By Richard Akintade, Osogbo
Election observer group, YIAGA Africa, on Wednesday called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security operatives to up their ante in the fight against the menace of vote buying and other electoral malpractices.
YIAGA also called for the arrest and prosecution of vote buyers and violence perpetrators in the days ahead and during the July 16 gubernatorial election in Osun state.
According to the YIAGA Africa Board member, Ezenwa Nwagwu and Cynthia Mbamalu, the Director of Programmes, during a press conference organised in Osogbo the Osun State capital, on its pre election observation in various local government areas of the state, they described vote buying as a threat that may undermine credibility of the electoral process if left unchecked before and during after the election.
They called on INEC and other civil society organisations to use the few days ahead the election to educate residents on vote buying and its attendant negative future implications.
According to YIAGA: “The desperation of contending political parties could threaten the integrity of the 2022 Osun governorship elections.
“In the weeks leading to the 16 July 2022 governorship election in Osun state, the major political parties have intensified their campaigns, deploying both legal and illegal antics in an attempt to win the race to the government house.
“The Osun election is however beyond the contest for the office of the governor as the political parties compete tough in a last-ditch effort to gain a strong impetus going into the crucial 2023 general elections.
“With barely 10 days to the Osun governorship election, the political and security atmosphere has remained tensely unpredictable with the security agency describing every local government area as a potential flashpoint.
“Yiaga Africa’s pre-election reports have revealed the activities of cultists and political thugs in some local government areas (LGA) as capable of threatening the peaceful and credible conduct of the election, if not contained. In addition to this threat, there are also attempts by some political mercenaries to manipulate the process right from the pre-election stage,” YIAGA stated.
It commended INEC and CSOs on voters education but urged the electoral umpire and security operatives to investigate and and prosecute any allegation or report on monetization of permanent voter cards by any politician or party agents.
YIAGA also identified political thuggery and activities of cultists in some local government areas in the state as threat to collection of PVCs by electorate and another factors that could undermine credibility of the election if not properly addressed.
It called on the police to deploy more intelligence and to remain unbiased in arresting and prosecuting electoral malpractice offenders.
YIAGA commended INEC on mock accreditation and charged it to further ease the process of collection of PVC.
It observed that “Despite the foregoing, the preparation for the Osun governorship election has seen a religious implementation of the electoral timeline by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
“As observed, the training of ad hoc staff is ongoing, and the non-sensitive materials are deployed and catalogued in the INEC LGA offices. Also, the collection of the Permanent Voters Card (PVC) is currently happening in the INEC LGA offices and voter education activities are being conducted by INEC and different stakeholders to ensure informed citizens’ participation.
“The Commission also conducted a mock accreditation to access the BVAS in some LGAs ahead of the election.
The pre-election environment has also been characterized by defections, alignment and realignment as part of an effort by political parties and candidates to gain political favour going into the election and with the 2023 polls in calculations.
Yiaga Africa has been observing the Osun Pre-Election Environment since April 2022. Yiaga Africa’s WTV specifically and deployed 32 long-term observers (LTO) to the 30 LGAs to observe the pre-election environment until July 14, 2023. So far, three pre-election observation reports have been issued and two more reports will be issued before the election.