The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has hailed the contribution of Yiaga Africa to credible elections in Nigeria, saying it has observed beyond a reasonable doubt the organization’s role to see improvement in credible elections and citizens’ participation. This was contained in a speech delivered by the Ondo State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Ambassador, Dr. Rufus Olohuntoyin Akeju, during his appearance at the training of Yiaga Africa’s Watching The Vote Long Term Observers on Thursday, August 04, 2020, in Akure, Ondo state.
According to him, the activities of Yiaga Africa, a civil society organization in election observation has been noted in the Governorship elections of Kogi and Bayelsa. He said “the organization is seen to be playing this role effectively as partners to the commission in the onerous task of the consolidation of Nigerian democracy. “It is our hope that Yiaga Africa will partner with the commission for a well-conducted gubernatorial election in Ondo state on 10th October 2020”.
Dr Akeju reiterated that Yiaga Africa’s role as election observers is important because they help to point out areas that need immediate improvement in the electoral process. During his speech, he provided electoral data about the state which includes information about polling units and voting points, saying the state has Three Thousand and nine (3009) polling units. According to him, the 18 Local Government Areas in the state will host 203 Registration Area Centres
He also said the commission will be using the same voter register from during the 2019 elections as the COVID-19 pandemic has hindered any form of Continuous Voters’ Registration (CVR) process. “We have a total of one million, eight hundred and twenty-two thousand, three hundred, and forty-six (1,822,346) registered voters. Of this figure, a total of one million, four hundred and seventy-eight thousand, four hundred and eighty-six (1,478,486) voters have collected their Permanent Voters Card (PVC) to vote, leaving a total of Three hundred and seventy-two thousand, eight hundred and eighty-eight (372,888) PVCs yet to be collected by their owners”, he revealed.
He however said, the commission at the state is monitoring all pre-election activities to ensure they are done according to enabling laws, political parties’ constitution and in accordance with the COVID-19 prevention protocols of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and Presidential Task Force. He further shared information on the readjustment of the timeline on the commencement of polls and other safety precautions to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.
He concluded his speech by urging Yiaga Africa to remain balanced in its report saying, “election observers are expected to emphasize on resolving electoral problems rather than apportioning blames”. In his words, “let your assessment be placed in the proper context and written with care to avoid any misinterpretation. I wish to encourage you to make your statement verifiable and give much adherence to ethics to guarantee your impartiality”.
Meanwhile, as part of its pre-election engagement and collaborative effort for a credible election, the Management of Yiaga Africa‘s Watching The Vote project had on Wednesday, August 7th, 2020, paid an advocacy visit to the Resident Electoral Commissioner of Ondo state, Amb. Dr. Rufus Akeju.
The visit according to the Director of Programs, Cynthia Mbamalu was aimed to build a strong partnership with the electoral commission while sharing Yiaga Africa’s election observation deployment plan for the elections. She said, as an accredited observer for the Ondo Governorship elections, it is pertinent to build a good relationship with the commission to promote citizens’ participation and ensure credible elections.
“After observing the political party primaries, we are currently training 27 Long Term Observers who will be deployed across all Local Government Areas in the state to observe and report the pre-election environment”, she said.
For Election Day, she said “Yiaga Africa will deploy 600 observers using a special election observation methodology called the Parallel Vote Tabulation. The goal is to provide timely and precise information on the process and build citizens confidence in the electoral process”, she said the project will also be deploying to all LGA collation centers to observe the process.
According to Cynthia, “Yiaga Africa will be conducting a lot of voter education via various platforms including a weekly radio program which will provide platforms for citizens and stakeholders to engage”. “Yiaga Africa through its Local Government Supervisors is ready to provide support to the commission in conducting voter education at the local government level”, she concluded.