Kogi/Bayelsa: Cautious Optimism as Stakeholders Pledge Credible, Peaceful Polls – YIAGA AFRICA 

As the November Governorship elections approach, the roles of every stakeholder increasingly become important ranging from the electoral commission, security agencies, political parties, Civil Society Organisations and traditional rulers. This underscored the reason behind the YIAGA AFRICA advocacy visits to the stakeholders in both Bayelsa and Kogi state as the team sustained its drive for credible elections come November 2019.

Barely two weeks after conducting an advocacy visit to elections stakeholders in Bayelsa state, YIAGA AFRICA Watching The Vote (WTV) team have conducted a similar engagement with stakeholders in Kogi state as plans remain in top gear to ensure all stakeholders play their role for a credible and peaceful elections in the states.  Just like in Bayelsa, Kogi State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Professor James Iorliam Apam assured WTV team led by Project Director Cynthia Mbamalu, Board Member Professor Nanamdi Aduba, Training Manager Paul James, Gender Desk Manager Safiya Bichi and Media Officer Moshood Isah, that the commission will do everything possible to ensure credible polls.

The REC reiterated that the commission is making a final push to ensure citizens not only collect their Permanent Voters Card (PVCs) but also see that people come out and vote on elections day. Prof Apam also confirmed that INEC will only commence Continuous Voters Registration next year as the commission is set to maintain the Voters Register used during the 2019 elections. It is also pertinent that the commission works closely with security agencies to douse any narrative that Kogi State is a volatile state and it is encouraging to know that the REC is already thinking in that direction as he revealed to the YIAGA AFRICA team during the advocacy visit.

While It is worthy to note that there has been synergy between security agencies when it comes to elections in Nigeria, the Nigerian Police remains the lead agency that oversees election. Thus Such proper lines of communication and rules of engagement should be adhered to.  The Advocacy visit to both the Commissioner of Police and Commandant of National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) was timely to establish a good relationship regarding YIAGA AFRICA’s violence monitoring plan before, during and after the elections.

YIAGA AFRICA will be escalating any violent indicators with the security agencies in a bid to prevent or mitigate any form of violence that may affect the elections. In its pre-election observation, the team will be observing and reporting violent indicators like hate speech, undue security invasion of communities, unusual movement of people and arms and state sponsored restrictions amongt other actions that may lead to violence. Reacting to this, Commissioner of Police in Kogi State, CP Hakim Busari assured that the Nigerian Police is ready to work with YIAGA AFRICA saying citizens can only come out to vote if security of their lives is guaranteed.

The Commandant of NSCDC represented by Deputy Commandant E.O Emeka further corroborated this, saying that, aside the Nigerian Police, the Civil Defence will be deploying the highest number of officers for the Kogi Governorship election. According to Emeka, with support of officers from neighboring states, there will be stone left unturned and security agencies will change the narrative of volatility of the state.

YIAGA AFRICA thereby calls on the security agencies to ensure proper coordination especially between the military and police during elections.. Security agencies must at all cost remain non-partisan and professional in their conduct and operation.

Beyond the electoral commission and security agencies, YIAGA AFRICA engaged political parties, civil society organisations and traditional leaders to see that it reaches out to every stakeholder, reminding them of their roles ahead of the Governorship elections. The response received from the Ijaw Elders Forum, Traditional Rulers council and Maigari of Lokoja was indeed encouraging as it is expected that their role as opinion builders will replicate amongst citizens and ensure a peaceful and credible polls.

For the 2019 Kogi State election, #WatchingTheVote will deploy in pairs to a representative random sample of 250 polling units in every local government in Bayelsa. A total number of 500 WTV Polling Unit Observers will be deployed to observe the voting and the counting process on election day. WTV will also have 27 mobile (roving) observers present in all 21 Local Government Areas (LGAs). They will use their mobile phones to send coded text message (SMS) of observation reports to YIAGA AFRICA’s WTV Data Centre in Yenagoa. Each observer will receive a structured observation checklist and a tally sheet to ensure uniformity in the observation process. WTV Observers will report on the opening of polling units, accreditation and voting, counting and the announcement/posting of results. WTV Observers will also send in official results as announced by the election officials at polling units to the WTV Data Center.

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