FCT Area Council Polls: INEC trains field workers on election violence mitigation

By Chimezie Godfrey

In preparation for the forthcoming FCT Area Council Elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has commenced the empowerment of field workers on election violence mitigation and advocacy.

The Commission in a bid to actualize this, organised a “Methodology Workshop on the Deployment of Election Violence Mitigation & Advocacy Tool (EVMAT),” held at the Electoral Institute Virtual Library on Friday in Abuja.

The workshop which commenced at 9:00am had in attendance the Chairman of the Board of the Electoral Institute (BEI), Prof.  Abdullahi Abdu  Zuru, Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of FCT, Alh. Yahaya Bello, Director-General of The Electoral Institute, Dr Sa’ad Umar Idris, Director, Research & Documentation, Dr Ibrahim Sani, Director Training, Dr Binta Kasim, Mr. Tunde Ojedokun Ag. Admin. Sec of the Institute, and Dr Willie Eselebor, who served as the resource person for the Workshop.

The Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Yakubu Mahmood, represented by the  Chairman, Board of the Electoral Institute, Prof. Abdullahi Abdu Zuru, said the Commission does not want to leave anything to chance in planning towards the peaceful conduct of the FCT Area Council Election scheduled for Saturday 12, February 2022

He noted that the Commission is determined to correct the erroneous notion in the Nigerian political space that violence is an invaluable route to winning elections.

He said,”It is my pleasure to welcome you all to this Methodology Workshop on Election Violence Mitigation and Advocacy Tool (EVMAT) for field agents organized by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) towards the successful conduct of the February, 2022 Area Council Elections in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

“We are all fully aware that activities towards conduct of the FCT Area Council Election scheduled for Saturday 12, February 2022 have gained traction and the Commission, in its characteristic meticulous approach to planning, does not want to leave anything to chance. 

“Hence, the scheduling of today’s event to equip its field agents with the requisite knowledge and skills on the use of one of our key election protection tools, the EVMAT.

“There seems to be an entrenched, though very erroneous, notion in the Nigerian Political space that violence is an invaluable route to winning elections. This seems to be the typical mindset of many political players in our clime, and so they often a times make preparations for elections as if it is preparation for war.

“Astonishingly, this starts right from the Party Primaries where political party aspirants are expected to conduct themselves peacefully; being members of the same family. Still, you find total breach of peace due to the do-or-die approach to politics in our beloved country.

“INEC as an Election Management Body (EMB) finds this totally unacceptable and refuses to be dragged along this primordial line of thinking. Hence, all efforts are geared towards making election a thing of joy where winners and losers celebrate together: entrenching the proverbial “spirit of sportsmanship”.

“Therefore, as an impartial empire, INEC will never compromise in the delivery of free, fair, credible, inclusive and violence-free elections. This underpins the Commission’s reason for the development and deployment of the EVMAT.”

Mahmood stressed that the EVMAT is a potent tool used in identifying and mapping possible areas of electoral violence which could occur before, during or post elections periods and proffer effective preventive and/or mitigating measures to immunize the electoral process.

“It achieves this by identifying the early warning signs and possible triggers of violence in specific areas so that proactive steps could be taken for mitigation and outright prevention of any form of violence during elections.

“The instrument has a high degree of reliability and this informs its continued deployment by the Commission, having deployed it in Edo, Ondo and Anambra States Governorship Elections, etc.

“It is also the reason the Commission decided to take its Field Agents through this training process to be able to gather useful qualitative, quantitative and geospatial data that will enhance the utility of the EMAT: every electoral process has its peculiarity,” he said.

He added,”Yesterday, I had the opportunity and privilege of addressing our stakeholders on Election Risk Management tools.

“I had cause to remind the participants that such tools require a host of initiatives which could be classified into three categories, namely, (i) Knowledge Resources, (ii) Analytical Instruments and (iii) Prevention and Mitigation as pointed out by International IDEA: the most important being category (i) because (ii) and (iii) are totally dependent on (i). 

“Accordingly, this Methodology Workshop is organized to take you through the nitty-gritty of administration of the instrument designed for the survey that will provide the critical information that drive the EVMAT.

“Please, always keep in mind that EVMAT is about saving lives, safeguarding the electoral process and delivery of fair, free, credible, peaceful and inclusive election. Consequently, you must as a matter of duty and responsibility, conduct the survey with the highest sense of integrity, credibility and transparency.

“The Commission counts on you and I urge you all to justify the confidence it reposes in you. Good luck,” he noted.

In his welcome address, the Director General, Electoral Institute, Dr Sa’ad Umar Idris welcomed all participants to the workshop and stressed the importance of the deployment of the EVMAT tool in all elections by the Commission, including the FCT Area Council Election in identifying hotspots and violent prone areas during elections.

He recalled  that EVMAT TOOL was successfully deployed in previous Governorship Elections in Edo, Ondo and recently Anambra Governorship Election.

He urged participants to gather credible and reliable data by doing their field work with the highest level of integrity, transparency and professionalism. 

He admonished them to justify the confidence reposed in you by the Commission.”

The REC, Alh. Yahaya Bello FCT in a goodwill message to the participants, appreciated the DG TEI for inviting him most especially as the EVMAT Workshop concerns the February 12th scheduled FCT Area Coucil Election.

As a stand-alone election, the REC urged particpants to stay focused during the workshop as all eyes are on the FCT Area Coucil Election and people will use it to judge the commission as it prepares for the forthcoming Ekiti, Osun, and indeed the 2023 General Elections.

The REC highlighted that some of the violence recorded during the previous elections in FCT had several other tiggers not politicians alone as it’s often assumed. Indeed, there were instances where voters’ actions at the polls have contributed to the outbreak of violence.

He highlighted the activities of banditry and kidnappings from neighbouring States like Kogi, Niger, and Nassarawa may be the likely causes of electoral violence in FCT.

He concluded by challenging all participants to be good ambassadors of the Commission.

The Chairman, BEI Prof. Abdullahi Abdu Zuru in his opening remarks welcomed all participants and extend the goodwill of the Hon. Chairman INEC Commission to the participants.

He addressed participants on the importance of information in research/survey in solving problems which he categories into two.

“The importance of information in research/survey in solving problems can be categorized into two; (One)Resource knowledge also known as information, is primarily used in gathering data about where violence is presumed to occur.

“(Two) Processing of data collected. from the field must be processed and used to prevent and mitigate election violence.

“Also Quality Assurance is key/important. This will enable the Commission to follow up not necessarily because the Commission did not trust the field Agents but for the sake of quality assurance,” he stated.

The Chair BEI, drew the attention of all the participants that  EVMAT Tool is being deployed by the Commission as a tool for  saving lives, for ensuring that election is free, fair, inclusive, credible and peaceful, for helping election practitioners and election security stakeholders in curtailing, and mitigating election violence.

He drew the attention of participants that the Commission counts on them for better results.