A coalition of domestic and international election observers accredited to monitor the July 14 governorship poll in Ekiti state have declared that the exercise, which produced Dr. Kayode Fayemi of the All Progressives Congress, APC, as governor-elect, fell below global standards.
Addressing newsmen at a hotel in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital, yesterday, they insisted that last Saturday’s governorship election was short of global best practices and electoral standards owing to lapses in the manner a section of the large deployment of security agents conducted themselves, among other electoral related challenges.
The observers comprised representatives from over 50 domestic organisations, human rights groups and international election observing bodies, some of which are Centre for Credible Leadership and Citizens Awareness, (Nigeria), Justice and Equity Organisation, (Nigeria), International Republican Institute (South Africa), and Patriotic Women Foundation, (Abuja) as well as the other bodies from the European Union, among others.
They however praised the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for proper conduct of the poll, in line with global and constitutional dictates and standards, but faulted the deployment of 30,000 security agents, insisting that such development and conduct of some of the security operatives largely marred the electoral process.
The observers insisted that the unwholesome practice of voting-buying tagged ‘see and buy’ in local parlance, where voters surreptitiously showed which party they voted for to party agents who would then ‘settle them,’ ballot box snatching, sporadic shootings and sending away of some party agents as well as intimidation, oppression and forceful influence of electorates’ free will, among others, were among anomalies which characterised the poll.
The observers concluded that the July 14 poll cannot be recommended as a template for the forthcoming 2019 general election as it falls short of global standards and spells doom for the nation if the lapses noted are not addressed and a re-orientation, across board, is put in place.
Addressing newsmen on behalf of domestic observers, Dr. Gabriel Nwambu, of the Centre for Credible Leadership and Citizens Awareness, Abuja, said: “Modern democracy guarantees the freedom of the electorate to determine who to vote. Anything against this is an usurpation. Polls should also comply with globally accepted standards hence, the observers’ job is to access the level of compliance of the electoral umpire to constitutional regulations which serve as a way to give direction for future exercise.
“Reports of observers remain a potential tool for election tribunals and other monitoring and relevant bodies for post-election activities.
“Fifty-one reputable domestic observer groups were on ground in all the 177 wards, 16 Local Government Areas and all the polling units in the state, to monitor the poll.
“Ekiti has a record of being a serial politically volatile state in Nigeria and this became manifest before during and after the poll.
“On July 14, domestic observers witnessed large turnout of the electorate from 6:30am, earlier than the stipulated 8:00am. The exercise witnessed a high level of unprecedented electoral related challenges and as such, abuse will remain contentious until justice prevails, especially in the areas of cash inducement, arrests of political stalwarts by security agents and snatching of electoral materials by political thugs among other abuses.”
The observer cited some units and wards in Aramoko, Ekiti West Local Government Area and Efon Alaaye, Erungbua settlement, Efon Local Government Area where there were large numbers of accredited voters. He added that while many electorate, including pregnant women, Persons Living with Disabilities and aged people trooped out to vote, card readers were slow, while voting-buying and cash inducement held sway.
“Finger biometric capture was slow. Party stewards were indicating to voters where to thumb print. Poll was delayed due to slow pace of machines.
“Party agents had huge cash and were close to voting points. Security agents were indifferent to cash inducement of voters.
“The whole process falls short of the compliance with international best standards.”
Speaking in the same vein, one of the International observers, Mrs. Virginia Marumoa-Gae, of the International Republican Institute (IRIS) in South Africa, noted that accreditation and voting began simultaneously as early as 6:00am, with large numbers of voters who arrived earlier than scheduled 8:00am.
She said trouble began at 11:00am when “see and buy” started and this caused chaos across all the wards and polling units.
Citing several anomalies in the poll, she said: “Voters showed their ballot papers to party agents to collect money; thugs disrupted voting process by shooting, but the police and other attaching security agents did well by establishing their presence at the polling units as stipulated by the constitution. We also noted that the INEC has improved on card readers this time,” she submitted.
Continuing, Marumoa-Gae, said Ekiti people largely conducted themselves in a peaceful way but noted that, in other areas, there were vote-buying, use of illiterate as party agents, psychologically conditioning of the electorate that election is do or die and proper education of participants should be addressed ahead of the 2019 poll to avoid democratic disaster.
Also, Mrs. Yemisi Ige, of the Patriotic Women Foundation, a human rights organisation based in Abuja, noted that while INEC did its best within the framework of electoral regulations, conspicuous lapses in security caused many of the anomalies that greeted the poll.
She said: “The July 14 election was full of human rights violations, political party agents arrest, disruption of polls leading to cancellation of polls results,” and added that the deployment of 30, 000 policemen was unwarranted as “it scared some voters away and is a clear case of violation of humans rights which disenfranchised voters as those who voted were either induced or forced to vote a certain party and made the poll to fall short of global standards.”
Nwambu, while concluding his report, said: “The poll fell short of the threshold of international standards as it was based on vote buying, it will be a disaster to recommend the poll for 2019, but INEC did a good job by conducting the poll in line with best global standards, but they are not the security the challenge what gave rise to the shortcomings is due to security lapses. There should be a reorientation as this development spells doom for Nigeria ahead of 2019.”