The Director of Programmes, YIAGA Africa, a popular election observer group, Cynthia Mbamalu, said previous election observation reports revealed that elections in riverine areas were usually susceptible to rigging due to poor logistics management, threat to life, violence and non-compliance with INEC guidelines.
She said in the 2016 governorship election in the state, YIAGA Africa’s Watching the Vote received most of its critical incidents from Ilaje LGA, one of the riverine LGAs.
She added, “To avoid election fraud and manipulation in this election, we need better coordination between the security agencies and INEC to ensure that effective security is provided for the INEC/polling officials for the safe and early deployment of materials to polling units and in securing the polling officials and polling units on election day.
“This would include ensuring that there is an effective transport plan that has proper security for the movement of personnel and materials to polling units in the riverine areas. The security agencies, especially the police should ensure effective and sufficient deployment of professional personnel to the polling units in riverine LGAs and the LGAs already identified as hotspots/flashpoints.
Calling on INEC to ensure consistency in the application of its guidelines and ensure the use of the Z-pad to upload the result sheet on the INEC Result Viewing portal, she added, “INEC and the police need to ensure that any of their officials involved in electoral fraud faces disciplinary actions and that electoral offenders are arrested and prosecuted. Finally, INEC should ensure that all its personnel deployed are adequately insured.”
Also, the Director, Centre for Democracy and Development, Idayat Hassan, called on INEC to know that not just political thugs posed a threat to elections in the riverine areas, militants and cult members were also culpable.
She added, “On deployment of logistics, INEC must make special plans to ensure that materials arrive on time in these riverine areas to prevent apprehension. Secondly, in previous elections, the results from the Ilaje and Ese-Odo were often the last to arrive at the collation centre.
“It is imperative that INEC use her new technology on result collation to ensure transparency, so in these difficult areas, results must be quickly uploaded. This timely upload will be of immense benefit.
“There is also the need for security deployment to protect materials and personnel. It is important to note that in this area that it is not just political thugs the election is contending with, militants, cult members and some stakeholders are also threats. We don’t just need deployment in numbers, effective and non-partisan deployment is key.”
Also, the Convener, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, Ariyo-Dare Atoye, called for surveillance in the air and on water in the coastal areas.
He added, “Every INEC staff that would be posted to these riverine areas and other sensitive locations must be kitted with a technological device that can trigger necessary alarm in a central location in Akure and Abuja once there is a major incident or danger is cited.
“Since it is a three horse race in the state, tension should lessen ahead of the elections, but nothing can be taken away from desperate politicians. INEC must call for and ensure security surveillance on water and in the air around these riverine areas.”
Army, Navy warn political thugs to steer clear of Ondo poll
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army and the Navy have expressed readiness for the election.
The officers and men of the two security agencies on Thursday evening carried out an exercise tagged ‘Show of Force’ on waterways in Ilaje and Ese Odo Local Government Areas of the state.
The exercise, which started in Igbokoda in the morning and ended late in the evening, covered Atijere, Abereke, Agadagba, Obolowo, Asere, Arogbo, Dioba among others in the coastal area of the state.
Speaking after the exercise, the Commander of 32 Artillery Brigade, Akure, Brig Gen Zakari Abubakar, stated that the aim of the exercise was to signal warning to hoodlums on the waterways that the security agencies were combat-ready to ensure that the election was violence-free.
Abubakar said, “The purpose of the exercise is to get prepared for the October 10 governorship election. We want to ensure that the election is free and peaceful and to make sure that hoodlums don’t interfere.
“As you are aware, the places visited lead to Delta and Ogun states and they (militants) will be coming. But I want to assure you that wherever they come from, we will give them a blocking force.”
He advised youths in the coastal communities to shun all forms of violence and intimidation before, during and after the election, noting that the military was aware of several camps springing up on the waterways. He said some hideouts of hoodlums at Asere were destroyed during the exercise.
Similarly, the Commanding Officer of Naval Forward and Operation Base, Igbokoda, Navy Capt Mohammed Ahmed, explained that the exercise was to show readiness to secure the waterways from criminal activities.
He added, “It is to assure people that we are always there to secure the environment for them and inform hoodlums that we are watching because security agents are ready and it was a successful exercise. As the Brigade Commander has said, we may have a repeat of it before the election.”
Akeredolu, Jegede, Agboola, others sign peace accord Tuesday
In a related development, Okoye has said the 17 candidates and their political parties that will participate in the exercise will sign a peace accord on Tuesday, adding that 16 of the candidates are male while only one is a female.
He added, “The candidates and the political parties will sign the peace accord on Tuesday, October 6, 2020 and the commission will also hold a major stakeholders’ meeting within the same period.
“We have met with the Council of Traditional Rulers in Ondo State and the INEC chairman (Prof Mahmood Yakubu) has urged them to use their powerful voices and moral and traditional authority to impress on the parties and candidates to embrace peace.”