Local and international observers that were accredited by the Independent National Electoral Commission to monitor the September 19 governorship election in Edo State on Monday gave divergent views on the coverage of the exercise.
Different observer groups have given their experiences on the exercise.
Godwin Obaseki, the incumbent governor, who ran under the Peoples Democratic Party beat his closet rival, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, of the All Progressives Congress, to secure a second term in office.
For instance, PREMIUM TIMES reported the Nigeria Bar Association Observers, Benin branch, said in their interim report on Sunday that there was a substantial improvement in the deployment of card readers as most of the device functioned in their optimal capacity in most of the polling units.
Also, one group under the aegis of Intercontinental Leadership Initiative faulted the integrity of the Saturday’s exercise.
Two others, the Civil Society Domestic Election Observers and Centre for Liberty commended INEC for the conduct of the election.
Stafford Bisong, the Country Head of Intercontinental Leadership Initiative, raised integrity issues about the election.
Mr Bisong, who said he had his officials spread across the 18 Local Government Area of Edo during the election, claimed that most of the card readers used for the poll were not functional.
He also said the non-display of voters’ register at the polling units five days before the election was contrary to the provision of the Electoral Act.
The observer said another finding by the organisation was the late arrival of sensitive and non-sensitive materials in about 80 per cent of polling units, especially in Oredo, Ikpoba-Okha, and Egor LGAs.
Mr Bisong said, “We discovered a lot of discrepancies on the field during the election and we concluded that there is more to desire in our electoral voting procedure. Both sensitive and none sensitive materials relatively late in 80 percent of the polling units, prominent in Oredo, Ikpoba-Okha, and Egor.
“Voting commenced around 1.30pm in some parts of these polling units. Another one is the issue of the voters’ register. The register was pasted just less than 24 hours to the election and this made it difficult for many to exercise before the poll.
“We again discovered that the voter’s register was not updated, as a result, this made it impossible for many not to participate in the exercise. Some of these people may have relocated, some, some died while the Covid-19 pandemic may have kept many away.
“Finally, none functional card readers as noticed across the State led to the issue of multiple voting in parts of the polling units. About 80 per cent of these card readers malfunctioned as they were not authenticating fingerprints of the voters which led to manual use of authentication.”
In contrast, Victor Kalu, spokesman for Civil Society Domestic Election Observers, said INEC “meticulously followed its timetable and schedule of activities for the conduct of Edo State governorship election 2020 to a conclusion.”
Mr Kalu said, “We note with satisfaction that INEC was resolute, prepared and committed to conducting a credible, free and fair governorship election in Edo State, by providing a level playing ground for all the participated political parties in the state and for ensuring the timely and even distribution of election materials across the polling units in the in the state for the commencement of the election.”
Meanwhile, Ariyo Atoye and Adebayo Raphael, co-conveners of the Centre for Liberty, gave the process a pass mark via a press release sent to PREMIUM TIMES.
The group said “the election was conducted in a mostly civilised and less disruptive manner across the state. This is highly commendable.”
It also commended the role played by the Oba of Benin which it noted led to a violence-free exercise.
“CFL equally commends the general conduct of the various stakeholders in the election; from the permanent and ad-hoc staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to the various security agencies that participated in the election — especially the Nigerian Police Force for their vigilance and professionalism, the local and international election observers, and also the political actors and civil society organisations,” the group said.
It, however, said although the election was mostly peaceful and free of disorder, “there were reports and cases of overzealous loyalists of some political parties who tried to scuttle the election and create confusion”.
“We believe that INEC and the Nigerian Police will do well to deal with the culprits as legally provided in the present Electoral Act, so as to continue to deter potential election disrupters from indulging in this ignoble act.”
They said the nation’s parliament should build on the success recorded by INEC in Edo.
“It is upon this background that CFL wishes to state that the National Assembly must quickly proceed to pass the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2020, giving legislative backing to e-accreditation, e-transmission and e-collation of election results. It is crucial that this is done as quickly as possible before the major political activities on the next general election commences in the country.”