Mr Peace Edem, Executive Director of YOFCI (middle) addressing a joint press conference on the implementation of Election Violence Prevention and Mitigation Project (E-VIP) sponsored by PIND

Abasifreke Effiong

Youth for Change Initiative, (YOFCI) a non-governmental organisation implementing the Election Violence Prevention and Mitigation Project (E-VIP) in Akwa Ibom state says the February 25, 2023 presidential election in the state was more peaceful than 2015 and 2019 elections.

Executive Director of YOFCI, Mr Peace Edem, made the assertion while giving updates of the E-VIP and case analyses of the presidential election at a joint press briefing with partners on the project, during a -one day multi-stakeholders forum in Uyo on Averting Violence Related Challenges in the Electoral Cycle.

Mr Edem said field data collected in eight local government areas by trained peace monitors indicate that serious case of violence leading to lost of lives and property was recorded in only one of the local government areas monitored.

“We trained peace monitors, and local government and community stakeholders, and deployed them to eight hotspot local government areas. The peace monitors went round and checked how people conducted themselves during the election. Of the 8 local government areas, we have record of two deaths in one local government and a burnt house of a candidate of one of the political parties.”

“From our report, only one local government had high incidence of violence. We recorded less cases of violence in the 2023 presidential election compared to 2019 and 2015”, he noted.

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Edem said their monitors found that many polling units in the local government areas monitored were without security agents and where there was violence, it took more than an hour before security agents arrived the scene after they were called.

More than 80 peace monitors, mostly youths were deployed by the organisation to monitor and report all incidences of violence at polling units and collation centres during the presidential election.

Discussants at the forum noted that hate statements and provocative media contents were on the increase in social media in the build-up to the presidential election, saying that such had the propensity to instigate violence while calling on resident of the state to refrain from creating and circulating such contents.

The discussants also advocated increase in political and voters education as a way to mitigate violence during election.

“Political and voters education is not enough. It should be continuous, it should not be something we do only in the eve of an election”, one of the discussants said.

In a keynote on the topic, “Averting violence related challenges in the electoral cycle”, chairperson, Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators, (ICMC) Uyo branch, Mrs Mfon Edemekong, advocated the use of alternative dispute resolution channels to political disputes and conflict.

Mrs Edemekong in the paper read by Barr Emmanuel Essien, Edem, said negotiation, mediation and conciliation are recommended in Article 33 of the United Nations Charter for the resolution of political disputes.

While describing the effort by YOFCI and partners on the E-VIP as “really worthwhile”, she said ICMC is ready to help in the effort towards peaceful election.

Mrs Edemekong noted that inflammatory language, escalation of half-truths, misinformation, exploitation of ethno-religious fault line, social and economic inequalities, structural weakness of institutions, poor management of electoral process, lack of internal democracy/ignorance of the rules were some of the causes of electoral violence, advocated continuous mass education/citizens engagement, strengthening and equipping of institutions involved in election matters as ways to avert violence.

YOFCI’s partners on the E-VIP, Foundation for Partnerships in the Niger Delta (PIND), Greater Tomorrow Initiative, Youth Alive Foundation, and West African Network for Peace Building, have urged residents of the state to avoid making statements and taking actions that could lead to violence during the governorship election.