Ahead of the Edo State Governorship elections, Yiaga Africa is set to commence the observation of the pre-election environment including violence monitoring to provide information and recommendation for immediate response by the election stakeholders.
This formed major the crux of the discussion during the advocacy visit by the Board and Management of Yiaga Africa’s Watching The Vote project to the Edo State Commissioner of Police Mr Babatunde Johnson Kokuko (mni), on Friday, July 24 2020. The mission led by a member of the Watching The Vote working group, Ezenwa Nwagu and Director of Program, Cynthia Mbamalu, provided an opportunity to explore areas of collaboration in a bid to ensure peaceful elections in Edo state come September 19.
Speaking during the meeting Ezenwa Nwagwu reiterated the fact that the security holds a very strategic position in the election stakeholders pyramid and it is important the police as the lead security agency for elections should be aware of activities of election observers. This according to him underscores Friday’s advocacy visit in other to share Yiaga Africa’s election observation deployment plan.
Also speaking during the meeting, Director of Programs said, Yiaga Africa, will train and deploy Long Term Observers across all 18 Local Government Areas in Edo state. According to her, the observers will be observing the pre-election observers which include activities of the electoral commission, political party campaigns, voter information/education campaigns, adherence to COVID-19 guidelines and importantly, violence monitoring. The information received from observers across the state especially in violence monitoring will be escalated to security agencies for a response to prevent violence ahead of the elections, she said.
In his reaction, Commissioner of Police (CP) Mr Kokumo lauded Yiaga Africa’s initiative saying “what Yiaga Africa stands for and set out to do is laudable and I commend your organisation in this regard”. He said the command is open to partnering to promote peaceful elections in the state. The CP also assured the cooperation of the officers in the Local Government Areas towards a hitch-free observer deployment and during the distribution of observer kits.
He further reiterated the Police commitment to discharge its statutory responsibility of protecting lives and properties. “We will be proactive and we will leave no stone unturned to ensure level playing ground for all candidates irrespective of political party affiliation”, he said.
For the Edo Governorship elections, the CP said the Inspector General of Police (IGP) is complementing the effort of the state government by sending eight-speed boats to secure the waterways. “We have coastal and riverine communities cutting across six Local Government Areas. We will be commissioning four-armed boats and four-speed boats”, he said.
He said the police will also be having air wing for aerial surveillance to track criminals hibernating in the forest saying all these security measures will be out in place, before, during and after the Governorship elections in the state.
According to the CP Kokumo, the state police command will be receiving technical support from other states to ensure the election is held in a secured environment while also ensuring all COVID-19 protocols are observed to the later. “To enable us to achieve this, we will have series of training, workshops and seminars with INEC and other security agencies and we will also conduct step down training for other officers of the force that will be involved in the elections”, he concluded.