Rights group commends Ekiti voters for peaceful LG poll, identify grey areas
….asks FG to assist SIECs with BVAS devices
….Says Ekiti needs more polling units
The people and government of Ekiti State have been commended for a peaceful Local Government election in the South West State. The election of 38 Chairmen and 177 councilors was held on Saturday.
The Nigerian Human Rights Community, NIHRCO which monitored the election in 177 wards said the exercise has once again demonstrated the quality of leadership in the State. NIHRCO which is a coalition of 135 civil society and community based groups spread across the country was established in 2003.
It said the election was peaceful, devoid of violence and rigging while the outcome represents the freewill of the voters.
The coalition in a statement signed by its officials asked State Governments that are yet to conduct Local Government elections to do so, stressing that local government administration is essential to democracy and development.
The NIHRCO said a comprehensive report on the election is being put together which will be distributed across democratic institutions at home and abroad on lessons learnt and the challenges.
‘The Local Government election was not perfect, but it represented a remarkable achievement in building sustainable democratic culture in Nigeria’ the group said in a statement signed by its Programme Officers, Mr Taiwo Adeleye and Fredrick Ojinika. The group called on the National Assembly to create special intervention funds to assist State Electoral Commission to meet democratic obligations in line with the fiscal support given by the Federal Government to the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC).
The group commended the Ekiti State Independent Electoral Commission, EKSIEC for early arrival of materials and effective administration of the entire process that had almost zero hitches. ‘The Ekiti Local Government election is a confirmation that states can run their own affairs even better in many respect than the central government’. NHRC said there was no single case of violence. The security was excellent. The materials arrived on time while the voters were orderly and cultured. It said that there was no intimidation of voters while financial inducement was not witnessed by any of our observers.
The coalition however said the turnout was above national average but not in line with global expectations. It said monitors observed that the opposition parties were non-challant towards the election adding that those interviewed argued that the leading opposition parties did not show keen interest in the election build up neither did they campaign during the run up to the Saturday election indicating that the opposition in the state has been weakened compared with the situation in the past. It also said that Ekiti needs more polling units given the growing population and the increasing number of new settlements observed during the election which were not hitherto covered either by INEC or SEIC.
The coalition said monitoring local government elections is as important as observing National elections adding that there is always the need for a third party opinion so that the content of the elections and its impact on the future of democracy in Nigeria will be better appreciated.
‘At this time that Nigeria faces internal threats to democracy and growing concerns about of public trust, it is important to deepen democracy and strengthen governance at the grassroots. This is exactly what has happened in Ekiti State’ NIHRCO said urging other state governments that have not conducted local government elections to do so The rights groups however pointed out certain challenges that it said should be urgently addressed in future local government elections.
“The National Assembly and the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC needs to work with the State Independent Electoral Commission, SEIC to ensure that Bimodal Voters Accreditation System, (BVAS) are deployed in local elections adding that National elections are as important as Local Government elections
The group said using BVAS for National Elections is good but that the same technology should be used in Local Government elections which may require special funds for SIECs to enable the institution develop the technology that will broaden popular participation, ensure real time transmission of results taking local government elections into a higher level
NIHRCO said the election had its own strength, opportunities and shortcomings that should be addressed to deepen democracy and people’s representation at the grassroots.
“We commend what appears to be the high moral ground of the Governor of the State, Mr Biodun Oyebanji who earlier embarked on a non-violence campaign across the state, using the extensive media space ahead of the Local Government election.” The coalition said deliberate policy of non-violence by state actors is essential for sustainable development.
The group said Nigerian should be encouraged to show interest in Local Government elections adding that if Nigeria gets it right at the local government level, it will be easier to conduct credible elections at the National level.