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EDO 2020: YIAGA Identifies 13 LGAs As Hotspots For Violence

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By Matthew Ogune, Abuja
Ahead of the September 19, 2020 Governorship election in Edo state, YIAGA Africa has identified 13 of 18 Local Government Areas (LGAs) as potential hotspots and flashpoints of violence.

Ezenwa Nwagwu, YIAGA board member who disclosed this while presenting it’s first Pre-Election Observation (PREO) report listed the LGAs to include: Etsako West, Etsako East, Etsako Central, Owan West, and Akoko-Edo in Edo North Senatorial district.

In Edo South Senatorial district, Nwagwu noted that YIAGA’s reports suggest Oredo, Orhionmwon, Egor, Ovia North East, and Ikpoba-Okha LGAs while in Edo Central Senatorial district, Esan Central, Esan North East, and Esan West.

He said that the two dominant parties in the governorship race were guilty of violent rhetoric, hate speech, vandalism, and violence, adding that at a PDP rally in Apana Community in Etsako West LGA, clashes between PDP and APC supporters led to violent attacks and vandalism.

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Nwagwu further disclosed that, at least one incident of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) was recorded in Orhionmwon, Oredo, Ikpoba/Okha, Etsako Central, Owan West, Esan West and Ovia North East LGA.

He maintained that the state was also witnessing a surge in cult groups’ activities, especially in Ikpoba/Okha, Oredo, Orhionmwon, and Owan West LGAs, which he said was mainly attributable to an entrenched subculture of violence built around well-known strongmen, thugs, touts, gangsters, and cultists on the one hand.

He blamed the situation on the widespread belief that elections cannot be won or smooth governance guaranteed without strongarm tactics and the support of powerful thugs, adding that the situation is direr because of the proliferation of small arms and other weapons, which he said was evident in the free use of firearms at campaign venues.

Speaking, YIAGA’s Executive Director, Samson Itodo in his recommendation urged security agencies to curtail proliferation and use of firearms and other weapons and ensure appropriate sanctions for those implicated in thuggery and violence.

He urged them to employ preventive measures to neutralize existing security threats in Edo state to enable the voters to exercise their constitutional right to vote in a peaceful and secure environment.

Itodo called for improved inter-agency collaboration and cooperation to forestall rivalry and unhealthy competition in the management of election security.

Given the pervasive threat to safety and security in the Edo election, Itodo urged the federal and state government to desist from partisan use of the police and security forces to manipulate the electoral process.

He added: “Political parties and candidates should conduct issue-based campaigns rather than engage in voter inducement and recruitment of thugs and cultists for violence.

“Political parties and candidates should subject themselves to public scrutiny on their campaigns manifestoes through debates, town halls, and direct public engagement.

“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 the election.

“INEC should collaborate with the Presidential Task Force and State Task Force to ensure strict compliance with COVID-19 guidance enunciated in INEC policy on voting amidst COVID-19 and other health safety protocols. Polling officials should be required to undergo COVID-19 testing before and after the election.

“Public engagement on new health protocols and Voters Code of Conduct should be intensified across LGAs and communities.

“INEC should take concrete steps to address the perceptions of its lack of independence, impartiality, and professionalism. This will include proactive disclose of election-related information, consistency in the application of electoral guidelines, and transparency in the results collation process.

“INEC should ensure proper coordination with the security agencies and relevant health agencies to guarantee polling officials and voters’ security and safety on election day.

“Voters should exhibit a high sense of responsibility by complying with health safety guidelines before, during, and after the election. This will reduce the prevalence rate of COVID-19 infections in the state.

“Citizens should refrain from perpetrating violence, refrain from hate speech, and not accept gift items in exchange for their votes.

“Citizens should work with security agencies by reporting incidents or threats of violence, or perpetrators of violence.

“Media organizations should ensure all political parties and candidates are given adequate media exposure and visibility.”

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