…Thumbs Up INEC For Timely Commencement of Polls
…Hails Citizens For Defending Sanctity of Vote
…Flays Vote Buying By Major Parties
By Témitope Adedeji, Akure
The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has released the preliminary findings of its observation of the Saturday’s governorship election in Ondo State.
The CDD Director, Idayat Hassan, presented the Centre’s report at a news conference in Akure, the Ondo State capital.
The group highlighted a number of laudable developments, as well as challenges, which characterised the electoral process.
On the encouraging side of things, the CDD outlined the generally timely arrival of INEC to the polling across the state. The group however pointed out that the positive effect the early arrival would have had on the process was affected by the morning rains, which disrupted voting, and upended the resolve to adhere to COVID-19 protocols.
The group said: “Our observation of the effectiveness of logistics deployment for the election indicated a general trend of timeliness in the arrival of officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). CDD commends INEC for going the whole hog to ensure materials arrived early at most of the polling units. In general INEC officials and security agents arrived most of the Polling Unit across between the hour of 7am and 8am.”
CDD also pointed out that towards the end of voting there was an upsurge in attacks targeted at INEC officials. “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 Registration Area Centres 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.”
Despite the challenges encountered in the process, CDD reserved praise for voters across Ondo State, whom it noted demonstrated resilience to exercise their franchise and in many cases defend the sanctity of the ballot in very challenging conditions.
“CDD observers documented cases in which voters insisted on going ahead with the process in the rain. In Ose LGA, despite the heavy rain, voters defied the weather to exercise their franchise. In Akure North LGA, materials arrived on time, but the rain held up the process, and officials attempted to move voting to an enclosed space.
“This move was however resisted by voters. CDD commends the resilient disposition of voters and their resolve to protect the sanctity of the vote. In Ward 5, Polling Unit 07, Akure South LGA, observers reported that the accreditation and voting process was going on smoothly, until it began to rain. Even though no canopies were available to provide shelter, party agent, and several voters remained under the rain to keep a close watch on the ballot box alongside security personnel and INEC officials.”
On the issue of vote buying, the Centre highlighted positive trends where voters resisted attempts by political actors to induce them to sell their votes. “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 wished 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.”
Notwithstanding these few exemplary cases where citizens pushed back against vote buying, CDD lamented that political actors still devised structured ways to engage in vote buying. “We 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 found tactic is to create outposts where voters can go to collect cash after providing they voted for the vote buying party.”
Other vote buying trends as highlighted in the preliminary reported includes earmarking of bulk sums ranging from N150,000 to N600,000 for each polling unit across the LGA. The group said during the election, the monies handed were distributed to popular figures, especially leaders of youth groups to share to voters in their areas. “Our observers reported that party agents largely stayed away from coordinating vote buying. 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,” the group said.