Ondo 2020: Massive vote-buying, breach of COVID-19 protocol characterizes election, say CDD, YIAGA Africa

Two Civil Society Organisations, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) and YIAGA Africa, have said the Ondo State governorship election was marred with vote-buying and inadequate compliance with COVID-19 protocol.

In its preliminary statement on the conduct of the election, the CDD noted that there was a consistent pattern of vote-buying, where those engaged in the act adopted tactics to induce voters, while evading the watch of security officials and election observers.

“CDD observers documented attempts by political actors to outspend one another by making available large sums disbursed to community leaders for onward distribution to voters,” the report which was read by its director, Idayat Hassan, said.

“CDD observation showed that where in the past the modus operandi has been to distribute cash discreetly at points close to the polling unit, the new tactic is to create outposts where voters can go to collect cash after showing evidence that they voted for the party.

“In Ondo governorship election, there was the trend wherein bulk sums ranging from N150,000 to N600,000 were earmarked for each polling unit across the LGA and handed over to popular figures, especially youth groups to share to voters in their areas.”

CDD also noticed another tactic of electronic transfer of money to voters after proving that he or she voted for the relevant party.

“Our observers reported that party agents largely stayed away from coordinating vote-buying,” the report stated.

“In ward 11, Polling Unit 021, Akure South LGA, CDD observed that political parties designated someone, who is not a party agent, but appears to be neutral to direct voters to an outpost where cash could be distributed.

“In several instances, disagreement between vote buyers and sellers caused altercation.

“CDD observers reported tension at One Aro, Polling Unit 6, When the money for the vote-buying did not go round, thereby upsetting a voter who had cast his ballot for the buying party.

“In Polling Unit 005, Akoko South, observers reported party agents openly inducing voters. CDD observers similarly noted instances where voters on their own displayed their ballots to assure a particular party agent they have cast their ballot for the party.”

CDD also stated that there were breaches of the COVID-19 protocols as some voters used face masks while many others did not.

It also observed the absence of a two-tier queue system across the polling units.

“CDD has reached the conclusion that the blatant disregard for COVID-prevention protocol is a sectoral problem caused by the belief that the virus should not be as dreaded as it has been said to be,” the group said.

“This resulted in general non-compliance to key protocols for preventing further spread of the novel coronavirus. In exceptional cases where compliance was observed, it was limited mainly to the wearing of face masks.”

CDD, however, commended INEC for improvements in the deployment of logistics and the timely arrival of materials to polling units.

Also, the Co-chair, YIAGA Africa 2020 Ondo Election Observation Mission, Aisha Abdullahi, commended INEC for the early arrival of materials to polling units, which saw a large turnout of voters, but said the organisation received reports of vote-buying from Akure South, Ose, Ondo West, Ilaje and Akure North with the secrecy of the ballot being compromised.

Shr stated this on Saturday at a press conference on a situational report on the election.

 “Despite attempts by polling officials to prevent voters and party agents from showing how ballot papers were marked, these electoral offenses occurred in the presence of security personnel who made no attempt in some cases to reprimand the culprits,” she said.

She also decried that there was a minimal observation of social distancing across all the polling units observed.

YIAGA Africa commended the good people of Ondo State for their peaceful conduct during the voting process and pleaded they remain patient and peaceful through the voting and counting process.

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