The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has called on politicians in Nigeria to de-escalate the tension building up ahead of the September 19, 2020, Edo state governorship election.
The center noted that if the situation is not urgently addressed, it would compromise the elections and taint the sanctity of the vote.
CDD in a statement signed by the Director, Idayat Hassan tasked INEC to intensify its efforts in the area of training of ad-hoc staff to understand the new measures for COVID-19 prevention and seek for ways to implement those measures at the polling unit level.
“There is also a need to train INEC ad-hoc staff to enable them to understand what is required of them in the context of COVID-19 prevention on Election Day.
There is dangers inherent in the fact that politicians and their supporters do not wear face masks or maintain physical distancing during rallies, a situation which it stressed would cast doubts on the existence of coronavirus among voters”.
The Centre for Democracy and Development in its pre-election briefing paper titled” New Allegiances, Familiar Faces A Preview of Edo’s 2020 Gubernatorial Election, observed that since the start of the Edo governorship election campaign, there has been rampant defacing or outright destruction of campaign billboards by supporters of rival partisan camps in the state.
“The report said the trend, as documented by CDD, observers on the ground, show that in the stronghold of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), campaign billboards belonging to the All Progressives Congress (APC) are targeted and defaced and vice versa.”
“It is also observed that foot soldiers of politicians across the state, especially in rural communities, have engaged in the exchange of verbal abuses, hate songs and chants, capable of provoking violent confrontation at a localized level.”
While the Centre’s observations and interactions have suggested that there is a stockpiling of small arms and light weapons in the state, CDD said asides the July 25, 2020, violence which erupted at the King Square in Benin, there have been several minor skirmishes and near-violent incidents especially when rival party supporters are on campaign processions.
“In one campaign rally in Okpella town in Etsako East Local Government Area, an open display of arms was documented.
Top on the list of threats outlined in the report is the compliance challenges posed as a result of the disregard for Coronavirus (COVID-19) prevention protocols outlined in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) policy on conducting elections in the context of the pandemic.”
The CDD strongly condemns the attitude of political actors in Edo State, whose haphazard adherence to pandemic prevention guidelines was putting the lives of common citizens at risk.
On the spread of fake news, CDD urged INEC, political parties, the media, CSOs, and community groups to engage the electorate in conversations which will highlight the problem of disinformation.