Two prominent civic groups have released their preliminary statement on the governorship election held in Ekiti State on Saturday.
The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) and the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) said they observed that “against all the odds, the voting process of the ongoing 2018 governorship election in Ekiti State commenced without significant logistical hitches.”
“This may be attributed to the well-coordinated arrangements of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ahead of the election to ensure early arrival of election officials and sensitive materials to various Registration Area Centres (RACs) across the existing 16 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in the state. The commission is congratulated for the Etrack to track the location and movement of vehicles carrying sensitive election materials in real time to their locations.”
The groups, who trained and deployed about 100 observers for the election, in their report sent to PREMIUM TIMES, also noted the enthusiasm among voters for the election.
“While it is too early to ascertain the level of voter turnout across the State, the electorate has shown a high level of enthusiasm in exercising their franchise, as most polling units visited in the early hours of Election Day had voters already waiting for INEC officials to arrive and commence accreditation and voting by 8.00 a.m.
“At the start, the voting process was conducted peacefully in most polling units visited by our observers. A few hours into the vote, however, there were few reported cases of violence-related incidents. In some of the polling units visited, we observed that the security personnel conducted themselves responsibly concerning their response to curtailing vote trading.”
The groups, in the report signed by Idayat Hassan and Dapo Olorunyomi for CDD and PTCIJ respectively, also highlighted the roles of security agencies in the election.
“Correctly, we observed security agents preventing voters from taking their phones into voting cubicles. It had been noted that some voters were taking pictures of their ballot papers as evidence of their vote to claim incentives from agents of political parties at polling units. It was reported that in Ijero Local Governance Area (LGA), Ward A, Polling Unite (PU) 003, the Department for State Security (DSS) asked that no one should go with his or her phones into any voting cubicle.
“Our observation revealed that voting commenced between 8 am, and 9 am, with relatively few delays experienced across the state.”
In their interim report of the election, the groups also highlighted the recurring problem of card readers malfunctioning. Card readers are used by the electoral officers at each polling unit to ensure that only the right persons who own the voter cards are allowed to vote.
“However, the voting process suffered a few hitches due to a couple of factors. Most prominent is the smart card reader challenge. In some polling units, the card readers failed to read the fingerprints of voters correctly. To address this challenge, some of the INEC officials requested that voters clean their hands with spirits to make their prints more visible. In the same vein, some voters were initially rejected for invalid biometrics. The candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Professor Olusola Eleka, was widely reported to have had trouble voting following a failed card reader in his PU,” they said.
Another problem highlighted by the civic groups was widespread voter inducement. PREMIUM TIMES earlier reported how the two major parties, APC and PDP, induced voters with various sums at some polling units.
“The election witnessed an unprecedented level of vote trading, a trend which is fast becoming a norm in Nigeria’ elections. While we earlier noted attempts by security operatives to curb vote buying and selling, this phenomenon still prevailed with observers reporting the dolling out of cash to voters.
“For example, one party agent was caught on video by PTCIJ‘s and CDD’s observer sharing N5,000 to voters at PU012, Igbemo Ward of Irepodun-Ifelodun LGA. Another party agent in Ward C, Olanrewaju, PU 6, was photographed by one of our observers giving money to voters who already cast their votes.”
The final results of the Ekiti election are expected early on Sunday. Although there are 35 candidates partaking in the election, the race is largely seen to be beween the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Kayode Fayemi, and that of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Olusola Eleka.