Less than 48 hours to the governorship election in Ondo State, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Thursday began distribution of sensitive materials to the 18 local council areas of the state.
The electoral body also expressed readiness to conduct hitch-free election tomorrow.
INEC officials converged on Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) premises, Alagbaka Akure, to coordinate distribution of electoral materials under the supervision of media professionals, political parties and armed security personnel, who cordoned off the area and disrupted the free flow of traffic.
However, some Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the state have raised the alarm over the alleged involvement of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) members, accusing them of partisanship that might mar the election.
Electoral materials and other items like buckets, mats, toiletries, bags of water and mosquito nets for ad-hoc staff were expected to get to the headquarters of the councils, where party agents, observers, INEC officials and security agents would receive them.
Director of Electoral Operations, INEC Headquarters,
Mr. Abdurazaq Tukur-Yusuf, who superintended over the distribution of sensitive and non-sensitive materials, explained that the sensitive materials comprised ballot papers and result sheets, which were expected to reach the 18 council headquarters yesterday for onward distribution to polling units.
He said certified transport providers were engaged for movement of the sensitive materials and armed security operatives would escort them to the various registration centres.
Tukur-Yusuf disclosed that the properly marked materials, having arrived their respective destinations, would enhance early distribution so that there would not be unnecessary delay in commencement of accreditation and voting on Saturday.
INEC National Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, who was in Akure, at several stakeholders’ meetings, had pledged that the commission would forestall any circumstance that might hinder the success and smooth running of the exercise.
Meanwhile, Yiaga-Africa and Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), at different press conferences, raised the alarm over the potential danger of financial inducement, violence in some areas, low voter turnout and partisanship of NURTW members engaged by INEC to transport election materials.
Co-Chair of Yiaga Watch The Vote (WTV) Group, Dr. Aisha Abdullahi, expressed worry over INEC’s reliance on NURTW members to transport election materials to polling units.
According to her: “In the build-up to the election, some NURTW members were reported to have endorsed some candidates in the election. This puts their integrity and neutrality to question.
“Yiaga Africa fears that partisan and compromised NURTW members will deliberately cause delays in commencement of polls in some local councils by either refusing to deploy or find reasons to delay the process.
Abdullahi also lamented that the drumbeats of violence, despite the
Peace accord may further lead to low turnout of voters, which has not exceeded 43 per cent since the 2011 general election.
“In the 2011 presidential election, turnout was 32 per cent while 41 per cent was recorded in the 2015 presidential election. Turnout for the 2015 State Assembly election was 34.9 per cent. For the 2016 governorship election, turnout stood at 35 per cent. In 2019, it was
33 per cent for the presidential election and 29.3 per cent for the State Assembly election.”
THE Yiaga WTV Co-Chair, who lauded INEC for its preparedness for the poll, noted that survey showed that 87 per cent respondents expressed willingness to vote tomorrow but the pre-election violence had created an atmosphere of apprehension that might further lead to a decline in voter turnout.
Aside the 18 WTV collation centre observers deployed for a credible election, she noted that 600 stationary observers would be deployed for a statistical sample of 300 polling units with 28 mobile observers in all the councils.
Yiaga Africa, among other resolutions, urged INEC to collaborate with security agencies to prosecute any NURTW member that violates the contractual agreement if it undermines the election.
While the CDD Director, Mrs. Idayat Hassan, observed the widespread fake news and misinformation, she said it was relatively low when compared to recent governorship elections in Kogi, Bayelsa and Edo states.
“This positive trend is partly so because citizens are busy discussing issues of governance. CDD hopes the people of Ondo State will put those issues in perspective as they go to cast their ballot on October
The group said since political campaigns began, it had documented upsurge of political tensions in at least 11 of the 18 local government areas of the state with several reported cases of election-related violence.
“A trend analysis of data gathered so far indicates that group clashes, attacks on party secretariat and political rallies and campaigns by thugs and party supporters escalated in most LGAs across the state, with the highest number of cases reported in Akure South and Idanre LGAs.
“Of the 34 incidents of electoral violence reported between August and early October 2020, at least 12 cases of clashes during campaigns were reported.”
CDD, however, said while the early warning signs were not definite indicators to 100 percent certainty that there would be violence in the areas highlighted, they nonetheless called for the strategic deployment of security.
Hassan, alongside Abdullahi, urged all political parties to uphold the tenets of the peace accord signed on
Tuesday, adding that “we do not expect to see officers who turn a blind eye when electoral offences, such as vote-buying, ballot snatching and others are being perpetrated.”
They also urged INEC to sustain the use of election results viewing portal and timely posting of the Form EC8A at the polling units, demanding prompt payments of all adhoc staff and Supervisory Presiding Officers (SPOs) before tomorrow’s poll.
Nonetheless, a spate of violence seemed to have abated across the state and this is due to efforts of the National Peace Committee (NPC) and other stakeholders.
But the grand finale campaign of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ondo on Wednesday recorded some pent-up violence.
Though it was an internal flex of power over the leadership of the Party in the South West between the factions loyal to Senator Abiodun Olujimi and the former Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose, who was humiliated at the rally by some thugs.