwon, Igueben, Ikpoba/Okha, Egor and Esan Central LGAs), Individuals or groups gathering small arms or light weapons (Ikpoba/Okha, Oredo,
and Orhionmwon LGAs), and recruitment of thugs or militia groups (Ikoba/Oko, Oredo, Orhionmwon, Ikpoba/Okha, and Egor local government areas.
YIAGA Africa also noted that campaigns have shifted from issues to personalities, characterised by verbal and physical attacks, identity-based violence, and hate-speech rhetoric.
It said the two dominant parties — Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) — in the governorship race are guilty of violent rhetoric, hate speech, vandalism, and violence, adding that cult groups have also repositioned themselves as tools to be deployed in causing chaos during the polls.
“The competition has been reduced to a contest between personalities as opposed to issue-based campaigns. The WTV long term observers reported incidences of violent verbal and physical attacks, identity-based violence, and hate-speech rhetoric as campaign strategies employed by both parties for campaigns,” it read.
“The observers also reported the repositioning of cult groups as political merchandise for the election in some LGAs. While INEC activities for the election have commenced in earnest in some LGAs, observers reported that INEC is conducting very little voter education, especially on the new Voter’s Code of Conduct for Elections during COVID-19. In addition, observers reported sexual and gender-based violence in some of the LGAs in the state.
The report further read, “the state is also witnessing a surge in cult groups’ activities, especially in Ikpoba/Okha, Oredo, Orhionmwon, and Owan West LGAs. This is mainly attributable to an entrenched subculture of violence built around well-known strongmen, thugs, touts, gangsters, and cultists on the one hand, and the widespread belief that elections cannot be won – or smooth governance guaranteed – without strong-arm tactics and the support of powerful thugs.
“The situation is direr because of the proliferation of small arms and other weapons, which is evident in the free use of firearms at campaign venues.”
The organisation recommended that security agencies put adequate measures in place towards achieving a peaceful election in Edo.
It called on INEC to take concrete steps to address the perceptions of its lack of independence, impartiality, and professionalism.
“This will include proactive disclose of election-related information, consistency in the application of electoral guidelines, and transparency in the results collation process.” It said