Tony Osauzo, Benin
The Intercontinental Leadership Initiative, one of the 53 observer groups accredited by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to monitor last Saturday’s governorship election in Edo State, has called on the Commission to improve on the integrity of the voting process.
Addressing journalists in Benin City, Country Head of the organisation, Prince Stafford Bisong, faulted the integrity of the poll, saying that during the election his officials across the State’s 18 Local Government Areas noted that non-functional card readers was a cause for concern about he integrity of the election.
The Intercontinental Leadership Initiative also cited the non-display of voters registers five days before the election as prescribed by the Electoral Act, pointing out that in many of the voting centres, registers were pasted 24 hours to the election.
Bisong said that such registers ought to have been displayed on time for eligible voters to know their voting units.
He listed late arrival of election materials in about 80 per cent of polling units, citing Oredo, Ikpoba-Okha and Egor Local Government Areas as examples.
‘We discovered a lot of discrepancies on the field during election and we concluded that there is more to desire in our electoral voting procedure,’ he stated.
‘Both sensitive and non-sensitive materials arrived relatively late in 80 per cent of the polling units, prominent in Oredo, Ikpoba-Okha and Egor.
‘Voting commenced around 1.30 pm in some parts of these polling units.
‘Another one is the issue of voters register. The register was pasted just less than 24 hours to the election and this made it difficult for many to exercise before the poll.
‘We again discovered that the voters’ register was not updated, as a result, this made it impossible for many not to participate in the exercise.
‘Some of these people may have relocated, some died while COVID-19 pandemic may have kept many away.
‘Finally, non-functional card readers as noticed across the State led to the issue of multiple voting in many polling units across the State.
’80 per cent of these card readers malfunctioned as they were not authenticating finger prints of the voters which led to manual use of authentication.’
In spite of the challenges, Bisong said the election was fair and credible because ‘many voters turned out,’ just as he said there was non adherance to the COVID-19 protocols guidelines as released by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The coalition of INEC accredited Civil Society Domestic Election Observers, in its assessment, adjudged the September 19 governorship election in Edo State free, fair, credible and transparent.
Giving its assessment of the election on Monday, the coalition spokesman, Victor Kalu, said the Independent National Electoral Commission ‘meticulously followed its timetable and schedule of activities for the conduct of Edo State Governorship election 2020 to conclusion.
‘We noted with satisfaction that INEC was resolute, prepared and committed to conducting a credible fee and fair governorship election in Edo State, by providing a level playing ground for all the participated political parties in the State and for ensuring timely and even distribution of election materials across the polling units in the in the State for timely commencement of the election.’
The group equally commended INEC for its uncompromising position on strict compliance to use the Smart Card Reader,adding that the device proved to be very effective during the election.
It expressed happiness that the perceived tension and fear of violence during the poll did not materialise, praising the law enforcement agents for being duty conscious and for performing their jobs dispassionately.
The coalition recommended that for a better future elections, strict security check and possible scanning of voters card before entering polling units because of the presence of people who had no business at the polling units being mobilised to go there.
‘INEC, political parties and other stakeholders especially the civil society groups should engage more on civic voter education and mobilisation before every election to improve and encourage impressive voter participation during elections,’ the group recommended.
It commended the people of the State for their maturity during the election and the security agencies, especially the police and the Army, for their impressive professional conducts.
The coalition thanked ‘President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR for his fatherly disposition by not interfering in the Edo governorship election 2020 but remained true to his words of ensuring credible and transparent elections in Nigeria.’