Yiaga Africa, an NGO promoting democratic governance, human rights and civic participation, says insecurity is a monster to be addressed head-on in the off-cycle governorship election.
Mr Ezenwa Nwagwu, Board Member, Yaiga Africa, said this at a news conference ahead of the Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi governorship elections.
According to Nwagwu, the commitment of key democratic institutions such as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), security agencies and the executive, to restore public confidence in the electoral process will be tested at the polls.
He said the pre-election climate in those states suggested high-stakes with the potential for violence.
He said Nigerians in the three states desired a safe environment to cast their votes without violence, suppression or intimidation.
“Yiaga Africa expresses concern with the unassailable level of insecurity and the spate of violence across the states, especially in Imo and Kogi states.
“Also of concern is the abuse of incumbency power manifesting through restriction of campaigns, imposition of fines and levies on campaign posters and attacks on political opponents.
“The lack of accountability for the fatalities and attacks recorded in the pre-election period deepens the culture of impunity pervading the electoral process.
“Yiaga Africa states emphatically, that the successful administration of a peaceful and transparent election is dependent on the effective collaboration and coordination with respective institutions like INEC, Nigerian Police and other security agencies,” he said.
Nwagwu said for instance, INEC required adequate security protection to deploy materials to some highly volatile Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Imo prone to violence like Oguta, Orsu, Orlu LGAs, amongst others.
He added that improved security deployment in volatile areas would enable voters, election observers and the media in particular to participate in the election across the three states.
He highlighted Yiaga Africa’s key observations to include low voter turnout projections, deployment of election materials, security climate, unequal playing field and voter inducement and made some recommendations based on them.
Director of Programmes, Yaiga Africa, Ms Cynthia Mbamalu, said the organisation advocated for eleventh-hour confidence-building voter education to improve voter turnout.
Mbamalu called on INEC to ensure proper coordination and communication with the transport companies and unions providing logistics support to ensure early deployment of materials and personnel to polling units on election day.
She added that the commission should resist attempts to sabotage its logistics preparations by collaborating with security agencies to arrest and prosecute any defaulting transport company.
“Yiaga Africa notes an increasingly volatile pre-election environment with the spate of attacks in the following LGAs in Imo state; Oguta, Orlu, Orsu, Oru East, Oru West, Okigwe, and Ehime/Mbano.
“And the prevalence of election motivated violence during campaigns in Kogi and Bayelsa.
“Undoubtedly, the insecurity will gravely impact the quality of the election in those affected areas if not checked.
“Yiaga Africa is concerned this volatility could potentially limit voter participation, and the situation could be exploited to intimidate and attack political opponents,” she said.
Mbamalu said Yiaga Africa noted with grave concern the unequal playing field for political parties and candidates.
“The exploitation of power of incumbency against candidates undermined the opportunity for fair competition.
“Incumbents in the three states introduced repressive policies to stifle political opponents and other stakeholders,” said Mbamalu.
She said Yiaga Africa would deploy a total of 659 duly trained and accredited stationary and roving observers to observe the governorship election in the three states.
She said Yiaga Africa would be deploying the Process and Results Verification for Transparency (PRVT) methodology to observe the governorship elections, and also be deploy its methodology.
“This deployment will enable Yiaga Africa to provide the most timely and accurate information on the governorship elections in the states.
“Using the PRVT, Yiaga Africa will also provide an independent projection of voter turnout in Imo and Kogi, and will be able to project the vote shares that each party should receive within a narrow-estimated range.
“If the official results fall within Yiaga Africa’s estimated range, then the public, political parties and candidates should have confidence in the ballots cast at the polling units.
“Only INEC has the legal mandate to announce the election results.
“As soon as INEC announces the official results, Yiaga Africa will follow up with a result verification press conference to share its statement on the accuracy of the election results,” she said.
Mbamalu called on politicians, electorate and other stakeholders to play by the rules.