After several weeks of electioneering and assurances from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Edo State Governorship election has been described as one marred by massive vote-buying and several electoral offences.
These formed part of an interim report of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), a non-governmental organization working on democratic governance, human rights and criminal justice reform.
The election is widely seen as a test for Nigeria’s electoral body, as citizens of the state vote their next governor, but it has been hit by the biggest logistic challenge in the middle of a pandemic.
CDD’s Director, Idayat Hassan, while delivering the report expressed concern that “despite expending time and resources to deploy thousands of law enforcement officials to the electoral space, the officers did nothing in the face of infractions such as vote buying.”
According to Hassan, the two major political parties were accomplices in vote-buying and selling using new tactics.
“Politicians, in an attempt to circumvent the electoral process, used young girls as their contact with the voters for the trading. We had the issuing of a ticket as receipts to get their N5,000 and snapping of pictures. There are structured approaches to vote-buying in this election and the two major parties are complicit,” she said.
The CDD boss faulted INEC over late arrival of their officials and materials, which delayed the commencement of elections in several polling units.
“This is occasioned by poor logistics management,” she added.
She noted also that the late arrival of INEC officials led to the lax compliance to Covid-19 protocol, particularly social distancing.
“Due to the late arrival of INEC officials in the polling units, and in a bid to immediately commence the elections, some of these processes had to be jettisoned,” she said.
CDD said another factor that marred the election was the issue of faulty card readers and non-payment of allowances to ad-hoc staff. Hassan said there were several electoral offences recorded, such as campaigning during voting, and attempts by other people to use voters’ card that belong to someone else.
Meanwhile, Auwal Musa, the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), said there was an urgent need for government to initiate electoral reforms so as to restore the credibility of the electoral body (INEC).
He expressed hope that the Edo elections will propel the federal government to embark on electoral reforms.
“There is no way you can have credible elections if you refuse to create electoral reforms to deal with so many deficits in our electoral system and practice.
“As we go into Ondo Governorship election, we should commence the process of electoral reforms to protect votes and guarantee the integrity of the electoral system,” he said.