An election monitoring group, Yiaga Africa has placed the number of registered voters with permanent voter cards to participate in the November 11 gubernatorial elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi states at 5,169,962.
The group noted that these are the first elections after Nigeria’s contentious and controversial 2023 general elections, stressing that the commitment of key democratic institutions such as the Independent National Electoral Commission, security agencies and the executive to restore public confidence in the electoral process will be tested in Saturday’s polls.
Both Cynthia Mbamalu and Ezenwa Nwagwu, key officials of Yiaga Africa, observed that the pre-election climate in the states suggests they are high-stake elections with the potential for violence, vote buying and other misdemeanour.
They insisted that Nigerians who would be participating in the elections in the three states desire a safe environment to cast their ballot without violence, suppression or intimidation.
Yiaga at a press conference in Abuja on Friday, noted that as the voters proceed to the polls, they expect timely deployment of election materials, early commencement of accreditation and voting and transparent counting and collation of results to ensure the outcome reflects the people’s will.
“We note INEC’s level of preparedness for the election. The commission undertook several preparatory activities in the three states, including training its personnel and deploying non-sensitive and sensitive materials.
“In October, the commission conducted a successful mock accreditation in the three states to test the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV); however, the turnout for the exercise was abysmally poor, as noted in Yiaga Africa’s observation report on the mock accreditation.
“In some instances, voters requested cash incentives as a condition for participating in the exercise. Yiaga Africa urges INEC to meticulously configure BVAS and ensure only trained officials manage the devices on election day. Equally important is the need to ensure strict compliance with the upload of authentic result sheets from the polling units on IReV to enhance transparency of the results management process.
“We are also concerned with the unassailable level of insecurity and the spate of violence across the states especially in Imo and Kogi states. Also concerning is the obnoxious abuse of incumbency powers manifesting through restrictions of campaigns, imposition of fines and levies on campaign posters and attacks on political opponents.
“The lack of accountability for the fatalities and attacks recorded in the pre-election period deepens the culture of impunity pervading the electoral process.
“The successful administration of a peaceful and transparent election is dependent on the effective collaboration and coordination with respective institutions like the INEC, the Nigerian Police and other security agencies. For instance, INEC requires adequate security protection to deploy materials to some highly volatile Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Imo state that are prone to violence e.g. Oguta, Orsu, and Orlu LGAs amongst others.
“Improved security deployment in volatile areas will enable voters, election observers and media practitioners in particular to participate in the election across the three states, “Yiaga Africa stated.