The Edo governorship election on Saturday held across the 18 local government areas of the state with a commendation for the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) for the peaceful conduct of the election from observers.
Correspondents of the News Agency of Nigeria ( NAN), who monitored the exercise in the three senatorial districts of the state, report that voters and election monitoring groups expressed satisfaction over the process in spite of the pre-election apprehension of violence.
NAN observed high turnout of voters across the polling units, with substantial compliance with the COVID-19 safety protocol while INEC staff, who arrived early in most of the polling units with voting materials, provided hand washing buckets, sanitiser and thermometers.
The polling units witnessed the visible presence of security personnel in all the polling centres visited.
In Edo North, Mr John Atsegameh, an election observer, with Centre for Democracy and Development CDD, described the election as peaceful devoid of any violence.
“From the reports am getting from other places the election is free and devoid of violence.
“The electorate conducted themselves properly; there was strict adherence to COVID-19 safety protocols.
“So far, no form of violence, party agents conducted themselves and corporate with INEC personnel’” he said.
Similarly, the Minister of State Budget and National Planning, Mr Clem Agba and Sen. Francis Alimikhena (APC-Edo-North) expressed satisfaction on the conduct of the Edo governorship election.
Agba stated this shortly after casting his vote at Uzani, Ward 3, Unit 8 in Etsako East Local Government Area of Edo.
The minister commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the process, saying that he was impressed with the exercise.
“I can only say here and if it is the reflection in other places then it is good,” the minister said.
Sen. Alemikhena, APC Edo-North Senatorial District, said that he was impressed with the large turnout of voters.
“The turnout here today is totally unprecedented,” he said.
Alemikhena, however, expressed confidence that with the turnout and peaceful conduct of the poll, his party would win.
“This area is APC and we expect 100 per cent, I am very confident that if everything goes well like this our party, APC is sure of victory,” he said.
In Edo Central district, aside from the report of a slight delay in one polling unit arising from the failed card reader, which was promptly replaced, the electorate and respondents applauded the conduct of the Governorship election.
There was a large turnout of voters across all polling units in Esan West Local Government Area of the state.
Most of the voters arrived in the various polling units before officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Some of the polling units visited by our correspondent included those in Ward 6 (Ogbomoide Primary School) with polling units 6, 7 & 8, and polling units 3, 4 & 5 (Central Primary School) all in Iruekpen, Esan West.
Others included polling Unit 2 in Ward 5 (Uhunmudumu Primary School) in Ekpoma which has six voting points.
Accreditation of voters and voting commenced on scheduled at these polling units.
While electoral materials and officials arrived on time at the polling units, security personnel were visible in all the polling units visited.
Also at the polling units were Policemen as well as personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC).
The situation was not different in Edo South as the only two cases of police authority dismissed the two alleged reported cases of gunshots at Oza in Orhionmwon LGA and Ologbo, a border town between Edo and Delta.
There was a calm situation at Ugboko ward 5 unit 26, in Orhionmwon
and ward 5 Unit 19 in Oredo Local Government Area, where Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and Godwin Obaseki, both governorship candidates of APC and PDP, respectively, voted.
Some of the electorates who spoke with NAN in separate interviews commended INEC for adhering to the COVID-19 safety protocols during the electoral process.
Mr Benson Ibizugbe said that he was impressed that the process was going on peacefully and violence-free.
Ibizugbe said ”INEC did a good job by conducting a peaceful election here.
“There have not been issues of faulty equipment and they provided face masks for voters who don’t have to make them eligible to vote”.
An INEC observer, Ada Opkara, from Smile Africa, said that the voting process was seamless and commended the people of Ugboko ward for their peaceful conduct.
“I resumed here at 7: 18 a.m. before the INEC staff resumed activities, from that time till now, about three hours later, everywhere is calm.
“The electorate is cooperative and they are obeying the rules of COVID-19 and INEC officials,” he said.
She expressed optimism that the peaceful atmosphere at the polling unit would continue throughout the voting process going by the presence of security personnel.
Another electorate, Mr Monday Erhabor, said that he was happy that there was no violence at the voting centre.
“Everywhere is calm and peaceful, there is no violence, the security is tight and we are sure of a free and fair process,” he said..
Obaseki, however, expressed different opinion taking a swipe at INEC and security operatives on his noticed lapses on their parts.
The PDP governorship candidate said he expected better preparations from INEC for the Saturday’s governorship poll, after queueing for over an hour before voting.
He stated this, shortly after he cast his vote at 11:48a.m, having joined the queue for handwashing at 10:24 a.m.
According to him, to wait for one and a half hours on the queue before exercising his franchise is a bit disappointing.
“Given that this is a sole day election, I expected a bit more planning and preparation, and resources should have been put into this election.
“During the last presidential election in my polling unit, there were two polling points which helped the voters. You all are witnesses of how long this has taken.
“The card reader is working very slowly, and this is the situation in all the major voting centres in Oredo Local Government Area of the state as I speak.
“In Garrick Memorial Secondary School, I understand that more than 500 voters are already stranded because they can’t vote because of the slow processing of the card readers.
“One would have expected that INEC will have deployed more card readers and more voting points in highly numbered polling centres,” he said.
On the issue of vote-buying at polling units, the governor said that the security agencies were not doing what they assured Edo people and Nigerians of, before the election.
“The security agencies assured us that they won’t allow anybody who doesn’t have a business of voting in a particular place to be there, but they are working on the contrary to what they promised us.
“You can see cars parked with a lot of cash being disbursed to people and it seems to be normal practice, but we are not perturbed. People know what to do; cash can’t buy their future,” he added.
Meanwhile, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Adeleye Oyebade, in charge of Edo governorship election, has said nobody who violated electoral laws would be above the law.
Oyebade spoke after inspecting INEC’s office where the final collation and results of the Edo governorship election would be announced.
He said that the security agencies had appealed to the electorate and major actors not to cross the line, but do the needful.
He explained that the inspection was to further strengthen what was on the ground, adding that minor issues that had been brought before the security agencies were being handled.
He noted that every security agency in the state under the banner of Inter Agencies Consultative Committee on Election Security were all involved in the election security to ensure free, fair and acceptable results at the end of the poll.
He said that security agencies were committed to ensuring that the election was conducted peacefully, adding that nothing was too much to sacrifice for the success of the election.
On the alleged shooting of an electorate at Ologbo in Ikpoba-Okha Local Government area and the alleged shooting at Oza, in Orhiomwon Local Government Area, Oyebade said that there was nothing of such. (NAN)