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Today, voters across the 18 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Ondo State went to the polls to elect a Governor. The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) through its dedicated Election Analysis Centre (EAC) has been keeping a close eye on the conduct of the poll and the level of adherence to key processes critical to ensuring a free, fair and credible election.
CDD’s efforts through the EAC is to use non-partisan citizen observation of the electoral process to ensure the vote reflect the express democratic preferences of the electorate in Ondo State. In reaching the initial conclusions in this preliminary statement, CDD collated reports from our trained and accredited group of nonpartisan observers.
This preliminary statement provides an overview of our initial findings on the conduct of the election, and the extent to which poll officials, voters, and security officials and other stakeholders in the process adhered to crucial processes, extant laws and regulatory guidelines governing the conduct of the poll.
INEC Logistics and Conduct of Process
CDD observed an improved deployment of logistics by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
There was timely arrival of materials, and officials. Our observers reported the availability of all necessary sensitive and non-sensitive materials, which include; the for EC 60B, EC60 (B), EC 30A, hand sanitizer, cubicle box, ballot paper, card reader, stamp pad, liquid gum indelible markers sealed boxes Smart Card Reader and other materials across polling units.
However, the positive effect, of the early arrival of poll officials was seriously affected by the morning rain in several LGAs in the state. The rain occasioned disruption in the voting process, and compromised the secrecy of the vote. This was the case in LGAs, including Owo, Ose, Akoko South, and Akure North.
It is heartwarming that in some instances, voters insisted on continuing with the exercise in spite of the rain.
In Ose LGA, despite the heavy rain, voters defied the weather to exercise their franchise. In Ward 5, Polling Unit 07, Akure South LGA, our observers reported that in spite of no canopies provided for shelter, party agent, and voters remained under the rain to keep a close watch on the ballot box alongside security personnel and INEC officials.
CDD commends the resilient disposition of voters and their resolve to protect the sanctity of the vote.
The elections also recorded instances of voters being unable to exercise their franchise, however most of the voters affected were largely those who transferred of registration to a new station.
As the time of reporting CDD has been receiving reports of attacks targeted at INEC staff and personnel. In Akure South LGA, CDD observers reported cases of hoodlums chasing away RAC technicians.
If RAC techs are chased out of the polling units and prevented form carrying out their duties, it compromises the transparency of the process because the upload of results unto the INEC Results Viewing Platform.
The same RAC techs are the ones who have the responsibility to maintain Smart Card Readers. Preventing them from doing their duty also creates problems in the area of maintaining card readers, which develop fault in the course of the election.
These and similar incidents occurred in Ward 05, PU 008, Odigbo LGA, Arogbo II, PU 001, Ward 7, Ese Odo LGA, Ward 06, PU 007, Ward 02 PU 16 in Idanre LGA, and Ward 4 PU 09, 11, 12 and 13, Ilaje LGA.
Our observers reported an average deployment of security agents numbering between 4 to 8 at each polling Unit.
They include men and women of the Nigeria Police, Customs Service, Immigration, Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps. Observers reported that officers were courteous, but there are instances where the security agents looked away as vote buying occurred in local governments across the state.
One positive trend with respect to vote buying in the Ondo State Governorship election is the observation of voters pushing back against the anomaly of vote buying. CDD observers documented instances in which voters revolted against political actors trying to induce them to sell their vote.
This was documented in Idanre (Ward 3, PU 6; Ward 8, PU 1,2 and 3; and Ward 5 PU 1). In all those cases, voters insisted they wish to vote for person of their choice; there was a debate, and some were of the opinion that the money should be collected while the voters should vote their conscience.
In the end majority of voters rejected money and chased the voter buyers away from the Polling Unit. All these, CDD observers reported, happened in the presence of security personnel.
CDD observed a consistent pattern of vote buying, wherein those engaged in this electoral offence adopted tactics to induce voters, while evading the watch of security officials and election observers. CDD observers documented attempts by political actors to outspend one another by making available large sums disbursed to community leaders for onward distribution to voters.
CDD observation showed that where in the past the modus operandi has been to distribute cash discreetly at points close to the polling unit, the new tactic is to create outposts where voters can go to collect cash after showing evidence that they voted for the party.
In the Ondo governorship election, there was the trend wherein bulk sums ranging from N150,000 to N600,000 were earmarked for each polling unit across the LGA and handed over to popular figures, especially youth groups to share to voters in their areas.
In the Ondo State Governorship election there was also the vote buying tactic of making electronic cash transfers to the voter after proving he or she voted for the relevant party. Our observers reported that party agents largely stayed away from coordinating vote buying. In Ward 11, Polling Unit 021, Akure South LGA, CDD observed that political parties designated someone, who is not a party agent, but appears to be neutral to direct voters to an outpost where cash could be distributed.
In several instances, disagreement between vote buyers and sellers caused altercation. CDD observers reported tension at Oke Aro, Polling Unit 6, when the money for the vote buying did not go round, thereby upsetting a voter who had cast his ballot for the buying party. In polling unit 005, Akoko South, observers reported party agents openly inducing voters.
CDD observers similarly noted instances where voters on their own displayed their ballots to assure a particular party agent they have cast their ballot for the party.
Disregard for COVID-19 Protocols
Compared to the Edo election, INEC made improved efforts in implementing the COVID 19 protocols. In some polling units, there were use of infrared thermometer, methylated spirit and hand sanitizer.
However the use of 2 tier queue system was not adhered across observed polling unit. Some voters used face masks but in general there was complete disregard for COVID 19 protocols. CDD has reached the conclusion that the blatant disregard for COVID-prevention protocol is a societal problem caused by the belief that the virus should not be as dreaded as it has been said to be.
This resulted in a general non-compliance to key protocols for preventing further spread of the novel Corona Virus. In the exceptional cases where compliance was observed, it was limited mainly to the wearing of face masks.
Electoral Violence and Offences
CDD observation also recorded pockets of violence during the election; these incidents were however not widespread enough to undermine the quality of the election.
For instance, CDD observers reported an outbreak of violence in Ijomu Polling Unit 7 where a voter was attacked with a machete, and badly cut before law enforcement agents arrived at the scene. The bigger problem with respect to this particular incident is that the law enforcement officers did not attempt to fish out, and bring the perpetrators of that particular attack to book.
CDD observers informed that the incident created panic and led to many voters fleeing the polling unit, as they believed there would be no security on ground to protect them in the case of attacks by hoodlums.
There were also instances of hoodlums defying the ban in vehicular movement to unleash mayhem and intimidate voters. CDD observers reported on cases of party agents canvassing to assist elderly or disabled voters to vote.
There were also observer reports detailing attempts to use another voter’s Permanent Voter’s Card, as well as the impersonation of a party agent.
Fake News and Misinformation
In the course of the election, CDD fact checkers monitored cyberspace to counter fake news and other false narratives with a view to countering them. A number of fake news were successfully debunked by CDD dedicated team of fact checkers. Misinformation claiming particular party candidates had withdrawn from the race were common on Election Day. This was not doubt targeted at deceiving the voters who wanted to cast their ballot for the targeted candidate. There was also fake news claiming the death of people at specific polling unit, and further asserting that prominent figures were injured in the alleged attack. CDD successfully fact checked and debunked these claims, and will continue to do so, as voting ends, and the process moves on to result collation.
CDD Methodology For The Observation
CDD methodology for the observation of the election is in line with core principles of non-partisan election observation as enshrined in extant national laws, guidelines, and international best practices.
The CDD EAC deployment plan is based on a purposive sampling technique. The EAC selected wards and polling units to be observed based on the situational and political contextual analysis of the State.
Hence, the choice of wards and PUs to be observed was informed by the following consideration: the number of polling unit in a ward relative to other wards in LGA in both States, history of incidents of electoral violence and widespread electoral malpractice in previous elections particularly 2016 off cycle governorship and the 2019 general elections, cases of pre-election violence, and the Local Government Areas and strongholds of key contestants and political parties.
A total of 255 accredited observers are deployed to observe the process.
The Centre, in partnership with media organisations, deployed 30 trained journalists to promptly detect and report fraud and any forms of electoral malfeasance in the election.
They also observed accreditation, voting and collation processes at the polling units, ward collation centres and local government collation centres across the 18 LGAs in the State. At the EAC, we shall continue to provide real-time and rigorous analysis of elections in Nigeria.
The EAC is manned seasoned electoral experts, political analyst, disinformation analysts and media experts.
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