CSOs, Journalists speak on impact of insecurity, tension on election coverage

CSOs, Journalists speak on impact of insecurity, tension on election coverage

As residents of Anambra vote for the state’s next governor, many are apprehensive about the security situation.

Anambra is one of the states in the South-east that has, this year, witnessed attacks on residents, security officials and public infrastructure by armed persons suspected to be members of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

There was massive deployment of security operatives to the state to quell any attack and to boost the confidence of residents to come out to vote on Saturday.

Nonetheless, there is still palpable fear among residents. As PREMIUM TIMES observed, despite IPOB cancelling its week-long sit-at-home order, many residents, out of fear, still remained indoors.

The situation in the state has also affected journalists and members of the civil society, many of whom arrived in the state to observe the governorship election.

PREMIUM TIMES spoke to some journalists and leaders of civil society organisations who are either in Anambra or have deployed observers to the state for the election.

Mboho Eno, Programme Manager, Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism

“The security situation in Anambra is against election monitoring and observation.

“It becomes more difficult when you can’t move freely. Some CSOs do not have logistics, they rely on local transportation networks in communities in the state. And as we have noticed in Anambra, movement has become a great problem.

“This has affected residents’ movement. As I was told, even INEC is still distributing PVCs as of today (Friday) and people were not able to move around to collect PVCs.

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“What INEC is telling Nigerians is that some people will be disenfranchised because they won’t be able to move, they won’t be able to collect their PVCs and they won’t be able to vote.

“The situation is not just affecting the CSOs, it’s affecting the electorates and the electoral outcome. This is not really encouraging.”

Samson Itodo, head, YIAGA Africa

“This election is to be conducted under unusual circumstances and it has impacted Yiaga’s plans.

“One of our challenges is that family members were discouraging our observers from participating because of security challenges due to palpable fear. In fact, in a few local governments, we have to change the venues of the training.

“We conducted training in the 21 local governments for about 525 observers. We had to change our strategies in one or two local governments just to ensure that the observers are safeguarded.

“We had to change our strategy, particularly in the visibility of identification because we don’t want to jeopardize the security of the observers and change our strategies in that regard. Then, a few new protocols were also introduced in the entire observation value chain.”

Mr Itodo said all his group’s observers are insured but he hopes for a situation where security operatives will step up their role in safeguarding observers and INEC officers.

Idayat Hassan, Director, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD)

“First and foremost, the security of observers is in question and we have to be very careful about it. At the beginning of the day, there were little activities inspired by the fact that the sit-at-home was called off, so we are working with people with fear in their hearts. This has led many observers to drop off from observing.

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“Beyond the fact that the security of observers is challenged, the security of INEC officials, especially in the hinterlands. Unlike Akwa, Onitsha and some other cities where there is a high security presence, you can’t boast of such in the hinterlands.”

She said the heavy deployment of security officials is also a big challenge in places where there are existing mistrusts.

“We are in an election where people are afraid of unknown gunmen as well as security operatives deployed to maintain peace.”

She said her organization ensured the deployment of more state-based journalists as well as national journalists to achieve professionalism and consciousness of the security reality.

“This is not a do or die thing. This is not about insisting that people must be there at every polling unit at 7 o’clock, they are mostly stationary while observing their environment.”

Ms Hassan said her organisation has an evacuation plan for its observers as it is important to ensure their safety.

Festus Owete, General Editor, Premium Times

“From the feedback from our reporters on the field, the situation is still tense. This has also affected our plans in a way.

“The report indicates that many of the residents have resolved to boycott the exercise while some of them said they will brave it.

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“We are looking at a situation where security may largely affect voter turnout. While the security operatives have assured us of safety, the tension is still there despite the suspension of sit-at-home order and this may remain so.”

The PREMIUM TIMES editor said apart from the fact that all the organisation’s reporters are insured, contingency security plans have also been put in place to ensure the safety of those deployed to Anambra.

“We have also instructed them to make the best of the tools with them,” he said.

Ebunoluwa Olafusi, journalist, TheCable

“At this point, I think voter apathy is going to be terrible. We went out this (Friday) evening to get a cab, practically the cab guys said no. One of them said he is not scared of the soldiers on the road but the IPOB members for fear of harassment and vandalism.

“We tried to inform them about the cancellation of the sit-at-home order but they insisted that it has not been cancelled.”

She said she felt disappointed that the residents are this scared despite the cancellation of the order.

“We have been asked not to be overzealous and once we see that things are getting out of hand, we should get out. The major caution is to stay safe,” she said.

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