By EMMANUEL OLONIRUHA
ADO-EKITI- The Nigeria Civil Society (NCS) Situation Room has urged political parties and the electorate in Ekiti to shun acts of violence, vote buying and selling during Saturday’s governorship election in the state.
The Co-convener of the Situation Room, James Ugochukwu, made the appeal on Friday at a preliminary news briefing in Ado-Ekiti on the Ekiti Governorship Election.
Ugochukwu said that the Situation Room had deployed observers across the 16 Local Government Areas of the state for the monitoring of the election.
He called on political parties participating in the governorship election to conduct themselves in a manner devoid of violence and impress on their supporters the need to maintain peace before, during and after the poll.
“Situation Room further calls on political parties to do everything possible to avoid inducement of voters in any form and the propagation of fake news.
“The past governorship elections in 2014 and 2018 were fraught with widespread vote buying even popularising the term stomach infrastructure as a synonym for voter inducement.
“The Situation Room commends the citizens of Ekiti State for the high number of Permanent Voter Cards collected.
“We call on all eligible voters in Ekiti State to go a step further by actually coming out en masse to peacefully exercise their civic responsibility on Saturday June 18.
“Situation room calls on the people of Ekiti State to shun all forms of voter inducement and vote according to their conscience,”Ugochukwu said.
He urged the security agencies deployed for the election to demonstrate their commitment to non-partisanship and ensure adequate security for the election.
The convener of the Situation Room said that the security agents should perform their duties in a manner that did not allow or encourage violence to be used as a tool for vote suppression.
Ugochukwu also called on the Police Force to document evidence of violence and vote-buying in order to prosecute the perpetrators as well as share the information with INEC.
“Having watched through the campaign periods leading up to the election, Situation Room noted that the political environment in the State was relatively peaceful at the moment.
“However, there have been reports of security threats amongst different factions of the drivers’ union and employers supporting various political parties which led to the death of one person.
“Situation Room is worried that if the reported factions within the drivers’ union are not appropriately cautioned by the security agencies, the conflict may be a threat to the relatively peaceful environment given the state’s history of political violence,” he said.
Ugochukwu called on the Nigeria Police to enforce to the latter its operational guidelines for police officers on election duty.
He urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ensure early opening polls and transparent elections in Ekiti, being the first election to be conducted following the enactment of a new Electoral Law,
The convener of the Stuation Room further said that expectations were high especially with regards to early deployment of poll officials and materials, logistics, security and inclusivity, amongst others
While acknowledging the assurances given by INEC to conduct a transparent election and the Nigeria Police to provide adequate security, Ugochukwu said that the Situation Room expected an improved administration and management of the 2022 Ekiti State Governorship Election.
He called on INEC to take steps to hold poll officials accountable for any violation of its guidelines.
“Situation Room commends INEC’s novel approach in the logistics and early distribution of sensitive election materials two days to the election day.
“Given that Ekiti State does not have any difficult terrain, Situation Room expects an early deployment of materials and officials on election day.
“Situation Room will be holding INEC accountable for its commitment and assurances, and will look out specifically for the following on Saturday :
“Early distribution and deployment of personnel and materials; timely opening of polls; and Knowledge of election procedures by INEC ad hoc staff.
“Voting procedures particularly the efficacy of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), Electronic transmission of polling unit results and upload to INEC Results Viewing Portal, and transparent collation process,”Ugochukwu said.
He said that the Situation Room noted the position of the Electoral Act 2022 and INEC’s Guidelines for the conduct of elections regarding the mandatory use of the BVAS.
“The functionality of BVAS will therefore form a critical part of the Situation Room’s observation of the electoral process.
“Situation Room expects to see polling officials properly apply the provisions in the INEC Guidelines to support Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) with assistive materials during this election.
“This is especially as the Electoral Act 2022 now makes it mandatory for INEC to take reasonable steps to ensure that PWDs, special needs and vulnerable persons are assisted during voting and provided with suitable means of communication during polls.” (NAN)