Saturday 10th October 2020
Abuja – Nigeria
CLEEN FOUNDATION: PRELIMINARY FINDINGS ON THE CONDUCT OF SECURITY PERSONNEL DEPLOYED ON ELECTION DUTY DURING THE 2020 GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION IN ONDO STATE
The Election Security Support Centre (ESSC) of CLEEN Foundation, in collaboration with the Police Service Commission (PSC) is observing the conduct of security personnel deployed for the 2020 Governorship election in Ondo State holding today Saturday 10th October 2020. It will be recalled that the build up to the election was characterized with tension, inflammatory statements and violent clashes amongst political actors. However, 86.4% of the respondents interviewed during CLEEN Foundation Election Security Threat Assessment which was released on Tuesday 6th October 2020 indicated that the election will be peaceful. From our preliminary findings thus far, the election is relatively `peaceful though not without some avoidable hitches.
The ESSC tracked, documented, escalated and followed-up on security related developments across the state through 50 INEC accredited observers deployed across the 18 Local Government Areas (LGAs). In addition, CLEEN Foundation deployed a mobile application called CLEEN Mobile App which allows ordinary citizens to report security issues in their polling units. Other information relating to election security were tracked from verifiable newspaper and social media platforms. The following issues are highlighted as part of our preliminary report.
3.0 Opening of Polling Units
Reports across the 18 Local Government Areas of Ondo state indicate that there was early and positive voters’ turnout for the polls across the state. Furthermore, it was observed in some of the polling units that security personnel, electoral officers and election materials did not arrive at the polling units as at 8:30 am. For instance, in Polling units 31, 32, 33 of Ward7, Ondo West LGA, our observers reported that INEC officials and voting materials had not arrived as at 9.30 am.
4.0 Security Related Observations
4.1. Early Arrival of Security Personnel: According to the statistics generated through our observer reports, 93% of security personnel arrived at the polling units across the state before 8:00am, while 7% arrived between 8:00am – 8:59am. This is commendable and should be encouraged.
4.2. Possession of Firearms at the Polling Unit: CLEEN Foundation observed that 83% of the polling units across the state were protected by unarmed security personnel. However, there were reports of firearm possession in 17% of the polling units.
4.3 Adequacy of Security personnel at the Polling Units: CLEEN observed that on the aggregate, 95.2% of the polling units had three or more security personnel while 4.8% noted availability of two security personnel on ground.
4.4 Identification of Security Personnel: CLEEN observed that 95.2% of the security personnel were wearing easily identifiable name tags. However, 4.8 % were not wearing easily identifiable name tags.
4.5 Approachability of Security Personnel: Reports from our observers show that 57.1% of the security personnel at the polling units were approachable. 40.5% of security personnel were very approachable by their disposition. while 2.4% were observed to be somewhat approachable.
4.6. Impartiality of Security Personnel at the Polling Unit: Statistics available to CLEEN Foundation shows that 66.7% of security personnel were impartial while 23.8 % of the security agents were very impartial. However, 4.8% were seen not to be impartial. For instance, at Unit 5, Ward 8, Idanre Local Government Area, security agents were observed not maintaining queue and allowed party agents to determine/dictate events in the polling unit.
4.7. Feeling of Safety at the Polling Unit: CLEEN observed that 93% of the polling units were safe and secure while 7% were observed to be somewhat safe and secure. However, there were reported incidences of thuggery and violent conducts at Igbokoda Ward, Kelema Zion, Unit 16, Ilaje Local Government Area, where thugs allegedly delayed the commencement of the voting process at the polling units. When elections eventually commenced, two party thugs came with bikes with the intention to disrupt the poll. However, security agents intervened, seized the bike and arrested the suspects.
5.0 General Observations
5.1. Crowd Control: CLEEN Foundation observers reported that some polling units in Ondo state had issues of poor crowd control due to large voters’ turnout and activities of party agents .This was observed in polling unit 4 (Adumasi Ilepa) , Ward 2, Akoko North-East LGA and at Ifedore Local Government Area, Polling Unit 1, Ward 6.
5.2. Deployment of INEC Officials: CLEEN observed early arrival and setting-up of polling units before 8.00am in most Local Government Areas of the state where our observers were stationed. However, in Polling Units 31, 32, 33, Ward 7, Ondo West, LGA, our observers reported that INEC officials and voting materials had not arrived as at 9.30 am. Furthermore, voting did not commence early in most areas of Ilaje Local Government Area due to the capsizing of the boat conveying INEC materials.
5.3. Welfare of Security Officials: At Imafon Unit 1, Igbatoro Ward 4, Akure North LGA, security personnel abandoned the polling unit in search of food leaving voters at the mercy of party agents. In another incident, security personnel on duty requested for food and water from INEC officials on duty. This portrays a wrong impression and brings to fore the issue of welfare of the officers which has been recurring and was discussed with the IGP during the dialogue meeting with CSOs.
5.4. COVID -19 Protocols: Most electorates apart from the wearing of facemasks, did not comply to all the non-pharmaceutical measures. In most polling units observed, there was no physical distancing in addition to glaring absence of sanitizers. In Polling Unit 010, Ward 5, Oka Akoko, Akoko South West Local Government Area, voters were observed not complying with physical distancing at the Polling unit, Similarly in Polling Unit 2 Ward 3, Igboroko , Owo Local Government Area, voters were not complying with physical distancing. Furthermore, in Polling Unit 22, Ward 2, Okitipupa LGA, voters were observed not wearing facemasks.
At St. Patrick’s Primary School, Unit 3, Ward 8, Akoko South East Local Government Area, voters did not maintain social distancing. Similar incidents occurred in Polling Unit 3 Ward 8, Ondo West Local Government Area. Voters were also observed voting without physical distancing. At Araromi Market, Unit 3, Ward 4 Akoko South West, the polling unit was reportedly overcrowded as no physical distancing was observed. Furthermore, at Kelema Zion, Ward 5, Ilaje LGA, our observers reported that no physical distancing was observed. At Polling Unit 3, Ward 4, Akoko South East Local Government Area, there was no adherence to physical distancing as the polling Unit was overcrowded. However, At Polling Unit 8, Ward 3, Ondo West Local Government Area, there was commendable compliance to Covid-19 protocols by voters and enforced by security agents posted to the unit. Similarly, at Polling Unit 8, Ward 10, Odigbo Local Government Area, security personnel were observed ensuring compliance to Covid-19 protocols.
5.5. Vote Trading: CLEEN Foundation observed disturbing incidents of vote trading across the state. For instance, at Polling Unit 4, Ikare, Akoko North East Local Government Area, there were reported inducement of voters. At Polling Unit 15 & 16, Ondo West, a major political party was observed inducing voters with the sum of N5,000. At Polling Unit 12, Ward 7, Akoko South West Local Government Area, a political party was observed inducing voters with N5,000 with evidence of voting for their party before payment. At Polling Unit 8, Ward 3, Ondo West, all the major political parties were observed engaging in vote buying. At Alagbaka Primary School, Polling Unit 12, Ward 5, Akure South Local Government Area, party agents were observed inducing voters in the presence of security personnel. At St Patrick Primary School, Polling Units 3 & 4, Ward 8, party agents were observed infringing on voters’ choices through massive vote buying. Similarly, at Polling Unit 16, Ward 3, Ilaje Local Government Area, massive vote buying was observed with complicity of INEC officials and party agents. Also, soft drinks were bought and distributed to INEC 0fficials, security agents and voters at the same polling unit and ward by a political party. At Polling Unit 4, Ward 6, Akoko North East Local Government Area, there was a reported incident of vote buying by party agents.
However, security officials at Polling Unit 8, Ward 10, Odigbo Local Government Area prevented vote buying in the unit. At Unit 1, Ward 4, Akure North East, a leading political party allegedly induced voters without the knowledge of security personnel. Similarly, in Unit 12, Ward 8, Ondo West, voters reportedly displayed their ballot to party officials after voting and got paid for the votes. At Unit 1, Ward 5, Akure North, a member of a leading political party was arrested after being involved in vote buying. At Unit 3, Ward 4, Akoko South- West, party agents were observed helping persons with disability to vote. At Babalola Memorial Primary School, Units 31, 32 and 33, Ondo Town, Ondo West LGA, discreet vote buying was observed. Some voters deliberately revealed whom they had voted for while dropping their thump printed ballot paper into the box, so that they can be paid later. We commend the security agents that rose to the call of duty and call for the arrest, investigation and prosecution of party agents engaged in vote trading.
5.6. INEC Logistics/Operational Challenge
CLEEN Foundation observed smart card reader malfunctioning in Unit 7, Ward 1, Itagbolu, Akure North as voters’ cards were not authenticated. Similarly, at Unit 10, Ward 5, Akoko South West, voting was delayed due to malfunctioning of the smart card reader in the unit. At Polling Unit 15, Ward 1, Ese Odo Local Government Area, the smart card reader was observed to be malfunctioning and INEC officials opted for manual voting. Furthermore, in Polling Unit 10, Afulu, Akoko South West Local Government Area, the card reader malfunctioned leading to disruption in voting. At polling Unit 5, Ward 8, Idanre Local Government Area, the smart card reader was not authenticating the fingers of voters. In Akure South Local Government, Unit 12, Ward 09, INEC officials experienced some challenges logging into the card reader thus delaying the voting process.
At Ifedore Local Government Area, Polling Unit 2, Ward 4, the Smart card reader reportedly failed to authenticate but was subsequently resolved and voters were able to commence voting. At Polling Unit 8, Ward 3, Ondo West, the smart card reader was unable to authenticate voters. INEC officials refused to use manual accreditation and insisted on following the laid down procedure. However, in Akure North, Polling Unit 11, Ward 9, voting was conducted without accreditation due to Card Reader failure. At Ifedore Local Government Area, Polling Unit 2, Ward 4, smart card reader reportedly failed to authenticate but was subsequently resolved and voters were able to commence voting.
i) We call on the security agencies deployed for election duty to arrest all those involved in vote trading in different parts of the state while INEC should ensure that they are duly prosecuted.
ii) INEC should ensure improvement in the deployment of materials especially in the riverine communities and the use of functional smart card readers.
iii) Government agencies including Nigeria Centre for Disease Control & the Presidential Task Force should ensure adherence to covid-19 guidelines and protocols.
CLEEN Foundation will continue to observe the elections and later issue her post-election statement to detail more on the overall conduct of the security personnel deployed on election duty. We are pleased to note that the next phase of the election which involves collation is very crucial and we enjoin INEC, the Law Enforcement and Security agents to maintain the highest level of professionalism in their conduct by guiding against any form of compromise that could scuttle the democratic process.
Thank you and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Benson Olugbuo, PhD