Yiaga Africa has raised the alarm on the activities of political thugs in the build-up to the Ondo State governorship election.
Yiaga Africa in its pre-election observation report berated security operatives for not moving against thugs, who are in the act of brandishing small arms to terrorise members of opposition parties and voters.
The group predicted that the act could lead to low turnout of voters in the October 10 poll.
“Yiaga Africa LTOs reported cases of political thugs brandishing arms and weapons during political campaigns without restraint from security agencies.
“Based on Yiaga Africa findings, Akoko South West LGA has a high case of arms build-up. In addition, armed political thugs were reported to be terrorising communities in Ilaje and Ileoluji/Okeigbo LGAs.
“These unrestrained acts of lawlessness and impunity creates apprehension which could lead to low turnout of voters during the election.
“Given the background of pre-election violence and gangster politics, the state may witness a further decline in voter turnout during election. This is exacerbated by the failure of security agencies to curb acts of lawlessness and impunity perpetrated by armed political thugs and political actors.
“Low voter turnout may further enhance chances for electoral manipulation in the strongholds of the major political parties particularly in the rural areas where election rigging usually takes place,” the report reads.
Yiaga Africa also noted that only about 31.6 per cent of the Ondo State population was eligible to participate in the electoral process.
The group also said political parties are failing to comply with social distancing guidelines in all political party campaigns.
It, however, noted that parties are complying with the wearing of face masks and use of hand sanitiser.
The group urged the federal and state governments to desist from partisan use of the police and security forces to manipulate the electoral process.
It also called on the Independent National Electoral Commission to collaborate with other stakeholders in promoting peace and also continue the use of results viewing portal deployed during Edo State election.
“INEC should collaborate with other stakeholders like the National Peace Committee, traditional/religious institutions, security agencies, media, and CSOs to de-escalate the rising political tension and violence by signing peace accord or pact between the candidates in the election.
“INEC should sustain the use of the election results viewing portal and ensure timely post of the Form EC 8 A at the polling units. Also, INEC should post information on polling units where elections were cancelled or PUs where elections didn’t hold on the results viewing portal.
“INEC should take concrete steps to address the perceptions of its lack of independence, impartiality, and professionalism.
“This will include proactive disclosure of election-related information, consistency in the application of electoral guidelines, and transparency in the results collation process,” Yiaga Africa advised.