TEXT OF THE PRE-ELECTION MEDIA BRIEFING ON THE SEPTEMBER 19, 2020 EDO STATE GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION, ADDRESSED BY THE TRANSITION MONITORING GROUP (TMG) AT RANDEKHI HOTEL, GRA BENIN, ON 18TH SEPTEMBER 2020.

Distinguished Invited Guests

Our Respected Partners

Stakeholders, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media

We are delighted to welcome you to this media briefing.

BACKGROUND

The Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) is a network of over 200 active civic organizations, is the foremost independent civil society election observation group in Nigeria. TMG in collaboration with Edo Civil Society Organization (EDOCSO) will deploy a total of trained and accredited 150 nonpartisan observers for the Edo Governorship Election fixed for Saturday, 19th September 2020.

These observers who have been adequately trained will be deployed across various polling units in each of the 18 local government areas of Edo State in accordance with the ‘Declaration of Global Principles for Nonpartisan Election Observation and Monitoring by Citizen Organizations” as well as in accordance with the provisions of  2010 Electoral Act as amended and the INEC Guidelines.

Throughout Election Day, TMG’s observers will closely watch the process and complete our election checklist provided by recording  answers to the questions on the conduct of the election (set up of polling units, accreditation and voting as well as counting of ballots).

At the designated times during Election Day, TMG observers will send in their reports at near real time to the TMG State Election Information Centre. This will allow us to share a truly and detailed impression of the conduct of Edo Governorship Election – what has gone well and the shortcomings, if any.

Based on these reports, TMG will be able to analyse and make available its final report on the conduct of this election.

The Edo Governorship Election is one of the few off-cycle Governorship Elections conducted out of General Elections season in Nigeria.

Elections are about more than just Election Day and as such, TMG has been observing the pre-election period by engaging the election stakeholders ahead of the Election Day. Just last week, TMG congregated stakeholders where observations and concerns were made about the forthcoming governorship election in Edo via a zoom meeting with stakeholders.

The following are reports of the observation and monitoring of the political environment to ascertain the conduct of different stakeholders, level of compliance and preparedness by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ahead of the forthcoming governorship election.

1. Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)

There are undoubtedly pockets of challenges which have constrained INEC efforts in dealing with obstacles to the integrity of electoral process which bedevilled our elections in the past, operationally and logistically. There is need for INEC to judiciously use the remaining time to tightening loose ends and create conditions for continuous addition of value and improvement to the electoral process.

INEC’s neutrality, non-partisanship and utmost efficiency in this election should never be in doubt. No usual or new excuse will be accepted by the citizens and TMG because INEC had enough time to prepare for a credible election and the organisation has enough past mistakes and errors to have learnt  from such bad experience to make Edo gubernatorial election better than previous elections. Experience is the best teacher. The nation and voters are tired of routine challenges of late arrival of election materials and officers, delay in accreditation and voting, card readers failure, missing names of voters and other mistakes and human errors. This is time to move forward and move better, INEC should walk the talk and put into practice the assurance given to the electorate and the nation that the election will be free and fair. No reason to fail.

We urge INEC to up its game and strictly play by the provisions of the Electoral Act while responding appropriately to issues as may occur as the election progresses. INEC owes it a duty to all irrespective of their political affiliations, to be fair, impartial, and nonpartisan in its relations while creating a level playing field for all parties and contestants.

The success or failure of this election to meet international standard will determine the fate of other elections and the attitude of electors to INEC’s credibility to conduct election.

Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi Chairperson TMG (Transition Monitoring Group)

2. Security

About two third of Edo State, (13 out 18 local government areas) is on security  red alert due to pre-election violent activities of some political gladiators who have seen election as a do or die affair because for them, politics is not about service to the people but a profitable business. So, security personnel, most especially policemen deployed for election activities should never be found wanting in discharging their duties responsibly, professionally without bias. On election day, all are equal, no special preference to position or status.

TMG is very much aware of the presence of governors from other states in the state to support their candidates on the eve of election. TMG condemns this practice of unnecessary last minute solidarity which is capable of heighten tension in the state and can intimidate security agencies. Such solidarity should have been limited to the campaign period. Their presence will worsen cases of vote buying and political tension judging from the nation’s experience in the past elections where “invading governors” came to states having election with bags of their state funds, their security details and political thugs conducting themselves irresponsibly due to their immunity. This is unpatriotic and crisis ridden. This style should stop immediately.

The developments in the state in recent times suggest heightened tension, increased mutual fears and suspicions as well as inclination for violent confrontation and lawlessness, threatening lives and property of ordinary citizens and undermining the chances of having free, fair, nonviolent and credible elections even in the midst of the lingering Covid-19 global pandemic.

The increasing spate of allegations and counter allegations being bandied about by the political parties and their candidates is becoming worrisome. It is quite unfortunate that politicians have turned political campaigns and rallies to  theatre of war while places like Oredo and Iyamo in Edo South and Edo North local government areas respectively, have become political hotspots in recent time especially with unlawful movement of armed thugs as reported in the state.

We call on security agencies to strictly pay attention to adequate security measures so as to prevent any outbreak of law and order and remain neutral throughout the process of election and thereafter.

Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi Chairperson TMG Transition Monitoring Group

3. Political Parties.

Some political parties have deliberately promoted political banditry as politics. We condemn this.

Since the inception of the political campaigns in the state, the two major political parties and their candidates have been seen trading in war of words with different allegations and counter allegations. Given the weighty nature of these allegations, there is need for political parties and their followers to conduct themselves in a responsible manner.

Political parties should embrace the obligations imposed on them by law in the best interest of our country.

We therefore urge all political parties to work together by embracing peace so as to restore normalcy to the electioneering process in the states. The country is already palpitating with fear and very much embroiled in violence, as such another spate of violence is disastrous and inimical to the stability of the country.

TMG calls for the establishment of Electoral Offences Mobile Courts to deal with electoral offenders with dispatch before and on the day of election as a way out to lessen violence on the day of election.

TMG will work to make necessary intervention in this regard.

We call on all voters to come out en masse and vote for the candidates of their choice without fair or inducement. The power to elect belongs to you and you must be ready to vote and follow your votes.

Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi Chairperson TMG Transition Monitoring Group

TMG Information Centre

No doubt, like several other observation missions, TMG observation will make election malpractice a high-risk business during the coming election. Going forward, we will be reaching out to you and the public on each phase of the Election Day process. Throughout Election Day TMG will provide updates on the conduct of the election based on the near real time reports from its observers.

These will be released at Election Day Information Centre and posted on social media, on TMG’s Facebook page [www.facebook.com/tmgng] and TMG’s Twitter page (@tmgng).

TMG will also share its preliminary findings on the conduct of the polls. This preliminary statement will contain information on every facet of the Election Day processes as reported by our field observers.

We therefore encourage members of the media, partners, and other stakeholders to take time to visit our Election Day Information Centre. The Centre is situated at Randekhi Royal Hotel, GRA, Benin.

CONCLUSION

We call on the people of Edo State to take their fate in their hands by exercising their franchise during the election and remain resolute in their bid to entrench enduring democracy and rule of law in Nigeria. We also urge stakeholders to work harmoniously toward a peaceful, free, fair, and transparent election in Edo State come Saturday, September 19, 2020.

Nigeria’s elections have been marred by violence in the past. TMG calls upon all candidates and political parties to help ensure the election is peaceful on Election Day and thereafter.

Let the Votes Count!

Thank you for your rapt attention.

Signed by:

Dr Abiola Akiyode – Afolabi

Chairperson, Transition Monitoring Group (TMG)

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