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Another litmus test of Nigeria’s commitment to credible polls, says CDD

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Obaseki at a campaign rally. Photo: TWITTER/GOVERNOROBASEKI

• Parties’ claims and counterclaims to victory recipe for violence
• Commend U.S., UK visa ban, seeks other sanctions 
• INEC may need to extend voting hours due to COVID-19 pandemic

A day to the governorship election in Edo State, the Centre For Democracy and Development (CDD) Election Analysis Centre has declared that the poll will signpost another litmus test for the country’s commitment to credible elections.

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Speaking at a media briefing yesterday, Director of CDD, Idayat Hassan, said the election would represent another opportunity for the people to exercise their democratic and constitutionally guaranteed right to elect a leader of their choice.

She said the Federal Government, politicians and the institutions responsible for the management of the country’s electoral process owe a collective duty to ensure eligible voters are free to exercise their franchise in an atmosphere that is both peaceful and participatory.

Hassan pointed out that for the avoidance of doubt, the character of the electoral process and the credibility of its outcomes in Edo State hold far-reaching implications for the entire democratic process in Nigeria.

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She stressed that the election, would, therefore, be another litmus test for a broad assessment of the commitment of relevant actors and institutions to deepening Nigeria’s democratic experience.

“Our expectation, which is in line with the hopes of Edo people and Nigerians, is that the election is credible, its processes transparent and the outcome reflects the people’s will.

“Any breach to electoral laws and regulations must be sanctioned and we are in support of due process mechanisms such as visa bans, threats of assets seizures and other sanctions targeting election riggers and those who engage in attempts to subvert the genuine will of the people by the United States (U.S.) and United Kingdom (UK) governments.

The centre lamented that parties claims and counterclaims to victory even before the election commences could be a recipe for violence

“Another dangerous trend in the final build-up to the election is the tendency of politicians and their supporters to make baseless and outlandish claims to victory, even before the election has been held.

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“The CDD observers report that there has been an upsurge in claims and counterclaims of victories by major rival party camps. While some politicians have sponsored online polls to give the impression to their supporters that they are coasting home to victory already, others have been busy claiming the election is already won,” it added.

CDD expressed concern over the recalcitrance of politicians and their surrogates, who continue to instruct their supporters to ensure total victory at all cost in their respective polling units. 

The centre stressed the need for supporters to conduct themselves in a peaceful manner, adding, however, that the flashpoints of possible violence identified by CDD are, Etsako West, Etsako East, Etsako Central, Owan West and Akoko-Edo in Edo North Senatorial district.

It noted that in Edo South Senatorial district, Oredo, Orhionmwon, Egor, Ovia North East and Ikpoba-Okha council areas have shown early warning signs of violence, while, Esan Central, Esan North East and Esan West in Edo Central Senatorial district also remain volatile.

The CDD also commended the U.S. and UK for issuing visa ban on politicians who have been indicted for electoral malpractices such as rigging, use of thugs, ballot box snatching and other forms of violence during elections in the country

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It cautioned that the Edo election presents a real opportunity to prevent some of the unacceptable fallouts from previous elections, in which there were clear attempts to taint the vote through inflation of votes, as was the case in Okene Council Area of Kogi State.

“In Edo, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should anticipate such magnitude of electoral fraud so it does not become a rubber stamp for a fraudulent process,” it stated.

On the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the exercise, it noted that the scourge had impacted all aspects of socio-economic and political life and commended INEC for the introduction of the COVID-19 complaint policy on conduct of elections.

Hassan, therefore, argued that the commission might need to extend voting hours due to the pandemic, adding that the high risk of electoral violence might lead to the loss of some ad-hoc staff on elections day.   

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“CDD will like to point out that given the extra health precautions and social distancing policy to be adopted during polling, voting may take longer than normal. We hereby call on the Commission to prepare to provide for extended polling hours,” it stated. 

It also expressed concern over increased deployment of security personnel across the state, saying, “The role of security operatives in the election remains to deter trouble makers, protect election materials and ensure that the space is safe for poll officials, voters and election observers.

“CDD calls on the security operatives deployed in Edo State not to engage in any acts capable of intimidating or scaring voters away from exercising their democratic right to vote.

so call on the police officers and other security personnel deployed to the state to ensure that they remain non-partisan and ensure that there is no gap between the number of deployments and the officers on ground. 

It further condemned the emerging trend in vote-buying where voters now search for the highest bidder among the political parties to sell their votes, adding, “A number of voters interviewed insisted that the only thing that would make them to vote, is if the contestants agree to pay a certain amount for their votes.

“The CDD is worried that sharing money to women a few days to the election in the name of an empowerment programme puts a partisan colouration to the scheme, just as it would motivate politicians in the opposing camp to engage in similar schemes to woo voters with incentives, which flout provisions of the Electoral Act. Security agencies must remain vigilant in checkmating illegal voter inducement.”

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