By Angela Atabo
Yiaga Africa, a Civil Society Organisation, has raised concerns over inducement of voters ahead of Oct. 10, Ondo governorship election.
Mr Samson Itodo, Executive Director, Yiaga Africa said this in a statement on Wednesday Abuja.
Itodo said that as political activities gather momentum ahead of the election, Yiaga Africa Watching The Vote was observing the political environment and conduct of political stakeholders as part of its Pre-Election Observation.
He said that the campaigns have been dominated by the incumbent Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu, of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and his rival, Mr Eyitayo Jegede, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
“The findings in this first reporting phase reveal heightened levels of political intrigues, counter strategies and violence.
“Ahead of the Election Day, political parties and candidates have resorted to inducing voters with cash gifts and food items in a bid to secure their support.
“Yiaga Africa LTOs observed cases of voter inducement during campaign activities in Akoko South-West, Akure South, Akoko South-East, Akoko North-West, Ifedore and Odigbo Local Government Areas (LGAs).
“While Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has shown commitment and readiness for the election, key contenders and political actors have advanced narratives that forewarn of breakdown of law and order including alleged threats to deploy state and non-state instruments of force and armed violence.’’
Itodo said that this could affect the efficiency and credibility of electoral management processes if not curtailed.
He said that for instance, the destruction of 5,000 Smart Card Readers under a questionable fire incident at the INEC office in Akure on Sept. 10, was considered an attempt to scuttle the commission’s preparations and undermine its ability to conduct the poll.
He said that Yiaga Africa is concerned that the election may become a replay of undesirable events given the attitude of some political gladiators in the state.
He said that the group observed that as part of preparations for the election, INEC was visibly conducting voter education, recruitment and training of election officials and stakeholder engagement.
He said that Yiaga Africa LTOs reported incidences of violent verbal and physical attacks, vandalism and destruction of property, attacks and intimidation of political opponents from different LGAs.
He said that the LGAs with a high incidence and indicators of violence included -Akure South, Akoko South-East, Idanre, Owo and Akoko South West.
“Specific cases of voter inducement were reported in Akoko South West, Akure South, Akoko South-East, Akoko North West, Ifedore and Odigbo LGAs,” he said.
Itodo said that some key findings included rising wave of pre-election violence that trailed campaigns, assault on the freedom of association and expression of citizens and proliferation of small and light arms.
He said that non-inclusive participation of the marginalised groups of women, youths and persons living with disabilities was apparent as only one party nominated a female candidate and this widened the political inequality gap in the state.
Itodo said that Yiaga Africa urged INEC to collaborate with other stakeholders to de-escalate the rising political tension and violence by signing peace accord or pact between the candidates for the election.
He urged INEC to sustain the use of the election results viewing portal and ensure timely post of the Form EC 8 A at the polling units.
“ Also, INEC should post information on polling unit where elections were cancelled or PUs where elections didn’t hold on the results viewing portal.
“ INEC should collaborate with the Presidential Task Force and State Task Force to ensure strict compliance with COVID-19 guidance enunciated in its policy on voting amidst COVID-19 and other health safety protocols, “he said.
Itodo said Yiaga Africa advised security agencies to curtail proliferation of arms and use of firearms and other weapons and ensure appropriate sanctions for those implicated in thuggery and violence.
He also urged political parties and candidates to subject themselves to public scrutiny on their campaigns manifestoes through debates, town halls, and direct public engagement.
He said yiaga Africa called on citizens to work with security agencies by reporting incidents or threats of violence, or perpetrators of violence while exhibiting a high sense of responsibility by complying with health safety guidelines.