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Edo guber: YIAGA says poor crowd control may trigger spike in COVID-19 cases

Edo guber: YIAGA says poor crowd control may trigger spike in COVID-19 cases
September 18
16:20 2020

YIAGA Africa, a civil society organisation, has expressed concern that there might be a surge in  coronavirus infections in Edo state after the governorship election as a result of the non-compliance with health protocols.

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The election is scheduled to hold on Saturday.

In its pre-election statement issued on Thursday in Benin, the Edo capital, the organisation urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other stakeholders to ensure that COVID-19 protocols are strictly adhered to in the conduct of the election, while ensuring that electoral integrity is not comprised.

”Party campaigns were signposted with poor crowd management and reckless breach of COVID-19 safety protocols (wearing face masks, social and physical distancing, and handwashing). Yiaga Africa is concerned that Edo State may experience a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in the aftermath of the election if health guidelines are not strictly enforced during the election,” the statement read.

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While commending INEC for its preparedness, the organisation called for strict monitoring of the process to ensure that election guidelines are not misapplied.

“Yiaga Africa is concerned that Returning, Collation, and Presiding officers if not monitored will misapply election guidelines in relation to cancellation of votes, entering of zero votes, and application of the margin of lead. As noted by Yiaga Africa in previous elections, compromised election officials deliberately misapply election guidelines to suppress votes and manipulate elections,” it read.

Other concerns raised by YIAGA Africa were voter inducement and likely low turnout of voters as a result of violence which it said has characterised most of the election campaigns.

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“In the run-up to the election, voters’ inducement took the center stage at the expense of issue-based politics. Since Yiaga commenced the PREO (pre-election observation) in July 2020, voter inducement has been a recurring decimal. Political parties, especially the APC and PDP, are investing in the distribution of money and gift items as a strategy to swing voters. Within this reporting period, LTOs (Long term Observers) reported incidences of voter inducement in Igueben, Oredo, Ikpoba/Okha, Etsako Central, Owan West, Ovia South West,Egor, Ovia North East, Esan West, and Esan South East LGA. These incidences occurred during campaign rallies,” the organisation said.

“Voter turnout trends for Edo State indicate low turnout for elections since 2011. Edo recorded 38.4% voter turnout in the 2011 Presidential election; 32% in 2016 governorship election; 28% in the 2019 presidential election; and 32.8% for the state assembly election.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic and the looming climate of insecurity in the lead up to the September 19 polls, there is overwhelming concern among stakeholders that registered voters in Edo may not be motivated to vote.”

According to the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Edo is the fifth state with the highest record of coronavirus infections in the country; as of September 17, 2020, the state had confirmed 2,610 cases, out of which more than 100 people have died.

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