…As Social Distancing Was Observed in the Breach The Edo State governorship election held on Saturday, which pitched the incumbent Governor and Candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Godwin Obaseki against his major challenger and Candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Mr Osagie Ize Iyamu, was largely peaceful and witnessed massive turnout
…As Social Distancing Was Observed in the Breach
The Edo State governorship election held on Saturday, which pitched the incumbent Governor and Candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Godwin Obaseki against his major challenger and Candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Mr Osagie Ize Iyamu, was largely peaceful and witnessed massive turnout of voters in the 18 local government areas of the state.
Although voters fully complied with the wearing of face masks, with sellers making brisk business at the different voting centres, social distancing was observed largely in the breach, raising fears of the likely hike of Covid-19 cases after the election.
The election was also characterised by incidents of vote buying, ballot box snatching, shooting, interference and disruption of the election process, intimidation and harassment of journalists and observers, in some areas, with the supporters of the two leading parties, PDP and APC fingered as major culprits.
In its preliminary report on the election, CLEEN Foundation observe disturbing incidents of what it calls “vote trading” across the state especially in Egor, Ovia South West, and Oredo Local Government Areas. For instance, in Oredo Local Government Area, observers noted cases of vote trading at Igbesanwen Primary School, Unit 1, ward 9. Furthermore, there were reported incidents of inducement of voters within the range of N2,000 to N5,000 from the party agents of the two leading political parties.
At Oza Primary School, voters were induced within the range of N1,000 to N5,000 by agents of the two leading political parties. Furthermore, at Agbado Primary School, Ward 12, Oredo Local Government Area, there was mass inducement of voters by party agents.
In Egor Local Government Area, at Edaiken Primary School (Unit 2, Ward 8), party agents of the two major political parties were seen inducing voters at all the polling points with the sum of N5,000. Also in Ward 9, Okhoro, there were massive inducement of voters with an average price of N5,000.
In Ovia Southwest, (Ward 2, Unit 8), observers of the organisation at Obaretin Okpon Primary School, reported that there were financial inducements by party agents of about N500 to N700 to voters at that unit. At Olele Junction, (unit 9, ward 1, Etsako West Local Government Area), Police Officers were observed collaborating with party agents and INEC personnel on inducing voters.
In Igueben local Government Area, political party agents were inducing voters monetarily at Usata Primary School, unit 3, ward 4. At Obe Primary School, Sagbongida Ora, Owan West Local Government Area (Ward 4, Unit 7), CLEEN observers noted vote trading between voters and party agents.
At Army Children School, ward 6, Ovia North East, its observers reported incident of voter’s impersonation. At Ujemen Primary School, ward 005, Ekpoma, Esan West Local Government Area, Party agents from the two leading political parties were observed inducing voters within the range of N1,000 to N2,000
At Etsako West, (ward 4, unit 6, &ward 5, unit 3) its observers noted massive inducement of the voters by party agents, while at Akoko Edo LGA, party agents were observed inducing voters within the range of N3,000 to N5,000.
As predicted by Yiaga Africa in their pre-election report, “there were more critical incident reports from Oredo, Orhionwon, Igueben, Egor, Ikpoba-Okha and Esan North-East at the commencement of today’s poll. Some of the verified incident reports include ballot box snatching, sporadic shootings and interference and disruption of the election process, intimidation and harassment of observers/journalists and vote-buying.”
On the incidence of vote buying, Yiaga Africa observers stationed at Asoro Grammar School, PU 002 in Ward 1 of Egor LGA, reported that party agents distributed cash to influence voters. Similar incidents were also reported in Omo Nursery/Primary School, PU 005, Ward 1 in Egor LGA, where party agents were seen giving cash to voters.
Same incident was reported in Adams Int. Sch. Evbareke 1 Polling Unit in Egor where voters openly showed how they marked their ballots. Vote buying was reported in Uromi-Open Space VI, 013, Uelen/Okugbe/ Uromi, party agents were seen distributing cash to voters.
“There was general disregard of the COVID-19 protocol requiring physical distancing and mandatory use of face mask/face covering across polling units. As noted in our pre-election statement, Yiaga Africa is concerned that Edo state may experience a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in the aftermath of the election given the non-compliance with health guidelines and the absence of health officials or task force to support INEC in enforcing during the election,” the organisation says.
Revealing that it received a total of 18 verified incident reports bothering on intimidation and harassment of election observers, the organisation says Yiaga Africa WTV (Watch the Votes) observers were harassed and their observation materials were confiscated by party agents in Edogun Primary School Hall I, Polling Unit in Orhionmwon LGA and Ozolua Grammar School, Polling Unit 009 of Ward 10 in Ikpoba/Okha LGA.
On violent disruption of the accreditation and voting process, Yiaga Africa observers reported sporadic shooting leading to the suspension of voting in Idumwongo Polling Unit 5, Ward 7 in Orhionmwon LGA. The voting process was also disrupted in Obodeko Primary School, PU 003 in Ward 8 of Igueben LGA where a political party supporter mobilized thugs to the PU to disrupt the process.
Observers also reported incidents of ballot box snatching by party supporters in Ozolua Grammar School, Polling Unit 009 of Ward 10 in Ikpoba/Okha LGA and Obodeko Amahor Pri/Sch Unit 003 of Ward 8 in Igueben LGA.
Yiaga Africa also received series of reports of voters displaying how they marked their ballots thereby compromising the secrecy of the ballot. These cases were recorded in Orhionmion II, Edogun Pri/Sch Hall; Obodeko Primary School, PU 003 Amaharo, Ward 08 in Igueben LGA; UelenUjugb Uromi Open Space VI PU 013 and Ward 4 in Esan North-East LGA.
According to the report, “party agents interfered in the accreditation and voting process in PU 001 at Ugbo Wardin, Orhionmwon LGA; Ukpato Ward, Evbuosa Pri/Sch Iguemokhua PU, Orhionmwon II. In Ihogbe Secondary School, Unit 006. Ward 5 of Oredo LGA, a political party agent gave a voter a PVC that does not belong to him to vote, the culprit was apprehended by the security.”
However, some heavily armed thugs who mobilised and attempted to disrupt the process at the Emaudo Primary School, Ekpoma, where Obaseki won the three polling units with a wide marging, were repelled by the combined effort of the people who quickly locked the gate to the entrance and security forces.
Cleen Foundation which focuses on the role of security agencies, says it observed that 83% of the polling units across the state were protected by unarmed security personnel. However, there were reports of firearm possession in 17% of the polling units. It also observed that on the aggregate, 83% of the polling units had three or more security personnel, with 11% having two security personnel on ground.
The organisation also observed that 96% of the security personnel were wearing easily identifiable name tags. Some 3% of the security personnel were not wearing identifiable name tags, while the status of 1% in relation to wearing of identifiable nametags were unknown.
Report shows that 94% of the security personnel at the polling units were approachable. 3% were observed to be somewhat approachable while 3% of security personnel were not approachable by their disposition.
Statistics available to CLEEN Foundation shows that 83% of security personnel were impartial while 17% of the security agents were some-what partial. For instance, at Uwa Primary School, Ward 10, PU 21 (Oredo Local Government Area), party and security agents were observed monitoring electorates votes in the cubicle disregarding the secrecy of the balloting system.
It heart warming that 78% of the polling units were safe and secure while 22% were observed to be somewhat safe and secure, alluding to the largely peaceful nature of the election across the state..
Photo: A cross section of voters at Emaudo Primary School, Ekpoma