KIMPACT DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVE (KDI), THE COORDINATOR FOR THE ONDO STATE NIGERIA ELECTION VIOLENCE REPORT (NEVR) ON THE VIOLENCE AND POTENTIAL FOR VIOLENCE REPORTS IN THE GOVERNORSHIP ELECTIONS
While adressing the news men in their situation room, situated in Akure.
Kimpact Development Initiative gives their situational reports on the Ondo State Governorship Elections. The objective is to inform the general public and major stakeholders on the key findings and observations of Kimpact on election violence and potential for violence reports received in the just concluded Ondo State Governorship Election; and to give recommendations based on our preliminary findings for the improvement of election process and procedure in Nigeria.
ABOUT KIMPACT DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVE AND THE NEVR PROJECT
Kimpact is a youth based non-governmental, non-partisan organization that builds informed and active citizens through sensitization, in-depth research, data-based public policy advocacy, capacity development and the promotion of good governance. KDI also uses bottom-up and holistic approach which focuses on individual attitudinal change among citizens as well as systematic change in policy and practice towards a more supportive environment for citizen-led development. As part of her contribution to good democratic governance, Kimpact carried out the Nigeria Election Violence Report (NEVR) Project in Ondo State.
The NEVR Project is supported by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES). The project aims at developing the capacity of civil society to monitor, analyze and respond to incidents of election-related conflict before, during and after elections in Nigeria. It encourages collaboration and dialogue between election stakeholders in society to mitigate and/or prevent election violence. To achieve these, Kimpact lined up and carried out a number of activities, amongst which are, the capacity building and deployment of 45 monitors throughout the 18 Local Government Areas of Ondo State for the pre-election, election-day and post-election periods; conduct of a pre-election risk survey – Election Security Risk Assessment (ESRA) – to identify electoral risk factors, early warning signals, potential causes and triggers of electoral violence and Violence Against Women in Election (VAWE) across the eighteen (18) Local Government Areas in Ondo state.
The ESRA helped in identifying hotspots, the modalities for deploying monitors and the appropriate mitigation strategy required to douse tension; Billboards bearing messages advising the people of Ondo State to embrace peace and shun violence were hosted in the state; in the weeks preceding the election up till the day the election was conducted, NEVR jingles with the messaging of peaceful election and the impact of election violence on the people were aired several times a day on two radio stations with far reaching audience; obtaining the buy-in of several key stakeholders into shunning election violence and holding a peaceful election through advocacy visits. Discussions on how they could help mitigate political tensions that may lead to electoral violence were also had with these stakeholders; a Stakeholders’ Forum held in collaboration with INEC and other CSOs; a peace accord signing carried out in collaboration with the National Peace Committee and other CSOs – the two initiatives were aimed at ensuring that the key stakeholders in the 10th October Governorship Election understood the benefits accruable to the people of the state if they embraced peace and shun violence at the polls.; and the provision of a toll-free line (08000010000) was made available as a medium through which members of the public could report any incident of violence in their communities; a Situation Room set up to monitor the situation on the field and harvest the necessary information.
KIMPACT/NEVR ONDO ELECTION SITUATION ROOM
Kimpact/NEVR Ondo Election Situation Room took off on the 9th through to 10th October, 2020 to monitor the Ondo State Governorship Election and harvest field reports from the 45 NEVR monitors deployed across the 18 Local Government Areas of the State for swift, credible, and real-time analyses of information; and to give objective insights into incidences of election violence and potential for violence, document same and to provide rapid response to emergencies – especially in the crisis situation during and after the elections. In addition, reports were received from the public via the toll-free line provided by Kimpact, many of these reports were tracked and verified by the NEVR monitor in that neighbourhood. We also monitored the media and social media news for reports and fake news on the election, with the aim of on-the-field verification by NEVR Monitors and debunking of fake news. Kimpact also collaborated with other national and international observers on the field for effective exchange of information.
PRELIMINARY FINDINGS AND OBSERVATION ON INCIDENCES OF ELECTORAL VIOLENCE, POTENTIAL VIOLENCE, AND OTHER RELATED ISSUES AROUND THE ELECTIONS.
Kimpact must applaud the citizens of Ondo State who still went to their respective polling units to exercise their franchise on Saturday 10th October, 2020 despite the palpable fears, and anxiety in the build up to the elections. As of 4pm on the election day, Saturday, 10th October, 2020, Kimpact NEVR Ondo Election Situation Room received reports from the 18 Local Government Areas of the state. 161 calls were made and received, and 207 messages were received from the field.
368 cases were reported and documented through the NEVR monitors and other concerned citizens. Out of these cases documented, 9 were incidences of violence and 58 incidences of potential for violence. The incidences of violence and potential for violence reported and documented ranged from attempted murder, physical assault, harassment, Intimidation of voters, pockets of logistics issues, vote-buying, to the conduct of security agencies at all levels.
The incidences of violence and potential for violence have been analysed. Analysis showed that the perpetrators of the reported incidences are party agents/supporters, who were involved mostly in vote-buying and disruption of polls; security agents who helped the parties in the impunity of vote buying; party thugs who were involved in shooting; the voters who were involved in vote selling and agitation; and some of the INEC officials themselves who allowed the impunity of vote trading.
So far, Kimpact must commend the conduct of the 10th October, 2020 Ondo State Governorship Election. For the most part, the electoral officers and election materials arrived timely at the polling units, although there are still a few lapses in this regard, and improvement is desirable. In Akure North Ward 6, Unit 4, voting had not started because the smart card reader failed to function and the INEC ad-hoc staff had to wait for replacement.
The security agencies also deserve commendation, although as at the time of this press conference, we have not received report of any arrest of voter buyers and sellers. This shows the negligence of the security personnel to vote buying who is already a monster in our electoral process. However, eyewitness accounts in some of the polling units covered showed that the security agents defused a good number of volatile situations, from stopping the lynching of those suspected of vote buying, disbanding party faithful clashes to practically ensuring a peaceful election.
COMMENCEMENT OF ELECTIONS
Commencement of polls started early in most of the polling units on Saturday, 10th October, 2020, as ad-hoc officers arrived early enough to set up the PUs. For instance, accreditations and voting started at the dot of 8:30am in Akure North, Ward 9, Unit 6; Ward 11, Unit 2; Akure South Ward 11, Unit 14; Akoko South West Ward 15, Unit 3; Akoko South East Ward 5, Units 1 and 2; Owo Ward 4, Units 5, 6 and 7; Okitipupa Ward 2, Units 1 and 2; Ese Odo Ward 2, Units 1, 2 and 3; and so many other wards covered. Only a handful of the polling units started late such as Ese Odo Ward 2, Units 4 and 5 which started accreditation and voting at 10:00am. There was slow commencement in some units such as Odigbo Ward 12, Unit 12; Ondo West Ward 8, Units 15 and 16.
Mere observing the voting line, the election today witnessed a large turnout of voters, especially the elderly, women and the youth despite the rain in the early part of the Election Day.
ADHERENCE TO INEC COVID-19 GUIDELINE
Reports of adherence to COVID-19 guidelines was low, as there were no strict observance of social distancing. Although the INEC ad-hoc staff tried to enforce the “no mask no vote” rule, but it is disheartening to note that voters borrowed nose mask from their neighbours to get accredited and vote. This, KDI believes is more dangerous than going out without a nose mask.
INDUCEMENT AND VOTE BUYING
Vote-buying and inducement cut across all the 18 Local Government Areas of the state. Vote buying took place with so much impunity. Party agents employed all forms of tactics to buy votes, ranging from paying cash (2000-7000) to distributing food items such as snacks and drinks, garri and indomie noodles. It was also recorded that this act has degenerated to the point where vote buyers have payment voucher. This shows that all strategies have been preplanned and perfected. We at this must condemn this because it is not healthy for our democracy.
In view of the aforementioned issues, KDI recommends that:
• While we commend INEC for a job well done in the conduct of the Saturday 10th October, 2020 Ondo State Governorship Election, it must be noted that there is room for improvement in the area of logistics. Election materials arrived late in some polling unit, which caused some of the voters to return to their homes. Unfortunately, most of these persons did not come back to perform their civic rights.
• INEC is encouraged to henceforth have preparation for potential force majeure such as the rain that almost marred the election.
• The cases of violence in our electoral process is disturbing. It is important to note that we can have a violence-free election in Nigeria. Nigerians must come to the realization that their lives are worth much more than any politician’s political ambition.
• The impunity displayed by vote traders at the polls is highly worrisome. Vote trading is gradually destroying the nation’s democracy, as the highest bidders gets the votes. There is a need for INEC to conduct elections in such a way that vote buying will stop being lucrative. Voting should be made so secret that the voters are not able to show their ballot papers to the vote buyers or in such a way that “would be buyers’ are not able to determine who was voted for by the “would be sellers”.
• Political party actors are encouraged to prevail on their followers to desist from all forms of violence after the declaration of results.
The election day processes is yet to be over, we are still at the middle of counting and sorting of votes. The collation is often regards as the weakest point in the whole process. We implore INEC to ensure this process are transparent and reflect the voice of the voters.
Bukola IdowuDare Adeoye
Executive DirectorMember, Advisory Board
Kimpact Development InitiativeKimpact Development Initiative