The people of Ekiti State have been commended for the peaceful local government elections held on Saturday.
In a statement issued on Monday representing extract from its preliminary reports of the election monitoring, the Nigerian Human Rights Community, NHRC, said the conduct of the election by the State Independent Electoral Commission, SEIC, without any incidence of violence, disruption or snatching of ballot papers remained one of the strengths and opportunities associated with the election and democracy in Nigeria.
“Despite the challenges Nigerians face, their preference is for democracy,” the group said.
The NHRC which deployed observers and monitors in many of the 177 wards and over 140 towns and villages said there was no incidence of violence, adding that it was commendable that armed personnel including Amotekun were not deployed across the states to man the polling units during the elections compared with what had been seen in other states.
“It is commendable that the state security organ, Amotekun was not dragged into local politics in this context”, the group said.
According to the NHRC, “We observe that voters exercised their rights without threats, violence or authority bully. There were no reports of violence, killings or snatching of ballot papers. Despite the security situation across the country, the election was hitch-free, SEIC staff who moved from some communities to the other were not attacked while there were no noticeable cases of vote buying in any of the polling units monitored.”
The group said the capacity of states to determine their political future was not in doubt, where there were doubts, such did not suggest that the federal government was better placed to conduct a superior local government elections, the coalition said.
The NHRC had deployed 254 monitors across 177 wards in the 16 local governments and local government development areas.
The group said the peaceful atmosphere of the election reflected the confidence of the people in democracy as the best alternative and also an expression of public confidence in the state’s electoral body.
The group commended the early arrival of voting materials and SEIC officials in majority of the polling units, the ability of SEIC to provide enough voting materials in all the units and the efficiency with which the SEIC personnel rendered their obligations.
It added that many states in Nigeria had a lot to learn from Ekiti State.
NHRC said the voting was orderly and organised in a way that was above the national average.
The NHRC however listed some fault lines which included the following:
Distribution of polling units in Ekiti State did not meet the needs of many rural communities where voting units were sparsely stationed, denying many voters in rural areas easy access to polling units.
The group said the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, should increase the number of polling units in Ekiti North, Ekiti East and Ekiti Central especially in local communities and farm settlements in the senatorial districts before the next national elections.
It urged the affected communities, SIEC and all stakeholders in the state to lead the campaign for more polling units in Ekiti State before the next elections.
NHRC also said the turnout was low, though above the national average.
The group said not a single factor was responsible for the low turnout citing among others historic lack of voters’ interests in community governance, low funding of local governments by the federal authority leading to minimal impact on the political economy by local administrators which affects public interests in local government and also lack of community structures and effective presence of many of the registered political parties who appeared to focus mainly on national elections.
The NHRC said in the build up to the Ekiti local government election, while the ruling party engaged in aggressive campaigns, the other political parties appeared not to make any attempt to either campaign or mobilise their supporters to participate in the election.
The group said such resignation to fate was self defeatist and should not be encouraged by the opposition.
The coalition said the vigorous campaign of the ruling party suggested that the party did not assume easy victory at the poll ab initio.
NHRC said the boycott of the election by the main opposition, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, may have affected greater engagement in the electoral process, adding that the opposition was advised to constructively engage the electoral process instead of outright boycott of future elections.