By Benson Olugbuo, PhD
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the 6th of February 2020 announced the dates for Edo and Ondo States governorship elections. While the Edo state governorship election is scheduled to hold on the 19th of September 2020, Ondo state governorship election is slated for 10th of October 2020. Political Party primaries will hold from 2nd to 27th of June for Edo State and 2nd to 25th of July 2020, respectively.
\In the face of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Independent National Electoral Commission and other stakeholders are currently deliberating ways that these elections can hold while following public health and safety measures stipulated by the government and the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, the Independent National Electoral Commission has developed a guideline for conducting elections under COVID-19 and has commenced engagement with various stakeholders.
This is with a view to eliciting wide stakeholders’ support and input and ensuring it adequately addresses emerging concerns from stakeholders.
It is against this background that the CLEEN Foundation is putting up measures to ensure a successful, hitch-free and peaceful election in Edo and Ondo states through the following activities:
2.0 Conduct of Security Threat Assessments
CLEEN Foundation will conduct security threat assessments in Edo and Ondo States to support key stakeholders especially the Independent National Electoral Commission and security officials with empirical data for the deployment of manpower and other resources for the elections. In addition, the Foundation will recruit, train and deploy volunteers across all the local government areas in both states to observe, document and report in real time, security incidents and threats to the upcoming elections.
The CLEEN Foundation will collate, analyze and disseminate the findings to relevant stakeholders before, during and after the elections.
3.0 Deployment of Tella Human Rights Monitoring Application
CLEEN Foundation will deploy the Tella Application, an ICT-based human rights platform for mapping of security risk factors across the states through real time observation, documentation and analysis of accredited observers’ reports on the conduct of security officials during the elections.
The Tella Application will be scripted with key questions from the Electoral Violence Mitigation and Advocacy Tool (EVMAT) developed by the Electoral Institute of the Independent National Electoral Commission and CLEEN Foundation with support from the UK Department for International Development.
The Electoral Violence Mitigation and Advocacy Tool was developed by electoral stakeholders as part of the efforts to have a standardized tool for assessing election-related security threats by stakeholders. It is important that security officials on election duty in Edo and Ondo States maintain peace and order and protect the rights of voters to exercise their right to vote.
From the foregoing, CLEEN Foundation makes the following recommendations:
- The Independent National Electoral Commission should work with the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control to review the Covid-19 regulations related to the conduct of elections during the pandemic.
- The Independent National Electoral Commission should also ensure that Civil Society organizations interested in observing the elections including party primaries are duly accredited.
- Security agencies and the Independent National Electoral Commission should collaborate with the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control to develop a guideline on policing elections during a pandemic.
- There should be specialized training for security personnel to be deployed for election duty under covid-19 pandemic to ensure optimal performance.
- Political parties should ensure that their primaries are free, fair and inclusive.
- The needs of citizens living with disabilities in Edo and Ondo should be prioritized by INEC to ensure that they vote in dignity.
- The National Orientation Agency and other government institutions should intensify efforts in sensitizing and educating citizens in Edo and Ondo States on how to exercise their franchise while following government guidelines on physical distancing
- The Media, both print and electronic should be given free hand to perform their duties and should be protected from overzealous security agents and political thugs.
- There is an urgent need to provide personal protective equipment for security officers deployed on election duty during covid-19 pandemic and their welfare should be made a priority.
The CLEEN Foundation is a non-governmental organization established in 1998 to promote public safety, security and justice in Nigeria through the strategies of empirical research, legislative advocacy and demonstration program with government, civil-society groups and the private sector. For more information please visit www.cleen.org
May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Benson Olugbuo, PhD is the Executive Director, CLEEN Foundation