With less than four days to the local council polls in Edo State, civil society organisations that are in the state to assess the readiness of the Edo State Independent Electoral Commission (EDSIEC) for the polls, the dispositions of the electorates and political parties towards the elections and other variables crucial to a hitch-free exercise, have scored EDSIEC high on its preparedness.
Addressing journalists in Benin City, the Edo State capital on Tuesday, Team Leader, Forum of Civil Society Organisation in Nigeria, Comrade Fidelis Nweke, said that after his team’s pre-election observation exercise, they “observed that the Edo State government has provided the necessary logistics for EDSIEC to organise and conduct credible elections in the state without the state government’s interference.”
Nweke said his team “gathered that some political parties will not participate in this Saturday, 3rd March, 2018 Local Government Election in Edo State.”
He maintained that “boycott of elections is not healthy for our democracy,” and recommended “that such political parties should be sanctioned and stopped from participating in any elections for a period of five (5) years.”
He explained that in the course of their work, “we met with various stakeholders in the electoral process, including Edo State Independent Electoral Commission (EDSIEC), the political parties, security agencies and the electorates. This was aimed at determining the level of preparedness of all the relevant stakeholders, as part of the critical component of election observation in the state.”
Nweke said they observed that EDSIEC is committed to conducting free, fair and credible elections in the state, by providing a level playing ground for all political parties in the state to participate in the elections.
“Our team observed the distribution of electoral materials by EDSIEC officials to various local government areas of the state; we observed that the electorates in Edo State are ready and willing to come out en-mass on Saturday, March 3, 2018, to exercise their franchise and also vote for candidates of their choice; EDSIEC accredited some reputable Civil Society Organisations and journalists to observe the election and to report accordingly without being biased.”
The team commended the state government and the governor for what they described as “taking the bull by the horn to conduct a local government election when some state governors are complaining of poor allocation of funds from the federal government,” and described Governor Obaseki as a “true democrat for ending the use of caretaker chairmen in the state and making sure that democratically local government chairmen and councillors are elected in the state come March 3, 2018.”
They further recommended that the electoral umpire in conjunction with civil society organisations engage in massive voter education and sensitisation before the next election and advised the Edo State government to declare Friday, March 2, 2018, as public holiday to enable civil servants and other stakeholders travel back to their communities and wards to exercise their rights.