Election Observer Groups Sing Discordant Tunes on Credibility of Edo Election

A coalition of INEC accredited Civil Society Domestic Election Observers, has adjudged the September 19, 2020 governorship election in Edo State free, fair, credible and transparent, asserting that “The exercise met the required international standard for credible democratic election” and “the result should therefore be accepted by all as a true reflection of the will of the people of Edo State”.

But another observer group which also gave its assessment of the election same day, disagreed with this position. Intercontinental Leadership Initiative (ILI) faulted the integrity of the election which returned incumbent governor as winner, alleging many cases of multiple voting due to malfunctioning of smart card readers.

Making its observations known on the just-concluded election, spokesman of the Coalition of INEC accredited Civil Society Domestic Election Observers, Victor Kalu, said the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, “meticulously followed its timetable and schedule of activities for the conduct of Edo State Governorship election 2020 to conclusion,” adding that

“We noted with satisfaction that INEC was resolute, prepared, and committed to conducting a credible, free, 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 state for timely commencement of the election”.

The group also commended INEC for its uncompromising position on strict compliance with the use of the Smart Card Reader, noting 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 better future elections, there should be strict security checks and possible scanning of voter cards 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 conduct.

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”.

But in a contrary view, Country Head of the Intercontinental Leadership Initiative, Stafford Bisong alleged at a press conference in Benin that though many voters turned out for the election, “Non-functional card readers as noticed across the State led to the issue of multiple voting in parts of the polling units. 80 percent of these card readers malfunctioned as they were not authenticating finger prints of the voters which led to manual use of authentication.” This, he said, raised integrity issue about the election.

Disclosing that ILI had officials in the 18 local government areas of the state during the election, Bisong said “We discovered a lot of discrepancies on the field during the election and we concluded that there is more to desire in our electoral voting procedure. Both sensitive and none sensitive materials arrived relatively late in 80 percent of the polling units, prominent in Oredo, Ikpoba-Okha and Egor”. He also cited the non-display of voter register five days before the election as prescribed by the electoral act.

Bisong said another find by the organisation was late arrival of sensitive and non-sensitive materials in about 80 percent of polling units especially in Oredo, Ikpoba-Okha and Egor Local Government Areas of Edo State. While therefore calling on the need for improvement in the country’s voting process, he expressed the need to display voter register on time for eligible voters to know their voting units.

Bisong noted that “Voting commenced around 1.30 pm in some parts of these polling centres. Another one is the issue of voter register. The register was pasted just less than 24 hours to the election and this made it difficult for many to check before the poll. We again discovered that the voter register was not updated. As a result, this made it impossible for many to participate in the exercise. Some of these people may have relocated; some may have died, while Covid-19 pandemic may have kept many away”. He noted the non-adherence to the Covid-19 protocols as released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

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