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20 Sep
0

Yiaga Africa’s Watching The Vote Process and Results Verification Statement on the 2020 Edo Gubernatorial Election

It is with great pleasure that we welcome you to Yiaga Africa’s Watching The Vote (WTV) Statement on the Process and Results of the 2020 governorship election in Edo. This press briefing provides updated data on the midday situational report on the 2020 Edo governorship report released yesterday by Yiaga Africa WTV. Although Yiaga Africa had received its data on the results by midnight on election day and had a stable estimated range for the election outcome, it could only share the result verification statement after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had announced the election results. This is Yiaga Africa’s statement on the official results announced by INEC.

On election day, Yiaga Africa WTV employed the PVT methodology and deployed 500 stationary observers in pairs to a representative statistical sample of 250 polling units, and 25 mobile observers located in all 18 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in the state. Yiaga Africa also deployed 19 collation centre observers to each of the 18 LGA Collation Centres and the state collation centre. This deployment strategy enabled Yiaga Africa to provide timely and accurate information on the conduct of accreditation and voting, as well as counting, and to independently verify the official results for the Edo gubernatorial election as announced by INEC. The process report on the conduct of accreditation and voting, and counting is based on reports from 245 of 250 (99%) sampled polling units.

Yiaga Africa commends and congratulates the people of Edo state for maintaining peace through the voting and counting and result collation process across the state. Yiaga Africa observed intimidation and harassment of observers, voters and polling officials by party thugs, which led to violent disruption of the voting process in some polling units and likely disenfranchisement of voters in the affected locations. Yiaga Africa also condemns the shooting incident in Etsako Central LGA which led to the death of a citizen. In addition, Yiaga Africa observed state-wide disregard of COVID-19 protocols at polling units. Yiaga Africa notes, however, that this election was an improvement on the 2019 Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections. While the election experienced slow commencement of polls, INEC improved in its processes for the deployment and use of the Smart Card readers, posting of election results at the polling units, and upload of polling unit result sheets on the INEC Result Viewing Portal using Z-pad electronic tablets. Yiaga Africa also notes the opening of almost all polling units across the state, thereby providing almost all Edo citizens the opportunity to vote.

Yiaga Africa undertook Watching The Vote to provide citizens, governorship candidates, political parties, and INEC with independent information on whether the official results truly reflect the ballots cast at polling units. If INEC’s official results fall within Yiaga Africa’s estimated range, then the public, political parties, and candidates should have confidence that the official results reflect the ballots cast in the polling units. However, if the announced results have been manipulated and do not match the polling unit results, Yiaga Africa will expose it.

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19 Sep
0

Yiaga Africa Watching The Vote Situational Statement on the 2020 Edo Governorship Election

Introduction

On Saturday 19, September 2020, Yiaga Africa WTV deployed 500 carefully trained stationary observers and 25 mobile observers in all the 18 local government areas (LGAs) in Edo state to observe the voting process and share reports on the conduct of the election at the polling units’ level. As noted in our pre-election statement, this is the first state-wide election to be conducted amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and governed by new guidelines introduced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). In addition, the Pre-Election observation indicated that the stakes are high as our findings revealed that the election will be defined by strong-arm tactics if concerted efforts are not made to deescalate the tension. Thirteen out of 18 LGAs were classified as hotspots due to the spate of Violence. As predicted by Yiaga Africa in the pre-election, there were more critical incident reports from Oredo, Orhionwon, Igueben, Egor, Ikpoba-Okha and Esan North-East at the commencement of today’s poll. Some of the verified incident reports include ballot box snatching, sporadic shootings and interference and disruption of the election process, intimidation and harassment of observers/journalists and vote-buying.

This Mid-day situational Analysis provides information on the commencement of polls, availability of election materials and critical incidents that may impact on the quality of the election.  Yiaga Africa WTV is leveraging the parallel vote tabulation (PVT) methodology to observe this election and will be providing accurate and timely information on the election process.

On election day, some police officers prevented observers and media from accessing Yiaga Africa’s data centre in Benin city for about three hours. Upon escalating the incident, the leadership of the Nigerian police responded and resolved the issue. However, police officers were deployed to closely monitor Yiaga Africa’s data centre and press conference. Yiaga Africa commends the leadership of the police, in particular, the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Olaleye Oyebade for promptly responding to this issue. Yiaga Africa notes that although this issue has been resolved, we are concerned with the deployment of police officers to closely monitor the Yiaga Africa’s press conference. Yiaga Africa would like to thank sister election observer groups and the international community for their solidarity and support.

Media coverage of the Press Conference

Preliminary Findings

Yiaga Africa’s WTV observation for the Edo governorship election is fully operational. These are preliminary findings as at 2:00 pm election day. At this time, Yiaga Africa has received reports from 236 of 250 sampled polling units across the 18 LGAs. This report highlights the late commencement of accreditation and voting and notes the disregard of the COVID-19 protocol requiring physical distancing and mandatory use of face mask/face covering across polling units. As noted in our pre-election statement, Yiaga Africa is concerned that Edo state may experience a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in the aftermath of the election given the non-compliance with health guidelines and the absence of health officials or task force to support INEC in enforcing during the election.

The following data will be updated as additional reports are received from WTV observers at sampled polling units.

  • As of 7:30 am, Yiaga Africa WTV observers reported that INEC officials had arrived at 38% of polling units.
  • By 8:30 am, 3% of polling units had commenced accreditation and voting with Edo South Senatorial district recording only 2% commencement, Edo North 3% and Edo Central 8%. This however increased by 9:30 am, with 67% of polling units commencing accreditation and By 10:30 am, 89% of the polling units had commenced accreditation and voting. A few polling units like PU001 (Obayan Pri. Sch.), Ward 02, Ikpoba/Okha LGA opened at 12:00 pm.
  • 81% of polling units had two queues created in adherence to COVID-19 public health protoco
  • In those polling units where INEC officials and materials arrived, 95% of polling units had four polling officials present, 63% of polling units had at least two female polling officials present.
  • In addition, 97% of polling units had security agents present.
  • Card readers were observed in 100% of the polling units. Electronic tablets were observed in 91% of polling units. Disinfectants/hand sanitizers were observed in 100% of polling units.
  • APC polling or party agents were seen at 100% of polling units, LP at 43% of polling units, NNPP polling agents were seen at 56% and PDP at 99% of polling units.

Critical Incident

Yiaga Africa has received a total of 18 verified incident reports. They include the following;

  • Intimidation and Harassment of Election Observers: Yiaga Africa WTV observers were harassed and their observation materials were confiscated by party agents in Edogun Primary School Hall I, Polling Unit in Orhionmwon LGA and Ozolua Grammar School, Polling Unit 009 of Ward 10 in Ikpoba/Okha LGA.
  • Violent Disruption of the Accreditation and Voting Process: Yiaga Africa observers reported sporadic shooting leading to the suspension of voting in Idumwongo Polling Unit 5, Ward 7 in Orhionmwon LGA. The voting process was also disrupted in Obodeko Primary School, PU 003 in Ward 8 of Igueben LGA where a political party supporter mobilized thugs to the PU to disrupt the process.
  • Ballot Box Snatching: Observers reported incidents of ballot box snatching by party supporters in Ozolua Grammar School, Polling Unit 009 of Ward 10 in Ikpoba/Okha LGA and Obodeko Amahor Pri/Sch Unit 003 of Ward 8 in Igueben LGA.
  • Compromising the secrecy of the ballot: Yiaga Africa received series of reports of voters displaying how they marked their ballots thereby compromising the secrecy of the ballot. These cases were recorded in Orhionmion II, Edogun Pri/Sch Hall; Obodeko Primary School, PU 003 Amaharo, Ward 08 in Igueben LGA; Uelen-Ujugb Uromi Open Space VI PU 013 and Ward 4 in Esan North-East LGA.
  • Interference by Party Agents: Party agents interfered in the accreditation and voting process in PU 001 at Ugbo Wardin Orhionmwon LGA; Ukpato Ward, Evbuosa Pri/Sch Iguemokhua PU, Orhionmwon II. In Ihogbe Secondary School, Unit 006. Ward 5 of Oredo LGA, a political party agent gave a voter a PVC that does not belong to him to vote, the culprit was apprehended by the security.
  • Incidence of Vote Buying: Yiaga Africa observers stationed at Asoro Grammar School, PU 002 in Ward 1 of Egor LGA, reported that party agents distributed cash to influence voters. Similar incidents were also reported in Omo Nursery/Primary School, PU 005, Ward 1 in Egor LGA, where party agents were seen giving cash to voters. Similar incident was reported in Adams Int. Sch. Evbareke 1 Polling Unit in Egor, voters openly showed how they marked their ballots. Vote buying was reported in Uromi-Open Space VI, 013, Uelen/Okugbe/ Uromi, party agents were seen distributing cash to voters.

Preliminary Recommendations

INEC

Yiaga Africa calls on INEC to:

  1. Given the late commencement of polls, INEC should extend the voting time to allow voters who are on the queue to exercise their franchise
  2. As the voting process comes to end, ensure that the ballots are counted openly and that all polling units have the Forms EC60E posted at the polling unit for the public
  3. Ensure that the polling unit result sheet; form EC8A for each polling is uploaded on the INEC Result Viewing Portal
  4. Ensure strict compliance with the application of the election guidelines in the result collation process

Security Agencies

  1. Should caution security officers deployed in the field to refrain from intimidating observers and journalist as the results collation commences
  2. Should ensure security personnel remain professional and non-partisan throughout the election,

In conclusion, Yiaga Africa commends the good people of Edo state for their peaceful conduct during the voting process and plead they remain patient and peaceful through the voting and counting process. Yiaga Africa will provide updates as the process comes to an end collation commences. Yiaga Africa restates her commitment to share accurate data and information on the conduct of the election and results based on its deployment of the Parallel Vote Tabulation methodology.

If INEC’s official results fall within Yiaga Africa’s estimated rate, then the public, political parties and candidates should have confidence that the official results reflect the ballots cast at the polling units; however, if the announced results have been manipulated and do not match the polling units’ results, Yiaga Africa will expose it.

“Driven by Data – For All Nigerians – Beholden to None!”

Dr. Aisha Abdullahi

Chair, Yiaga Africa Watching the Vote – 2020 Edo Election Observation Mission

Samson Itodo

Executive Director Yiaga Africa Watching the Vote

 

About Yiaga Africa and Watching The Vote

Yiaga Africa is a non-profit civic hub of change makers building democratic societies in Africa anchored on the principles of inclusion, justice, rule of law and accountability. Yiaga Africa achieves its goal through research, capacity development and policy advocacy. Yiaga Africa has been involved in election observation since 2007 and it is one of the leading organizations working on elections in Nigeria.

Yiaga Africa Watching The Vote is a citizen-led election observation initiative aimed at enhancing the integrity of elections in Nigeria using technological tools like SMS and evidence-based research methodologies to further election observation. The initiative is designed to promote credible elections and boost citizens’ confidence in the electoral process through a citizen’s observation of electoral activities in the electoral cycle. Yiaga Africa is enhancing the quality of democracy in Nigeria using the WTV as a platform for promoting cutting-edge electoral policies, credible elections, civic participation and democratic consolidation.

Yiaga Africa’s WTV will observe the process until the end. Our observers will remain at polling units until accreditation, voting, and counting are completed and the official results have been announced and posted by the polling officials. Yiaga Africa will issue additional updates as appropriate and intends to issue a preliminary statement on the conduct of accreditation and voting, and counting on Saturday, September 19 at the HomeVille Plus hotel at 7:00 pm.

For media inquiries please contact:

Moshood Isah

Communication Officer

Yiaga Africa

Tel. +234 (0) 703 666 9339

Email: misah@yiaga.org

Learn more about #WatchingTheVote at www.watchingthevote.org or on social media on Facebook at facebook.com/yiaga.org or on Twitter @YIAGA.

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18 Sep
0

Edo 2020: Yiaga Africa deploys PVT to check the credibility of election results

Benin City, September 18, 2020, Ahead of the September 19 governorship election in Edo state, Yiaga Africa, through the Watching The Vote citizens movement, is deploying its Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) methodology for Saturday’s election. The PVT is an advanced election observation methodology that employs well-established statistical principles and sophisticated information technologies in providing timely and accurate information on the conduct of accreditation, voting, and counting, and it independently verifies the official governorship results as announced by the INEC.

The PVTs are not opinion polls. Yiaga Africa citizen observers do not ask voters for whom they cast their ballot. PVT rely solely on official results from polling units. This tested and proven election observation methodology has been deployed in over 50 countries worldwide, including Nigeria – most recently by Yiaga Africa in the November 2019 Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections where it detected fraud and manipulation of results collation and declined to verify the official results declared by INEC.

In a statement jointly signed by the Chair of Yiaga Africa election observation mission for Edo state, Dr. Aisha Abdullahi, Nigeria’s former Ambassador to Guinea and former African Union Commissioner of Political Affairs and the Yiaga Africa Executive Director, Samson Itodo, the organization stated it would deploy 500 stationary observers to a representative statistical sample of 250 polling units and 25 mobile observers in all 18 LGAs as well as 18 collation center observers to each of the LGA Collation Centres. The observers will observe the conduct of the process and provide systematic, accurate, and timely information on the election day process. Specifically, Yiaga Africa will provide accurate information on the quality of the election day process and ascertain if the official results announced by INEC reflects the total votes cast.

Since PVT is based on official results from a representative random sample of polling units, Yiaga Africa will estimate the state-wide results for the governorship election within a narrow range based on well-established statistical principles. If INEC’s official results fall within Yiaga Africa’s estimated range, then the public, political parties, and candidates should have confidence that the official results reflect the ballots cast at polling units; however, if the announced results have been manipulated and do not match the polling units’ results, Yiaga Africa will expose it.

The PVT is a component of Yiaga Africa’s comprehensive election observation methodology spanning the electoral cycle. Therefore, in assessing whether the 2020 Edo governorship satisfies the electoral integrity test, Yiaga Africa will consider a range of issues such as shortcomings in the pre-election period, the quality of election day processes, and the scale and scope of critical incidents.

On election day, Yiaga Africa will receive 4,500 text messages containing approximately 56,000 individual pieces of information about the 2020 Edo governorship election. These messages will be reviewed and analyzed to ensure the information is complete, authentic, and accurate before dissemination. On Saturday night, Yiaga Africa will issue its estimated projections based on its preliminary data. On Sunday, September 20, 2020, at HomeVille Plus Hotel, Benin, Yiaga Africa, will share its preliminary WTV findings on the conduct of setup, accreditation, voting, and counting. Immediately after INEC announces the official results for the governorship election, Yiaga Africa will hold its press conference and issue its statement on the election result. Yiaga Africa Watching the Vote is “Driven by Data – For All Nigerians – Beholden to None!”

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17 Sep
0

Pre-election Press Statement on the 2020 Edo Governorship Election

It gives us great pleasure to welcome you to the Yiaga Africa Watching The Vote (WTV) Pre-Election Press Briefing on the 2020 governorship election in Edo State. This press briefing is one in a series of press conferences hosted by Yiaga Africa WTV during the 2020 Edo Governorship election.

The 2020 Edo Governorship Election will be the first state-wide election to be conducted by INEC amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The election will be regulated by new sets of guidelines and policies developed by the Commission following the Coronavirus outbreak. With the state ranking fifth (as at September 16, 2020) amongst states with the highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, INEC and other stakeholders face a huge challenge of safeguarding public health while not compromising on electoral integrity. In line with the new norm of social or physical distancing, INEC introduced online submission of party candidates’ list and online accreditation of observers and media organizations. These technologically driven solutions minimized physical contact remarkably. Also, an election result viewing portal was introduced by INEC to facilitate public access to polling unit results to enhance the transparency of election results management.

Clearly, the stakes are high in the September 19 governorship election as typified by the spate of pre-election violence and the level of desperation on the part of political actors to not only delegitimize the process but ensure they secure political power at all cost. According to INEC, fourteen parties are on the ballot having fulfilled all conditions for candidates’ nomination. Yiaga Africa noted in its first pre-election observation, that the electoral campaigns had been dominated by two parties – the All Progressive Congress (APC) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Sadly, the competition was reduced to a contest between personalities instead of a competition of ideas, issues, and proposals for sustainable growth and development. Two-thirds of LGAs in the state were classified as hotspots and flashpoints of violence by Yiaga Africa due to the frequency of violence, arms proliferation, and a spike in cult groups’ activities in those LGAs. The violence rhetoric and strongarm tactics employed by the two major parties for campaigns created a tense atmosphere and a climate of fear.  This informed peace talks initiated by the Oba of Benin, His Royal Majesty Oba Ewuare II and the signing of the Peace Accord convened by the National Peace Committee. Yiaga Africa commends the peacebuilding initiatives led by the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, and the National Peace Committee, headed by the former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar.

As one of Nigeria’s largest non-partisan and independent movements of citizens observers committed to promoting electoral integrity, Yiaga Africa WTV will be providing systematic, accurate, and timely information on the election day process. Specifically, Yiaga Africa will provide accurate information on the quality of the election day process and ascertain if the official results announced by INEC reflects the total votes cast. If the announced results have been manipulated and do not match the polling units’ results, Yiaga Africa will expose it. If the official result announced reflects the polling unit’s votes, Yiaga Africa would confirm it.

Yiaga Africa Watching the Vote is “Driven by Data – For All Nigerians – Beholden to None!”

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16 Sep
0

Yiaga Africa Trains 543 Observers for Edo Governorship Election

Ahead of the September 19 Governorship elections in Edo State, Yiaga Africa; a citizen-led movement committed to credible election under the Watching The Vote (WTV) has deployed its cohort of 44 Master Trainers across all 18 Local Government Areas in Edo state for the training of over 500 Polling unit observers and 24 roving observers. The training tagged; Election Day observation training was held in 42 training centres spread across all LGAs in the state. This was followed by the training of 18 Collation Center observers who will deploy to all 18 Local Government Area collation centres to observe, document and report the process at the collation level.

Yiaga Africa’s cohort of 44 Master Trainers with a deluge of experiences from their involvement in the Anambra, Ekiti, Osun, Kogi and Bayelsa gubernatorial elections and the 2019 Presidential elections, stepped down the training to the local government supervisors and the polling unit observers. The training held from 10th – 13th September 2020 and provided the rudiments of election observation and reporting.

Yiaga Africa observers were trained on the essentials of election observation beginning from understanding the Election Day process as provided in the Independent National Electoral Commission’s manuals and election guidelines, election day deployment, to the WTV observation methodology, using the observation forms. The observers were also exposed to the guidelines and principles of election observation in line with the global principles of Global Network for Domestic Election Monitors.

The September 19th Edo gubernatorial election will be the first of the off-cycle elections to be conducted amidst a pandemic. Thus observers were also trained on how to track and report adherence to the COVID-19 prevention protocols at the polling units and LGA results collation centers. In ensuring citizen observers adhere to COVID-19 safety guidelines, Yiaga Africa has provided facemasks to all polling unit observers to ensure access to the polling units for observation.

For the 2020 Edo State governorship election, Yiaga Africa’s Watching The Vote (WTV) will employ the Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) methodology on election day and will deploy 500 stationary observers in pairs to a representative statistical sample of 250 polling units and 24 mobile observers, 18 Collation Center observers in each of the 18 LGAs of Edo State and one State Focal Point (SFP). The deployment strategy will enable Yiaga Africa to provide timely and precise information on the conduct of accreditation, voting and counting as well as to independently verify the official results for the gubernatorial election as announced by INEC.

The Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) is an Election Day observation methodology that leverages statistics and technology for the observation of the process of voting and counting and tallying of results. Citizen observers are deployed to randomly sampled polling units to collect data on the conduct of elections and official polling unit level results.

With the results assembled from the sampled polling units, a citizen observer group can release projected estimates and verify the accuracy of results declared by the election management body. Using this methodology, observer reports are sent via SMS to a central database which enables WTV to analyse and share timely findings on the conduct of the election in near real-time.

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16 Sep
0

2020 Edo State Governorship Election Peace Accord as Signed by Political Party Party Chairpersons and Governorship Candidates.

On the Prevention of Violence and Acceptance of Election Results by Governorship Candidates and Chairpersons of Political Parties Contesting the 2020 Governorship Elections in Edo State Under the Auspices of the National Peace Committee, NPC We the undersigned Governorship Candidates of the under-listed political parties contesting in the Governorship Elections of Edo State in September 2020;

Reaffirming our commitment to taking proactive measures towards ensuring a conducive environment for the conduct of a credible electoral process;

Anxious about the maintenance of a peaceful environment before, during, and after the 2020 Governorship Elections in Edo State;

Reaffirming our commitment to fully abide by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to respect the rules and regulations as laid down in the Legal Framework for Elections in Nigeria, and to adhere to best international standards;
Desirous of sustaining and promoting the unity and corporate existence of Nigeria as an indivisible entity;
Determined to avoid any conduct or behaviour that will endanger the political stability and national security of Nigeria;
Mindful of our responsibility towards the Nigerian citizens and their democratic rights; we are determined to place national interest above personal and partisan concerns;

Hereby commit ourselves and our parties to the following:
1. To support all institutions of government involved in conducting or securing the elections – in particular the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the security forces – to act with professionalism, impartiality and transparency;

2. To insulate state agencies, institutions and public officers from supporting partisan interests in any form, as well as the full application of national and international laws against subversion of the electoral process, incitement to
violence or other offenses that may compromise the integrity of the ballot and the security of Nigerians and non-Nigerians before, during and after the elections.

3. To ensure uninterrupted and uncompromised freedom of expression and information, both online and offline, throughout the electoral process;

4. To admonish our party members and our teeming followers to refrain from insults, intimidations, incitement and violence, and to conduct themselves in accordance with the rule of law after the announcement of the results;

5. To publicly condemn acts of violence and their instigators and perpetrators;

6. To respect that the results can only be announced by INEC, and to accept the outcome of the vote as long as it is adjudged to be free, fair and credible, devoid of intimidation and conducted in accordance with the provisions of the law;

7. To support peaceful, transparent and credible electoral processes and abide by the outcome of the election results;

8. To fully collaborate with the National Peace Committee – made up of respected statesmen and women, traditional and religious leaders – in its mission to monitor the adherence to this Accord;

9. In the event of any disputes that may arise, to follow due process by resorting to the courts of law, and to act in a spirit of statesmanship, putting the country first before individual or party interest.

10. Abide by the letter and spirit of this Accord, and if my actions and utterances, and that of my party violate the principles of this Accord, I accept to the held accountable according to the laws and constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

God Bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Adopted in Benin City this 15th Day of September, 2020

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06 Sep
0

Pre-Election Survey Report: Citizens Perception on the 2020 Edo State Governorship

Executive Summary

• Ahead of the September 19, 2020 governorship elections in Edo state, Yiaga Africa conducted a survey among 657 randomly-sampled phone-owing adult Nigerians (18 years and above) residing in Edo State between 28th July and 3rd August 2020 to gauge their opinions about the impact of COVI9-19 pandemic and the campaign environment on the credibility of the governorship elections. This report summarizes some of the main findings from the survey and makes recommendations for promoting the credibility of the upcoming elections.

• Although approximately seven-in-ten survey respondents (68%) support INEC’s decision to hold Nigeria’s first off-cycle governorship election during the COVID-19 pandemic, a plurality (42%) remain concerned that voters and election officials could contract the virus on election-day. Respondents were evenly split on INEC’s effectiveness in communicating the new COVID-19 voting guidelines, and more than a quarter of those surveyed (27%) report having been exposed to information about COVID-19 voting procedures from political parties and candidates.

• Survey respondents expressed major concerns about violence carried out by political parties (56%) and security officials (48%) during the elections. With more than 3 weeks to go before the governorship election, approximately one-in-ten respondents have directly experienced violence and intimidation related to the elections, while over one-third have heard political candidates using hate speech on the campaign trail. Fifty-six percent of those surveyed were worried about the widespread practice of trading money and other material benefits for votes, while so far, four percent personally experienced vote buying.

• Public attitudes towards INEC in Edo are very polarized. Forty-six percent of respondents lack confidence in INEC’s ability to promote credible elections, 50% question the electoral umpires’ independence and 44% doubt the institutions’ preparedness for election.

• Despite the COVID-19 epidemic and the ongoing political crisis, an overwhelming majority of registered voters (85%) in our survey are likely to vote in the September 19 elections. Furthermore, 54% of all respondents are optimistic that the elections will be credible, and a plurality (42%) believe the quality of elections will increase relative to the 2019 presidential elections.

• Based on the results from the pre-election survey, Yiaga Africa recommends that INEC, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and State Task Force COVID-19 should ensure strict compliance with INEC policy on voting amidst COVID-19 and other health safety protocols. Polling officials should be required to undergo COVID-19 testing before and after the election. Public engagement on new health protocols and Voters Code of Conduct should be intensified across LGAs and communities.

• Given the pervasive threat to safety and security in the Edo election, Yiaga Africa urges the federal and state government to desist from partisan use of the police and security forces to manipulate the electoral process. Security agencies should neutralize existing security threats in Edo state to enable the voters to exercise their constitutional right to vote in a peaceful and secured environment. More proactive and preemptive interventions like peace meetings, peace accords, curtailment of proliferation and use of firearms and other weapons, appropriate sanctions for those implicated in thuggery and violence should be taken. If caution is not exercised, the outcome of the September 19 governorship polls may be determined by violence not voters.

• Lastly, INEC should take concrete steps to address the perceptions of its lack of independence, impartiality and professionalism through proactive and timely disclosure of election-related information; effective management of election day logistics; consistent application of electoral guidelines and lastly, transparent collation and transmission of election results.

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03 Sep
0

Press Statement : Yiaga Africa First Pre-Election Observation (PREO) Report For Edo Governorship Election

Introduction

Ladies and gentlemen of the press, welcome to the first Yiaga Africa Watching The Vote Press Conference on the 2020 Edo governorship election scheduled for September 19, 2020.

Ahead of the September 19, 2020 governorship elections in Edo state, Yiaga Africa deployed 24 Long Term Observers (LTOs) in the 18 LGAs of the state to systematically observe and gather information on the pre-election environment as well as early warning signs of electoral violence.  The Yiaga Africa Long Term Observers (LTOs) were deployed throughout the state to observe the pre-election environment and to monitor government responses to COVID-19 in each of the 18 Local Government Areas (LGAs). This pre-election observation also includes violence monitoring as part of an early warning system designed to prevent electoral violence and track the prevalence of human rights violations, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. For this reporting phase, the findings from the LGAs indicate that while INEC released a list of candidates for 14 political parties contesting in the September 19 election, political campaigns appear to be dominated by the All Progressive Congress and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Electoral competition has been reduced to a contest between personalities as opposed to issue-based campaigns. The LTOs reported incidences of violent verbal and physical attacks, identity-based violence, fake news mongering and hate-speech rhetoric employed as campaign strategies by both parties for campaigns. The observers also reported the repositioning of cult groups as political merchants for the election in some LGAs. While INEC activities for the election have commenced in earnest in some LGAs, observers reported low public sensitization especially on the new Voter’s Code of Conduct for Elections during COVID-19. In addition, observers reported sexual and gender-based violence in some of the LGAs in the state. Yiaga Africa fears that the spate of violence and insecurity in the pre-election period may discourage voters from turning up to vote on election day.

Key Observation Findings

The spate of pre-election violence is escalating: The two dominant parties in the governorship race are guilty of violent rhetoric, hate speech, vandalism, and violence. At a PDP rally in Apana Community in Etsako West LGA, clashes between PDP and APC supporters led to violent attacks and vandalism. At least one incident of SGBV was recorded in Orhionmwon, Oredo, Ikpoba/Okha, Etsako Central, Owan West, Esan West and Ovia North East LGA. The state is also witnessing a surge in cult groups’ activities, especially in Ikpoba/Okha, Oredo, Orhionmwon, and Owan West LGAs. This is mainly attributable to an entrenched subculture of violence built around well-known strongmen, thugs, touts, gangsters, and cultists on the one hand, and the widespread belief that elections cannot be won – or smooth governance guaranteed – without strongarm tactics and the support of powerful thugs. The situation is direr because of the proliferation of small arms and other weapons, which is evident in the free use of firearms at campaign venues.

Specifically, Yiaga Africa observed the following early warning signs of violence in the following LGAs;

  • Physical violence towards women at campaign rallies in Etsako Central LGA;
  • Vandalism or the destruction of property belonging to a candidate or his/her supporters in Oredo, Orhionmwon, Igueben, Etsako Central, Esan North East, Ikpoba/Okha, Egor and Esan South East LGAs, were reported during the first reporting period. Similar reports were received from additional LGAs;  Etsako East and Etsako West, in the second reporting period.;
  • Candidate inciting or encouraging his/her supporters to commit acts of violence in Oredo, Orhionmwon, Igueben, Ikpoba/Okha, Egor and Esan Central LGAs); 
  • Individuals or groups gathering small arms or light weapons (Ikpoba/Okha, Oredo, and Orhionmwon LGAs). Oredo and Ikpoba/Okha LGAs has the most report of incidents, in the two WTV reporting period and;
  • Recruitment of thugs or militia groups in Ikoba/Oko, Oredo, Orhionmwon, Ikpoba/Okha, and Egor, LGAs. 

Potential hotspots and flashpoints of violence: Based on our observation reports, 13 of 18 LGAs are considered as potential hotspots and flashpoints of violence. They include Etsako West, Etsako East, Etsako Central, Owan West, and Akoko-Edo in Edo North Senatorial district. In Edo South Senatorial district, our reports suggest Oredo, Orhionmwon, Egor, Ovia North East, and Ikpoba-Okha LGAs while in Edo Central Senatorial district, Esan Central, Esan North East, and Esan West are potential hotspots.

State of INEC’s Preparedness for the election: INEC is successfully implementing activities in the timetable and schedule for the election within limits imposed by the COVID-19 protocols. In the pre-election period, INEC has deployed more technologically-driven solutions in the electoral process, notably introducing party candidate nomination portal, election observer accreditation portal, and media accreditation portal, which all minimize physical contacts recommended by the new norm of social and physical distancing.

Voter inducement and purchase of Permanent Voter Card (PVC): Like the last 2019 Bayelsa and Kogi elections, WTV findings reveal the inducement of voters by politicians in the state. WTV LTOs reported the distribution of money or gift items by politicians and their supporters in all the LGAs except Uhunmwode, Akoko Edo, Etsako West, and Etsako East LGAs. While buying PVCs was recorded in Esan Central, Oredo, Orhionmwon, Ikpoba/Okha, and Igueben LGAs.

Key Recommendations

Security Agencies

  • Curtailment of proliferation and use of firearms and other weapons and ensure appropriate sanctions for those implicated in thuggery and violence.
  • Employ preventive measures to neutralize existing security threats in Edo state to enable the voters to exercise their constitutional right to vote in a peaceful and secure environment.
  • Improve inter-agency collaboration and cooperation to forestall rivalry and unhealthy competition in the management of election security

Federal and state government

  • Given the pervasive threat to safety and security in the Edo election, Yiaga Africa urges the federal and state government to desist from partisan use of the police and security forces to manipulate the electoral process.

Political Parties

  • Political parties and candidates should conduct issue-based campaigns rather than engage in voter inducement and recruitment of thugs and cultists for violence.
  • Political parties and candidates should subject themselves to public scrutiny on their campaigns manifestoes through debates, town halls, and direct public engagement.
  • Political parties should conduct voter education on INEC’s policy on voting amidst COVID-19 as part of their role in increasing voter turnout in elections.

Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)

  • INEC should collaborate with other stakeholders like the National Peace Committee, traditional/religious institutions, security agencies, media, and CSOs to de-escalate the rising political tension and violence by signing peace accord or pact between the candidates the election.
  • INEC should collaborate with the Presidential Task Force and State Task Force to ensure strict compliance with COVID-19 guidance enunciated in INEC policy on voting amidst COVID-19 and other health safety protocols. Polling officials should be required to undergo COVID-19 testing before and after the election.
  • Public engagement on new health protocols and Voters Code of Conduct should be intensified across LGAs and communities.
    INEC should take concrete steps to address the perceptions of its lack of independence, impartiality, and professionalism. This will include proactive disclose of election-related information, consistency in the application of electoral guidelines, and transparency in the results collation process.
  • INEC should ensure proper coordination with the security agencies and relevant health agencies to guarantee polling officials and voters’ security and safety on election day.

Citizens

  • Voters should exhibit a high sense of responsibility by complying with health safety guidelines before, during, and after the election. This will reduce the prevalence rate of COVID-19 infections in the state.
  • Citizens should refrain from perpetrating violence, refrain from hate speech, and not accept gift items in exchange for their votes.
  • Citizens should work with security agencies by reporting incidents or threats of violence, or perpetrators of violence.

Media

Media organizations should ensure all political parties and candidates are given adequate media exposure and visibility.

 

Conclusion

Yiaga Africa commends peace efforts by the Oba of Benin, INEC and National Peace Committee to reconcile warring factions and deescalate the tension in the state. Yiaga Africa expresses its commitment to supporting these efforts to ensure the people of Edo are given the opportunity to express their will in a peaceful and safe environment. Yiaga Africa will continue to observe the pre-election environment and share its report with stakeholders.

____________________________

For media inquiries please contact:

Moshood Isah

Communication Officer

Yiaga Africa

Tel. +234 (0) 703 666 9339

Email: misah@yiaga.org

Learn more about #WatchingTheVote at www.watchingthevote.org or on social media

on Facebook at facebook.com/yiaga.org or on Twitter @YIAGA.

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01 Sep
0

REPORT : 2020 Edo Election: An election defined by strongarm tactics and violence

2020 Edo Election: An election defined by strongarm tactics and violence: Yiaga Africa First Pre-Election Observation (PREO) Report
                                                                              August 31, 2020

Executive Summary

Edo state’s off-cycle governorship election will be the sixth governorship election to be conducted in the state since the transition to civil rule in 1999. In 2008, the Action Congress Party governorship candidate challenged the outcome of the election. Through a decision of the election tribunal, Adams Oshiomhole was declared the duly elected governor of the state. The court decision in 2008 makes Edo state one of seven states with an off-cycle gubernatorial election. Edo state gubernatorial elections have always presented interesting political dynamics and have consistently remained highly contested. The 2020 Edo governorship election has seen the continuation of these political dynamics and presents a unique political context that has influenced the state’s pre-election environment.

First, the regional significance of the Edo governorship seat remains critical for the two dominant parties, the All Progressive Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). For the APC, Edo is strategic for its political relevance in the South-South geo-political zone as the only state with the APC as the ruling party before the defection of the incumbent Governor to PDP. The APC is seeking to establish its political strength by retaining its position as the ruling party in Edo, particularly given the APC’s loss in the 2019 Bayelsa election, which saw the re-emergence of PDP as the ruling party in the state following the court decision disqualifying the APC governorelect.

Second, grievances arising from internal conflict within the APC saw an incumbent governor disqualified to contest in the party primaries — an infrequent political occurrence. Third, the incumbent Governor Obaseki is contesting on the platform of the PDP, a party that served as his major opposition in the 2016 election. On the other hand, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, his prominent opponent in the 2016 election, is contesting on the APC platform. Lastly, this will be the first governorship election to be conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, with the electoral commission preparing to test new policies on the conduct of elections during a pandemic. Also, stakeholders will be conducting election activities in extraordinary circumstances.

Edo state’s political context has been influential in shaping the politics of the Edo governorship election as revealed by Yiaga Africa’s Watching the Vote (WTV) findings from the first phase of the pre-election observation (PREO) in the state. Yiaga Africa deployed long term observers throughout the state to observe the pre-election environment and to monitor government responses to COVID-19 in each of the 18 Local Government Areas (LGAs). This pre-election observation also includes violence monitoring as part of an early warning system designed to prevent electoral violence and track the prevalence of human rights violations, particularly in light of the COVID19 pandemic. For this reporting phase, the findings from the LGAs indicates that while INEC released a list of candidates for 14 political parties contesting in the September 19 election, political campaigns appear to be dominated by the All Progressive Congress and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The competition has been reduced to a contest between personalities as opposed to issue-based campaigns. The WTV long term observers reported incidences of violent verbal and physical attacks, identity-based violence, and hate-speech rhetoric as campaign strategies employed by both parties for campaigns. The observers also reported the repositioning of cult groups as political merchandise for the election in some LGAs. While INEC activities for the election have commenced in earnest in some LGAs, observers reported that INEC is conducting very little voter education, especially on the new Voter’s Code of Conduct for Elections during COVID-19. In addition, observers reported sexual and gender-based violence in some of the LGAs in the state.

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27 Aug
0

Edo/Ondo Polls: Civic Groups Engage to Boost Citizens Participation

As part of its effort to ensure citizens and civic groups engage the election process from an informed perspective, Yiaga Africa through its Watching The Vote (WTV) project conducted a comprehensive capacity building for leaders of Civil Society Organisations in Edo and Ondo state. The capacity building tagged,” Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) Academy” was held in Benin city, Edo state on 21st August 2020 with another round of training held in Akure Ondo state on 24th August 2020.

During the session, Yiaga Africa’s Director of Programs Cynthia Mbamalu reiterated the need for Civic Groups to be part and parcel of the electoral process saying they must take leadership responsibility in improving citizens’ participation in the process. According to her, while it is expected that both elections will be competitive, there has been a lot of focus on politicians and political actors and less focus on the people. Thus, the aim of the election observation academy is to build collaboration with State-based civic groups to promote citizens’ engagement and credible elections.

PVT Academy with CSO leaders in Ondo

“We want peaceful elections and we need stakeholders to take charge of the process. No life should be lost because of an election”, she said. Cynthia decried the many challenges that marred the November 2019 Kogi and Bayelsa Governorship election saying such a scenario should not replicate itself in Edo and Ondo elections.

Beyond building a collaborative effort for credible elections, the training provided an avenue for civic groups in the state to understand the Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) Election Day observation methodology. This according to Cynthia will enable citizens and civic groups to be able to engage election observation findings received from Polling Units.

She said Yiaga Africa sees the election as a process rather than just an activity as whatever happens before the election may impact on the Election Day. “This is why we kicked off first with the observation of the pre-election environment in Edo and Ondo states to enable us to build early warning systems”, she said.

Director of programs Cynthia Mbamalu speaking during PVT Academy with CSO leaders in Edo

“Pre-elections, we start with observing the party primaries, and the pre-election atmosphere, and how the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is going about preparations”. We also do violence monitoring to identify the indicators of violence, and solve it early, by contacting the security personnel or even INEC”, she explained.

She said, on the Election Day, Yiaga Africa will deploy 500 citizen observers to 250 sampled polling units across the LGAs in Edo and 600 citizens observers to 300 sampled polling units in all the 18 LGAs in Ondo. These observers according to her are equipped with checklists to observe the accreditation and voting, sorting and counting amongst other critical aspects of the election. Additionally, according to Cynthia, observers will be deployed to all the LGA results collation centers in Edo and Ondo states, the aim according to her is to verify the accuracy of results announced by the electoral commission.

“The special thing about the PVT is that it can indicate if the results of the elections are accurate (we do not give exact results, just estimates), and we can highlight where there are problems in the process”, she said. The goal is that after elections, we use the reports from stakeholders to advocate for electoral reforms, either at the state level or at the level of INEC (administrative) or legislative and legal reforms.

During an interactive session, participants agreed on the need to coordinate CSO efforts to engender citizens’ participation and promote credible elections in Edo and Ondo States. They decried the corrupt and polarised groups both from the media and CSOs that engage in political de-marketing and overheating of the polity and harped on the need to desist from doing that, as such as acts will do more harm than good as it will discourage citizens from participating in the process.

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