By Jethro Ibileke
Yiaga Africa has raised concerned over reliance on members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), for deploying sensitive election materials on election day.
The citizen-led Non-Governmental Organization raised the concern at its pre-election press briefing held on Thursday in Akure, the Ondo State.
The group in a statement read by Dr. Aisha Abdullahi and Ezenwa Nwagwu, noted that members of the transport union were sympathetic to some of the political parties.
“Given the partisan background of some members of the Union, they could be used by politicians to undermine the election by deliberately causing late commencement of polls due to delay/refusal to convey election officials and materials to the polling units.
“This was observed by Yiaga Africa in the recent Edo election where members of the NURTW refused to deploy early to the registration areas camps citing reasons such as inability to fuel their cars, and renegotiate on the contract sum on the day of election,” they said.
Yiaga Africa also raised concern that election-day violence might occur in some locations if the security threats were not neutralized.
“The organization is further concerned with the seeming failure of the security agencies to curb acts of lawlessness and impunity perpetrated by armed political thugs and political actors during campaigns.”
According to them, areas considered to be potential hot spots for violence during the election include Akoko South West, Akure South, Akure North, Akoko South-East, Akoko North-West, Irele, Idanre, Ese-Odo, Okitipupa, Ilaje and Owo.
“Given the background of pre-election violence and gangster politics, the state may witness a further decline in voters turnout. The low turnout may further enhance chance electoral manipulation in the strongholds of the major political parties particularly in rural areas where election rigging usually takes place.”
Yiaga Africa, however, noted that INEC has demonstrated commitment and readiness for the election.
It added that the level of preparations increased in all 18 LGAs based on reports from Yiaga Africa’s Long-Term Observers deployed in the LGAs.
It said: “Yiaga Africa commends INEC for its resilience and determination to proceed with the election despite the 5000 smart card readers destroyed under a questionable fire incident at the INEC office in Akure which appears like an attempt to scuttle the commission’s preparations and undermine its ability to conduct the polls.”
According to the citizen-led organization, political campaigns signposted by violence.
“Yiaga Africa received reports of physical violence during political party rallies, meetings and campaigns in Akoko South West, Okitipupa, Akure South, Akoko South-East and Akoko North West LGA; and verbal attacks during political party rallies, meetings and campaigns at Akoko South West, Akoko South West, Akure South, Akure North, Okitipupa Akoko South-East, Akoko North West and Irele LGA.
“Yiaga Africa also notes the incident that started on October 3, along Oba Adeshida in Akure South LGA between supporters of the two leading parties resulting in the death of two citizens.
“Yiaga Africa also received a report of another violence that erupted in Ipele community of Owo LGA, where party supporters were attacked for chanting party songs.
“Yiaga Africa finds that most of the victims and perpetrators of the attacks and intimidation are supporters of the APC, PDP and ZLP,” the statement noted.