By G9ija

An election observer group, the Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA), has decried what it described as ‘brazen vote-buying’ by politicians during Saturday’s governorship election in Ondo State.

The group, which said vote-buying remains a major problem in Nigeria’s electoral system, called on stakeholders in the electoral process to come out with modalities to address the menace.

In its preliminary statement on the conduct of the election, the CTA commended voters turnout, describing it as impressive. It also commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for early deployment of election materials.

The statement, which was signed by CTA executive director, Faith Nwadishi, said, on the average, reports from their observers deployed to the field indicated that polling units opened at 8:30 am as INEC Officials and materials in most places arrived as early as 7:30 am.

She said there were however few exceptions where officials and materials arrived after 8:30 am.

‘Despite the fear of violence occasioned by altercations among the major players before the election as well as the morning rain, voter turnout was largely impressive. We, therefore, commend the electorates for their courage and determination in turning out en masse in spite of all odds,’ she said.

Nwadishi said that despite the efforts of the INEC, the group observed with concern the lack of adherence to the COVID-19 protocols by the majority of voters.

According to her, ‘our observers report indicated that in most of the polling units, voters refused to observe social distancing and, in many cases, refused to put on their face mask.

‘Regrettably, our observers reported that vote-buying is becoming more brazen and was a major feature of this election. INEC, the security agencies and other stakeholders need to work out measures to effectively address this ugly phenomenon.’

She said while the election was relatively peaceful, CTA observers reported pockets of violence. She said for instance at Edo Lodge (Ward 4 Unit 11, Akure South LG), observers reported cases of gunshots by suspected hoodlums; same was also reported at Ijomu/Obanla in Akure South LG where miscreants were also reported to have disrupted the voting process by shooting into the air.

‘We call on security agencies to be proactive in nipping in the bud attempts by hoodlums to disrupt the election,’ she said.

Reacting to the boat mishap involving the INEC staff, she noted with delight that no life was lost in the boat mishap that happened in Ilaje axis of the state and also commended the quick intervention of the Nigerian Navy and other concerned citizens that helped in saving the lives of the affected people.

‘We commend INEC and all relevant stakeholders for ensuring a relatively free, fair and credible election so far. We do hope that the relatively free and fair process will be replicated during the collation process,’ she said.