Ekiti Poll: CDD hails INEC on deployment, election conduct

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The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has scored the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC high on its deployment and conduct of the Saturday’s Ekiti governorship election. 
CDD is one of the frontline civic groups which observed the June 18, 2022 poll.
In a preliminary statement, which assessed the accreditation, voting and functionality of technology used for the poll, the group enthused that the electoral umpire had largely acquitted itself well with the way it managed the logistics for the election.
 Describing the conduct of the election as generally peaceful, the group said reports from its field observers indicated there were no widespread reports of violence or disruptions in the election. 
CDD which deployed 205 observers across the 16 LGAs of Ekiti state also hosted a Fake News Hub, which was dedicated to tracking and fact-checking of misinformation and disinformation capable of undermining the credibility of the election.

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 On the effectiveness of INEC’s management of the poll, the group reckoned that some progress was recorded in the administration of the polls. CDD however noted that, there remains several areas of concerns, which call for stronger management of elections. 
It said: “Data from the areas covered by our observers indicate that 86 percent of INEC officials had arrived at their polling units by 8:30am. Data from CDD-EAC Electronic Observer Platform further showed that 74 percent of INEC poll officials addressed voters before the 8:30am official time of poll opening. CDD-EAC observer reports showed that by 8:30am, 64 percent of polling units visited had opened, and between 8:30 and 9:30, another 29% had opened. The data indicate that 93 percent of the Polling Units in the areas observed had started voting by 9:30am.” 

On the issue of participation of marginalised groups in the election, the pro-democracy noted that its observers also reported a significant increase in the number of female INEC officials. It said its data showed that eight polling units had poll officials who were exclusively female. 
“The CDD-EAC data further showed that while four Polling Units had no female at all, all the others had both male and female INEC officials present.” As for the arrival and availability of important election materials, the group said its data indicated that in at least 83 percent of polling units critical election materials like ballot papers, BVAS devices, results sheets, ballot boxes and the voter register were available for the conduct of the election. 

On the hitherto controversial issue of functionality of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) the group informed that its data data showed that in all 168 polling units that were visited, BVAS was available. “The CDD-EAC data point to a high usage of the BVAS, with 88% of polling units visited reporting effective usage. Although there were hitches in very few locations, where our observers noted that some voters could not be accredited. 
“An instance is in Ifelodun, where elderly voters could not be accredited and were told to return in the afternoon. This data corroborates the findings of 82% of CDD-EAC observers who rated the efficiency of the BVAS as either “very good or excellent.” In the 31 reported cases where the BVAS malfunctioned, 71 percent of those cases were resolved within an hour.” The CDD observation report also gave some insight into the length of time it took for the BVAS to accredit voters. It said: “On the average therefore, CDD-EAC data indicated that it took around 2.4 minutes for voters to be processed through the BVAS. In 45 percent of the cases, voters were accredited in two minutes or less, while in 87 percent of the cases each voter was accredited within 4 minutes. 

“However, while most voters were authenticated by BVAS, there were isolated instances of non-authentication. CDD-EAC observers reported a worrisome situation in which some voters were allowed to cast their ballot without being authenticated by the BVAS. This constitutes a flagrant violation of the Electoral Act 2022. CDD-EAC recorded 11 of such cases where voters were not authenticated by the BVAS, but were allowed to cast ballots which took place in Ado-Ekiti, Emure, Ekiti East, Ekiti West, Ijero, Ikere, Irepodun/Ifelodun and Ise/Orun.”

Despite the largely smooth and peaceful conduct of the election, CDD said its observation  documented 41 instances of vote buying and selling at Polling Units. “Observer data showed incidents of vote buying and selling in LGAs like Ado-Ekiti, Ijero, Ikole Irepodun/Ifelodun, Ise/Orun and Moba. One of the observable patterns of vote buying was the collection of cash in brown envelopes, which was apparently meant to disguise the content of the envelopes in order to avoid arrest by the anti-corruption agencies. 

“CDD-EAC observers also documented instances where young voters openly displayed the cash given to them to buy their votes. These anomalies confirm CDD-EAC observation in the pre-election period that the ongoing strike by universities has grounded the local economy in several communities in the state. The situation has in turn influenced a number of young voters to perceive the election as an opportunity to solve their economic challenges by accepting inducement from political actors. However, CDD-EAC commends the arrest of some political actors who were alleged to be involved in vote buying in the course of the election. CDD-EAC calls for a thorough investigation of these persons, and their subsequent prosecution, if found culpable.”   

On the threat posed by fake news, the group said its hub tracked and fact-checked a number of fake news and misinformation trending on Election Day. “A major trending item was the purported withdrawal letter of the SDP candidate Segun Oni, and his endorsement of the PDP candidate, which circulated across social media. This claim was subsequently confirmed to be ‘false’. Regrettably, this might be cited by the party as a reason for any poor performance. 

“Another claim on Twitter was that 9 million voters were expected to vote in the Ekiti 2022 gubernatorial election. This claim was checked by CDD-EAC fact checkers, who returned a verdict of “false” for the claim. CDD checks further showed that there are 988,923 voters registered by INEC for the Ekiti Governorship election. 

“Another fake news was tracked relating to claims that in Ido/Osi soldiers were preventing voters from going to their polling units. CDD-EAC fact checkers verified this claim from field observers and found it to be false. Similarly in  Ikole polling unit 8, Ward 10, CDD-EAC fact-checkers tracked a claim that INEC officials were addressing voters in Yoruba only because they can’t speak English. This claim was also checked and found to be false, as it was verified that INEC officials spoke to voters in both English and Yoruba.”

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