The Presidential and National Assembly Elections were conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (“INEC”) on Saturday, 23rd of February, 2019 in all the thirty-six States of the Federation as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). At the State level, on the 9th of March, 2019, Gubernatorial Elections were conducted in twenty-nine (29) States of the Federation and elections were also held into the Houses of Assembly of all thirty-six (36) States of the Federation. Chairmanship and Councillorship elections for all the six Area Councils in Abuja, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) also took place.
Subsequent to9thMarch, 2019 gubernatorial elections, elections in six States – Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Kano, Plateau and Sokoto – were declared inconclusive. INEC refused to declare any of the leading candidates in each of the six States as winner of the gubernatorial elections relying on Clause 34(e) of the INEC Regulation and Guideline for 2019 General Elections which stipulates that supplementary elections will be held “where the margin of lead between the two leading candidates is not in excess of the total number of registered voters of the Polling Units where elections were not held or were cancelled...”
In the respectivesix States,the margin of lead between the leading candidates was less than the registered voters at the polling units where election was cancelled or postponed for reasons such as overvoting, violence or the failure of smart card readers. The supplementary elections were later held in these six States on March 23, 2019.
The Association deployed election observers in its 125 branches across the nation with the following objectives:
i. To observe the extent of compliance of all stakeholders with the governing laws and regulations in the conduct of theelections;
ii. To observe and report on the freeness, fairness and credibility of the election; and
iii. To observe and note whether the results announced reflected the voters’ choices.
To ensure a seamless operation, the 2019 NBA-EWG set up a Situation room at the National Secretariat of the Association, where it received live feeds and real-time reports from observers across the nation. In order to deepen the level of participation by lawyers as well as to benefit from the large number of lawyers in Nigeria, the EWG also operated on the basis of “every lawyer is an observer”.
The EWG also procured a toll-free line where observers and other lawyers could call in with their reports.
The EWG took advantage of the various social media platforms available and set up handles which were disseminated to members of the Association and her election observers. The hashtag #NBAOBSERVERSwas created for easy identification of reports from lawyers and observers alike.
A dedicated number was also created on the WhatsApp platform where lawyers and observers could send videos and pictorial evidence of events that transpired at their locations.
The NBA-EWG critically made attempts to authenticate reports, photographic images and videossent to it from various sources before making such reports public.
ON DEPLOYMENT OF ELECTION OFFICIALS AND MATERIALS FOR THE ELECTIONS:
According to available statistics, a total of 2,763,990 ad-hoc Staff, mostly Youth Corp members designated as polling officers or assistant polling officers were trained to conduct elections in their respective polling units across the nation.
For the elections held on the 23rd of February, polls did not commence at the scheduled time (8 am), in most polling units nationwide. However, this was more manifest in States of the South-South, South East, South-West and North-Central regions of the country. This delay was attributed to the late arrival of the election officials and materials. In a number of polling units across the country, election materials, especially ballot papers, were either over-supplied (i.e. in excess of the registered voters in the polling unit) or under-supplied. Edo, Akwa-Ibom, Imo and Enugu States had prevalent cases of such issue.
Isolated cases in Owerri and Imo States saw electoral officials making use of photocopied approved ballot papers and where voters complained of such use, they were rebuffed, and elections carried out, nonetheless.
The lateness of some officials and inadvertently, election materials was also attributed to the inability of such officials to locate their polling units. An example is that of the polling officers in Dutse-Alhaji, Abuja, FCT, where officers went to a wrong polling unit after several attempts to locate their specific polling unit. In another example in Abuja, polling officers commenced elections in a different polling unit.
The elections that were held on the 9th of March commenced fairly early across the States. A major contribution to this fact was that election officials were familiar with their units from the prior election; hence there was timely arrival of officials and materials.
However, there were reports of incomplete ballot materials in some States. In Orlu, Imo State, for example, this necessitated the return of INEC officials to their office. In Ibadan North West LGA of Oyo State, ad hoc staff did not show up at polling units for fear of being attacked. These ad-hoc staff were later replaced.
In some places in Rivers State, blockade by security forces known as Joint Task Force (JTF) and lack of security details assigned to INEC staff hindered timely and safe deployment of staff and electoral materials.
Yet again, in Owerri, Imo State, INEC officials made use of photocopied approved ballot papers in conducting the elections, especially in the Government House polling unit.
Ad-hoc staff refused to commence elections in some parts of Lagos State as they asserted that they had not been paid their allowances.
Generally, INEC hotlines were almost always unreachable and when reached there was nobody to address callers’ enquiries and in some instances the calls rang out and were not answered.
ON SMART CARD READERS:
The performance of the smart card readers although not wholly unsatisfactory, raised concerns and provided sufficient basis for anxiety among the electorate.
Complaints of malfunction ofcard readers, such as declining accredited voters, inability to verifybiometrics, non-recognition of certain alphabets associated with fore-names or surnames were some of the associated issues of the device.
Presiding officers resorted to manual accreditation of voters to enable registered voters cast their votes. Voters were somewhat suspicious of this option, though, as there were possibilities of abuse of such process.
A peculiar example of such abuse was where voters who attempted to make use of the device had a false output- the face on the PVCs were different from that on the device. The decision on whether the voter could be disenfranchised or not rested squarely on the electoral officers. In most cases, the decision was against the voters.
There was also a lack of technical assistance in polling units where the smart card readers malfunctioned and in most polling units, backup card readers were not available.
In some polling units there were allegations of deliberate refusal to use card readers for elections in some polling units.The failure of card readers to either accredit or authenticate was widely reported. In some cases, the presiding officers abandoned the machines and allowed people to vote, leading to widespread cancellations or disputations.
ON VOTERS’ TURNOUT:
Many voters faced challenges locating their polling unit as there was insufficient information on their PVCs and INEC’s website. Furthermore, the splitting of the polling units into sub-units based on alphabetical order without informing the voters in advance or putting in place some order in executing same, initially caused disenchantment as voters had lined up randomly or in a single straight line in accordance with their time of arrival not knowing that such polling units had been subdivided.
The February elections saw a massive turn-out of voters who in some polling units organized themselves in an orderly manner, wrote down their names in order of arrival for a seamless voting process. In most of the polling units, there was massive turnout of senior citizens, women and people with disabilities.
However, the March elections were the opposite. There was an extreme case of low voters’ turnout.
ON ELECTORAL VIOLENCE:
There were several reports and live feeds of electoral violence from all over the country. Party thugs and hoodlums had a field day invading voting centers to snatch polling materials, destroy voting materials, harass, molest and intimidate voters and, in some instances, INEC officials. Suspected political thugs, accompanied by security operatives particularly persons in the uniforms of officers and men of the Nigerian Army, hijacked and destroyed materials, interfered with the voting processes, hindered voting and or prevented the counting of votes at some voting centers, chased away some party agents and observers from polling units and collation centers.
Akwa-Ibom, Niger, Lagos, Imo, Ebonyi, Rivers, Kogi, Kano and Benue States rank high as examples of places where these unconscionable and loathsome acts of voter intimidation and suppression took place.
In Polling Units 5, 6 and 7, of Ward 4 in Ogbomosho South Local Government Area of Oyo State, political thugs forced voters to show the thugs their ballot papers after voting but before depositing same in the ballot boxes.
In some places, such as Lagos, Kano and Edo States, amongst others, voters who wanted to vote for certain candidates were threatened with violence, suffered violence and/or were prevented from voting. Cases of supervised or guided voting were also reported in parts of Kano State.
In Abia State, armed thugs invaded and unleashed violence at Ekiri Elu Central School, Aram Umuahia, forcing the INEC ad-hoc staff to abandon the election and run into private residences for safety.
In Ganaga/Township, polling unit 09, Ajaokuta LGA, Kogi State, persons believed to be political thugs, aided by some security operatives, disrupted the counting process at the polling unit and destroyed the ballot boxes and papers. In polling units 04 and 07, Kuchi Ward, Kebbe LGA of Sokoto State, voting was disrupted by thugs who attacked the polling unit and beat up both INEC and police officers.
In KauraNamoda, KyamBaruwa Ward, violent scuffle among party agents led to the destruction of election materials and an attempt on the lives of some security personnel.
In Ile Ife East and Ife Central of Osun State, there was intimidation of voters by thugs and security agents. Voters were also compelled to vote for a particular political party and those who refused were prevented from voting.
The outbreak of violence in Oba Akoko in Akoko South West Local Government Area of Ondo State forced the State Government to impose curfew on the community. It was reported that no fewer than two persons lost their lives when securityagents and some political thugs engaged in a shootout consequent upon the attemptby the security agents to prevent the thugs from gaining entrance into the collation centre in the town.
In Rivers State in particular, a policeman and three other persons were reportedly killed by gunmen while a chieftain of a political party, Mrs. Emilia Nte, was reportedly kidnapped. In polling unit 006, Ward 12, Ogba/EgbemaNdoni in Rivers State, it was reported that a policeman with Force number 442884 was seen compromising the voting process by telling people which party to vote for.
Five (5) cartons of ballot papers meant for governorship elections were intercepted by security agents on election duty at Giginyu Ward of Kano state. A female NYSC member and some other persons were reportedly arrested.
Despite the presence of security men mounting road blocks and checks across the country, there were reported cases of political thugs moving freely around polling units and disrupting the election process. Some electoral officials and voters were assaulted in the process.
There were credible reports of harassment, intimidation and killings which called for serious security concern and put the credibility of the entire process in issue. The specific incidents noted here are by no means exhaustive.
INEC had to issue a release, expressing its displeasure at the role played by “some soldiers and armed gangs in Rivers State disrupting the collation process and attempting to subvert the will of the people”.
During the supplementary elections held on Saturday March 23, 2019violence, voter intimidation and killings marred polls in Kano and Bauchi states. Voters who tried to take part in rerun governorship and State elections already postponed were in some cases turned back, forced to vote for candidates against their will, chased away or even harmed.Men armed with machetes, knives and clubs took over polling stations, assaulting observers and journalists in affected polling units in Kano State.
In Gama ward in Kano, men wielding weapons like machetes, knives, daggers and clubs entered several polling stations, forcing voters to flee.In Gama, journalists and observers were also attacked by armed men at polling units.
InBichi and Gaya armed youths dispersed voters and thumb-printed ballot papers. In Bauchi State, some party agents were reportedly killed in the violence that erupted in some parts of the state during the supplementary election.
The spate of violence during the election was unprecedented. The complicity of the security agencies in either perpetrating these acts of violence, aiding same by providing security for the perpetrators and or deliberately failing to do anything is very deplorable. In all, it is believed that more than fifty persons were killed in the course of the elections. The number of persons who suffered grievous bodily harm cannot be ascertained at this time. It will however be right to put the number at over one hundred.
ON SECURITY ARRANGEMENTS:
It was observed that police personnel posted to voting centers generally arrived on time. It was however observed that in some voting centers, the number of police personnel posted there was not commensurate with the large number of registered voters in the centers.
In cases where there were infractions of electoral laws or threats of violence or actual violence, it was observed that the police personnel at those polling units stayed aloof and did nothing to prevent or stem those infractions and/or acts of violence.
ON VOTE BUYING:
These acts of inducement were carried out in the presence of security personnel within the voting precincts. Specifically, this was observed in Kano, Abuja FCT, Lagos, Bayelsa, Anambra, Imo, Akwa Ibom, Oyo. Kaduna and Kwara States.
ON SECRECY OF THE VOTING PROCESS:
All over the nation, the INEC polling booths did not offer sufficient privacy to voters. Party agents and some other persons had widespread, easy and unrestrained access to voting areas to either illegally supervise voting by voters or to pry into how they were voting. Lagos, Kano, Edo, Imo and parts of Rivers States illustratively recorded these incidents of gross breach of voter privacy. Neither the electoral officers nor the police officers around the voting areas made any effort to prevent and/or stop this unwholesome practice.
ON INTIMIDATION OF OBSERVERS AND JOURNALISTS:
There were reports of security agents preventing observers and journalists from accessing polling centers and or collation centres. Security agents reportedly prevented observers from gaining access to some polling centers in Tsafe LGA of Zamfara State. Also, Kunle Sanni, a Premium Times journalist was reportedly abducted in Plateau State and forced to delete from his phone photos that he had taken. He is believed to have been since released. A TV reporter was also reportedly beaten by security agents in Akwa Ibom State.
In Yobe State, soldiers barred journalists from covering the election. All these acts occurred despite INEC guidelines which make it clear that all accredited observers and journalists have the right to access polling units and collation centers.
In Gama, journalists and observers were also attacked by armed men at polling units during the supplementary elections. In Kano, journalists were arrested and detained by law enforcement agents and were only released after they deleted from their devicesvideos and pictures of electoral malpractices. Journalists and observers were also prevented from accessing many polling units in Kano during the supplementary elections.
The result of the Presidential election announced by INEC shows that the total number of invalid votes recorded nationwide washigher than the total votes cast in each of 33 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory. 1,289,607 votes out of the 28,614,190 total votes cast at the poll were officially declared invalid. This underscores the need for a sustained and comprehensive voter education before every election.
The entire process was mostly characterised by a slow and drawn-out collation process at all levels. There were discrepancies in the total number of accredited voters, cancelled votes and valid votes cast, in the announcement of some results.
ON WELFARE OF MEMEBRS OF “YOUTH CORPERS”
Despite promises by INEC, corps members and other ad-hoc staff were still made to sleep at schools designated at RAC centres, a harsh condition that probably affected their performance on election day.Very little arrangements were made in terms of training, accommodation, transportation and feeding of the ‘Youth Corpers’. Many of them slept in the open for the botched election of March 16, 2019. Some of them arrived at the polling units in dilapidated, cramped and windowless buses for elections. No proper arrangements were made for their feeding in the course of the assignments. Many of them relied on water and snacks from waiting voters and party agents where therewere no food vendors.
1. Restriction of movement on election day should be discontinued. In any case, this is mostly applied against the voters while thugs and other disruptors have free movement.
2. There should be a total overhaul of the electoral architecture of the Nigerian State.
3. There is an urgent need to pass the amended Electoral Act into Law for subsequent conduct of elections in Nigeria in order to aid and facilitate the transition to electronic collation of results.
4. Efficient and smart card readers with dual option of finger print or biometrics should be deployed for future elections.
5. There should be improvement in mode of transporting ad-hoc personnel and electoral material.
6. Information dissemination generally, including but not limited to members of the public, should be prompt and detailed.
7. There should be proper training of INEC staff and enough materials and facilities for the INEC staff.
8. Ad-hoc staff should be informed in writing oftheir entitlements as ad-hoc staff in the electoral process and preferably paid prior to being deployed.
9. INEC should create a seamless transfersystem forvoterswho relocate fromone voting area to another and also ensurethatsuch voters’ names are deletedfrom register of voters of the places where they relocated from.
10 It is critical that INEC maintains consistency in policy positions and implementation to avoid the kind of situation INEC found itself in Bauchi where it announced a supplementary election to decide the winner of the gubernatorial election and later,after a few days, discarded that position and announced continuation of collation.
11 Transmission of results generally, including but not limited to, from the polling units to the collation centers, should be improved upon. Electronic transmission should be adopted.If the electoral system is automated the chances of rigging, destruction of ballot papers or result sheets will be eliminated. Automation will also reduce cost of election as a lot of paper and transportation costs will be avoided.
12 The power of Returning Officers to cancel results of elections on account of violence should be circumscribed by setting objective criteria for such cancellation.
13 There should be stiff penalty for any candidate who personally and/orwhose supporters deliberately induce(s) violence in a polling unit or area where, some of such deliberate orchestration of violence occurs when the candidate is losing election and is usually intended to procure the cancellation of the results.
14 Military personnel should not be deployed or involved in providing security during general elections. Reports from the elections show that the military were in some cases (Rivers State for example) used to intimidate and arrest leading opposition politicians as well as interfere with voting and collation of results.
15 Personnel of security agencies at national and state levels must alwaysexhibit neutrality and professionalism in carrying out their election-related assignments in order to engendera peaceful environment for the smooth conduct of elections. Respect of the law by security officials should be promoted and asserted.
16 Security agencies deployed for election duties should be alive to their responsibilities by apprehending persons who break the law or perpetrate any form of electoral malpractice.
17 There is need to embark on rigorous capacity-building programme for INEC officials to ensure credible election process.
18 Governments and the law enforcement agencies must develop the political will and muscle that would enable them bring to book all persons and/orparties includingmembers of any security agency who are involved in any form of electoral violence as was recorded during the Presidential and National Assembly Elections.
19 Adequate protection must be provided during the elections exercise for the Electoral officials and the general populace particularly persons who come out to exercise their voting rights.
20 INEC must put in place measures that guarantee free and unhindered access to the polling units for every citizen.
21 Permanent Voter’s Card should not be the only means of authenticating voters for voting. Various data banks (BVN, NIN, Drivers Licence, International Passport) should be harmonised so that any one of them could be used for voting
We are very grateful to the President of the Nigerian Bar Association for the opportunity to serve our Association and Nigeria generally at this time and in this capacity. We hope that that measures will be put in place to forestall the ugly incidences listed in this report as well as ensure that the sanctity of the electoral process as well as lives of voters remain inviolable.
March 25, 2019
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