An election defined by operational deficiencies, election security challenges, and abysmal voter turnout
Yiaga Africa deployed trained and accredited citizens’ observers to observe the 12th February 2022 FCT Area Council elections in the six Area Councils of the FCT. Yiaga Africa did not deploy the Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) for the FCT Area Council Election but deployed a systematic election observation methodology that includes observation of the election day process (from opening and setup of the polling units, accreditation, voting, announcement and posting of the official results) at the polling units and the result collation process at the 6 area councils’ results collation centres.
As noted in our mid-day situational statement, the FCT Area Council election was fraught with shortcomings and infractions which include late deployment of election materials, poor distribution of PWD assistive materials, uneven allocation of voters to polling units and malfunctioning of the bimodal voter accreditation system (BVAS). Yiaga Africa considers these challenges a rollback in the quality of election day administration.
Yiaga Africa had also predicted a low turnout of voters in the election, and this was manifest in polling units visited, especially in the Abuja Municipal Area council center.
Yiaga Africa Watching the Vote Findings
- Late Deployment of Election Materials & Delayed Commencement of Polls: Late opening and commencement of polls was observed across most of the polling units visited. Yiaga Africa observers reported that no polling officials had arrived in some of the polling units visited at 9:30 am. Yiaga Africa also observed polling officials encountered difficulty in locating some newly created polling units. These logistics hiccups were exacerbated with the late arrival of police officers at the Registration Area Centers. For instance, a visit to the Super RAC in Wuse 3 primary school revealed that as of 10:25 am, the vehicles conveying materials and officials to a polling unit in Wuse was yet to depart the premises as the officials complained about confusion in identifying the location of the polling unit.
- Technological glitches with the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS): Yiaga Africa observers reported that the BVAS machine was deployed across all the polling units visited. However, the usage of the BVAS was fraught with challenges, ranging from wrong configuration of BVAS to respective polling units, BVAS failing to accredit voters, delays in RATECHs response to BVAS complaints in some polling units as well as delays in authenticating voters within processing time. Unfortunately, these challenges delayed the process and caused a major burden on voters who waited patiently to be accredited to vote.
In some polling units observed, INEC deployed two BVAS to polling units with a high number of registered voters. However, Yiaga Africa observed that in some polling units with over 1000 registered voters, INEC deployed only one BVAS, indicating an inconsistency in the guidelines for the BVAS deployment.
- Functionality of the INEC Election Results Viewing Portal: Yiaga Africa monitored the posting of election results on the online portal. While we note that the first polling unit result was uploaded at 3:45 pm (1:30 mins after the close of voting) on election day, we observed delays in uploading results on the platform. In some LGAs, the Returning officers declared final results while the results were being uploaded on the platform. At 2:30 pm on Sunday, Feb 13, 2022, Chairmanship results from only 1,757 of 2,229 polling units were uploaded on the portal. Whereas, the Councillorship results from 2,065 polling units out of 2,229 polling units were uploaded on the platform. Yiaga Africa will issue a comprehensive report on the result portal in our subsequent report.
- Violation of electoral guidelines: Observers in 8% of polling units observed reported that the voting cubicles were not set up in locations that guarantee the secrecy of the ballots. Some of the voting cubicles were not set up in locations that permit access for persons with disabilities. In 5% of the observed polling units, voters’ fingerprints were not checked using the BVAS. Indelible ink was not applied to the cuticle of voters during Yiaga Africa’s observation in 10% of the observed polling units.
- Voter disenfranchisement: Yiaga Africa observers reported disenfranchisement of voters as a result of missing names on the voter register deployed to the polling unit. In the centres where the disenfranchisement occurred, the voters were holders of valid Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) assigned to those polling units. For such voters, INEC’s online voter verification portal also verified their registration status. Upon further investigation by Yiaga Africa, we discovered that INEC allocated voters to new polling units without informing voters of the changes to their polling units. This created confusion and prevented some voters from casting their ballot.
- Uneven Distribution of Voters to new polling units: Yiaga Africa observed imbalance in the distribution of voters to new polling units. This imbalance created challenges with the management of polling units with over 1000 registered voters. While some polling units have as many as 2,500 registered voters others had less than 5 voters within the same location. Yiaga Africa notes that these inconsistencies question the reliability and accuracy of the Commission’s framework for the expansion of polling units.
The LGA Results Collation Process Findings:
As part of the comprehensive observation of the electoral process, WTV also deployed observers to the 20 LGA results collation centres. Findings from the LGA collation centres reveal the following.
- Compliance to COVID-19 public health protocols: 40% of WTV collation observers reported that there were no designated areas in the collation centres for implementing COVID-19 safety and health measures such as hand sanitizing. Also, coalition officers did not enforce compulsory wearing of face masks nor body temperature checks.
- Adequate deployment of Collation Officials: An average of 5 results collation officials were seen in the LGA collation centres of which an average of 2 were women.
- Deployment of Security Officials: WTV observers reported the presence of security officials in all collation centres observed.
- Adequate deployment of Political Party Agents: WTV observed an average of 5 party agents were present at the LGA collation centres.
- Compliance with the use of election results forms: In all LGA collation centres that reported, collation officials entered the results for the chairmanship election in the original form EC 8C in figures.
- Two political parties majorly countersigned result forms: In LGA collation centres that opened and WTV observed, INEC collation officers requested party agents present to countersign the results form. In 100% of those LGA collation centres, APC and PDP party agents present countersigned results summary forms respectively. The INEC officials also distributed copies of the results form to the party agents and security agents present.
- Posting official results at the collation centers: In 100% of collation centers, the LGA collation officers completed the Notice of Results Poster EC60E for the chairmanship election and it displayed the result at the collation center. No party agent disagreed with the declared chairmanship results in all of the collation centers observed.
Reported Critical Incidents
- Intimidation or Harassment: Incidents of Intimidation, harassment or violence during accreditation and voting was reported in 3% of polling units observed. Women were targets of intimidation and harassment in 3% of the observed polling units.
- Vote Buying: WTV observers witnessed an incident of vote-buying at Polling Unit 001 (Life camp ministers gate) in Ward 5 of AMAC. These were mainly perpetrated by representatives of the APC and PDP. The security officials deployed to the polling unit were complicit, as they were seen collecting a bundle of N1000 notes. WTV observers also observed vote-buying in polling unit 004 – Sabon Kasuwa/NURTW office in Ward 08 Zuba, PDP representatives were seen giving out N500 and N1000 to voters.
- Inadequate ballots papers and deployment of wrong (Councillorship) ballot papers: Observer reports from Efab Estate Polling Unit 029, of Ward 03 in Kabusa, indicated that the number of ballot papers deployed were less than the number of registered voters in the polling unit, upon careful examination of the ballots papers, it was discovered that the serial number on the ballots did not match with code for the polling unit. INEC therefore suspended voting at the polling unit.
- Yiaga Africa calls on the President to, without further delay, give assent to the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2022.
- INEC should urgently undertake an audit of the BVAS and ensure all the technological glitches with the devices are resolved, ahead of Ekiti and Osun 2022 off-cycle gubernatorial elections to prevent possible disenfranchisement of voters, but also inspire public confidence in electoral technologies being deployed INEC for elections.
- To avert possible voter disenfranchisement in subsequent elections INEC should synchronize all voter registration information with the newly created polling units on its online and offline databases.
- Timely upload of polling unit results on the INEC online portal will boost public trust and confidence in election results declared by INEC. Yiaga Africa calls on INEC to continue to maintain the highest level of transparency in the results collation process by ensuring polling units results are uploaded in timeously.
- Yiaga Africa calls on political parties and contestants to show maturity and respect for laid down rules and guidelines for the conduct of elections.
Yiaga Africa commends the people of the FCT and security agencies for the peaceful conduct of the elections. Most importantly, Yiaga Africa lauds the voters for their resilience and determination to vote despite the logistical challenges.
Yiaga Africa commends Nigerians in the FCT who volunteered as citizen observers for the Area council elections. Yiaga Africa also appreciates development partners for the supportive role they played in promoting credible and peaceful elections.
The Watching The Vote project is “Driven by Data – For All Nigerians – Beholden to None!”
Samson Itodo Ezenwa Nwagwu
Executive Director, Board Member,
Yiaga Africa Yiaga Africa
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