By G9ija

Ahead of the Ekiti gubernatorial election on June 18, 2022, an election observer, Yiaga Africa, reported violence and voter inducement in some local government areas of Ekiti State.

Yiaga Africa made this known in its Watching the Vote First Pre-Election Observation, PREO, Report.

According to the report a total of 16 parties and 16 candidates will be contesting. There will be two female candidates, while one candidate is under 40 years old.

The report also indicated strong competition between the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, including the Social Democratic Party, SDP, for the highest seat in the State.

Meanwhile, the report showed that the Independent National Electoral Commission’s data on voters for Ekiti State indicates that as of 21 March 2022, 124, 797 new voters were registered in Ekiti State during the Continuous Voter Registration, CVR, exercise that was concluded in March 2022.

In 2019, Ekiti State had a total of 909, 696 registered voters, projecting a possible increase in the number of registered voters to 1,034, 493 voters. For the election, INEC released a 14 activity calendar and has so far achieved 10 of the 14 activities.

In addition, the Commission has added new polling units to increase the number of polling units from 2195 to 2445 polling units in the State.

Also, the report captured activities of the key election stakeholders- INEC, political parties, Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, and the National Orientation Agency, NOA, as well as indicators of electoral violence.

However, Yiaga Africa, pointed that the Ekiti Governorship Election serves as a testing ground for assessing INEC’s preparedness for the 2023 general election.

The report reads in part, “Yiaga Africa’s Watching the Vote currently has its trained Long term observers (LTO) deployed in the 16 LGAs until June 15, 2021. Reports of the observation findings will be shared mostly on a bi-weekly basis.

“Indicators of Voter Inducement and Electoral Offence: During this reporting period, electoral offence in the form of the purchase of PVCs was reported from Ekiti West and Ekiti South-West LGAs. WTV LTOs witnessed or heard of voter inducement in the form of distribution of money or gift items by candidates or their supporters while campaigning in Ado-Ekiti, Efon, Ekiti South-West, Ekiti West, Gbonyin, Ido-Osi, Ijero, Ikere, Ilejemeje, Irepodun/Ifelodun and Moba LGAs.

“Attack on political party campaign trails: WTV LTO reported an attack on SDP candidates and supporters during a campaign rally in Efon LGA.

“The political thugs attacked and disrupted the political campaign of the SDP candidate contesting for the governorship election. WTV observers gathered that the SDP rally attracted a large crowd that amazed the people in communities in Efon and as a result, the APC thugs/party members attacked the rally, inflicting injuries on people using cutlass and stones. The thugs tried to collect the ammunition from an NSCDC Official, but he resisted and fought them off.”

On voter education exercise by INEC, NOA and CSOs, the WTV LTOs reported visible and notable general voter education initiatives that were observed across all LGAs except for Ikere in this reporting phase.

“INEC, NOA and CSOs are at the forefront of undertaking those voter education activities. Specifically, INEC, NOA and CSO’s voter education activities were reported in Ado-Ekiti, Efon, Ekiti East, Ekiti South-West, Ekiti West, Emure, Gbonyin, Ido-Osi, Ijero, Ikole, Ilejemeje, Irepodun/Ifelodun, Ise/Orun, Moba and Oye LGAs”, it added.

However, part of the recommendation in the report called on INEC to sustain voter education engagements across the state. In addition, collaborate with NOA, CSOs, and other relevant stakeholders to intensify voter education engagements across the state. This should include intentional voter education targeted at women, youth and persons with disabilities.

INEC should leverage available partnerships and invest in popularising the new polling units in the state and the planned deployment of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).

INEC should ensure proper coordination with the security agencies, especially in addressing the security concerns in the state.

NOA is to invest more in partnerships with INEC and CSOs and leverage its existing structure to conduct innovative voter education across the LGAs in the state. This includes targeted voter engagement and education of women, youth and persons with disabilities.

While security agencies need to embark on early planning and coordination to meet the security challenges in Ekiti State. Security agencies should employ preventive measures to neutralise existing security threats of armed robberies in the state, to enable voters to exercise their constitutional right to vote in a peaceful and secured environment.

Yiaga Africa called on political parties to embark on voter education, to encourage voters to turn up and vote on Election Day. Political parties and candidates should desist from the inducement of voters and invest in issues-based campaigns.

Political parties should comply with COVID-19 protocol during campaigns, to avoid the spread of the virus.

However, Yiaga Africa urged the media on making citizens’ voices heard and of recruiting desirable leaders.

“Citizens should get involved in getting out the vote campaigns in the days leading up to the election in order to increase participation and voter turnout”, it added.