By Mike Oboh
Security agencies in Nigeria should not give any excuse if violence takes the centre stage in the forth coming Edo State governorship election.
This was the position of Yiaga Africa at it press briefing held in Abuja on Thursday.
According to a board member of Yiaga Africa, Ezewan Nwangwu, the security agencies are aware of the pilling up of arms in 13 local councils in the state and this development should prepare them to take control of the situation.
Nwangwu said it was quite unfortunate that the situation has degenerated to this level but can be checked if the security agencies act rightly by picking up the suspects to set the stage for a free and fair election.”The security should move in so that the stocked piled arms are not used, if the security are on top of the game, we are going to have a better outcome in Edo election,” he said.
He said the body in its pre election monitoring report, found out the spate of pre election violence was escalating, discovered potential hotspots and flash points of violence, state of INEC,s preparedness for the election, voter inducement and purchase of voter card.
He said the two dominant parties in the governorship race were guilty of violent rhetoric , hate speech, vandalism and violence, adding that the state is also witnessing a surge in cult groups’ activities especially in Ikpoba-Okhai, Oredo, Orhionmwon and Owen West local governments areas.
He explained that the potential hotspots and flash points in the local councils in the state were Etsako West, Etsako East, Etsako Central,Owen West and Akoko-Edo in Edo North senatorial district, in Edo South senatorial district, Oredo, Orhionmwon , Egor, Ovia north east and Ikpoba-Okha are the councils involved while in Edo central district Esan Central, Esan north east, and Esan west were potential hotspots.
Yiaga Arica in its recommendation, stated that security agencies curtail the proliferation and use of firearms and other weapons and ensure sanctions for those implicated in thuggery and violence.
“Employ preventive measures to neutralize existing security threats in Edo state to enable voters to exercise their constitutional right to vote in a peaceful and secure environment.
“Improve inter-agency collaboration and cooperation to forestall rivalry and unhealthy competition in the management of election security,” Yiaga Africa stated.
The body advised the federal and state government to desist from partisan use of the police and security forces to manipulate the electoral process just as it urged political parties and candidates to conduct issues based campaigns rather than engage in voter inducement and recruitment of thugs and cults for violence.
It also charged INEC to collaborate with stakeholders like the National Peace Committee, traditional and religious institutions, security agencies, media and CSOs to deescalate the rising political tension and violence by signing peace accord or pact between the candidates in the election.
The Commission, was also informed of the need to address the perceptions of lack of independence, impartiality, and professionalism, this the body argued include proactive disclosure of election related information, consistency in the application of electoral guidelines and transparency in the results collation process.
Also speaking the Executive director Yiaga Africa, Sam Itodo, said it was worrisome that the election is not witnessing voters education and their was the need to enlighten the voters on the expected outcome from them.Itodo revealed that it sent 24 Long Time Observers to Edo state to monitor the election from the pre election to election period.He said Yiaga Africa was in support of the decision of the Oba of Benin, INEC and the National Peace Committee to reconcile warring factions and deescalate the tension in the state.