Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished guests – welcome to the YIAGA AFRICA Watching The Vote (WTV)’s Press Conference on INEC’s preparedness for the elections and WTV observation plans for the presidential election on 23 February 2019. This briefing is the second in a series of planned press conferences to be hosted by YIAGA AFRICA. We’d like to specially invite you to join us at the same location on Saturday 23 February 2019 when YIAGA AFRICA will share its mid-day situational statement on the opening of polls and on Sunday 24 February 2019 at 10:00 am when YIAGA AFRICA will share its preliminary statement on the conduct of the February 23 election. This statement will contain detailed statistics covering all aspects of the 23 February polls including accreditation, voting, counting and posting of results. As soon as INEC announces the official results, YIAGA AFRICA will follow up with a press conference to share its own statement on the accuracy of the election results and will publicize these projections.
INEC Preparedness for the rescheduled elections
On Saturday February 16, 2019, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) postponed the Presidential and National Assembly elections due to logistical challenges it encountered in deploying sensitive election materials to states. Consequently, the commission issued a modified timetable and scheduled of activities detailing a new operational plan as follows;
|1.||Completion/confirmation of deployment of materials||Monday 18th February 2019|
|2.||Configuration of the Smart Card Readers||Sunday 17th – Thursday 21st February 2019|
|3.||Receipt and Deployment of sensitive materials to LGAs||Wednesday 20th and Thursday 21st February 2019|
|4.||Refresher training for ad hoc staff||Thursday 21st February 2019|
|5.||Deployment of personnel to RACs||Friday 22nd February 2019|
|6.||Election Day||Saturday 23rd February 2019|
As mentioned in our previous statement, YIAGA AFRICA considers the perennial postponement of elections due to logistical hiccups as a setback for our democracy. Nigeria needs a national conversation on a new electoral design or framework that responds to prevailing socio-political and economic realities. It’s our considered opinion that the decision to postpone the election was taken in the interest of our democracy, however, it may have adverse effect on the integrity of the elections.
Following the postponement, YIAGA AFRICA deployed her observers in the 774 LGAs to monitor the implementation of INEC’s reviewed election logistical plan. The observers undertook visits to INEC’s state and local government offices as well as Central Bank offices in the states. Our findings indicate that INEC is implementing the activities outlined in the operational plan. WTV observers reported retrieval of materials from the LGAs to the Central bank and reconfiguration of Smart Card Readers across the country. Following our observation, YIAGA AFRICA notes the following;
- Openness of INEC: YIAGA AFRICA commends the commitment of INEC to sharing information with stakeholders through the daily briefing by the INEC Chairman. This daily briefing has availed citizens with adequate information on INEC’s preparations. INEC should maintain this briefing throughout the 2019 elections and it should be replicated at the State and local government by Resident Electoral Commissioners and Electoral Officers. INEC must ensure a high degree of transparency at all levels. However, reports received by YIAGA AFRICA indicates that some Resident Electoral Commissioners (REC) and Electoral Officers (EO) are reluctant to share information with relevant stakeholders on the state of INEC’s preparedness for the elections.
- Deployment of Election Material: YIAGA AFRICA is concerned with reports of shortfalls in sensitive and non-sensitive materials like results sheets, stamps and indelible ink. We are also worried with reported cases of mistakes in the deployment of materials to some states. To avert confusion and crisis, INEC needs to ensure a comprehensive open and inclusive audit of retrieved materials. Where materials have been wrongly deployed to states, INEC should ensure the materials are redeployed. In the event of shortfalls, INEC should engage local vendors to print materials to address reported cases of shortfalls.
- Violence, Hate Speech and Misinformation:YIAGA AFRICA notes a surge in the propagation of hate speech, fake news and misinformation following the postponement of the election. This portends great danger to peace and national security. Electoral stakeholders especially candidates and political party leaders should refrain from heating up the polity as Nigeria is on a fringe of a potential electoral conflict if caution is not exercised.
- Election Security: Security agencies should exercise their functions within constitutional limits. The rights of citizens must be respected before, during and after the elections. YIAGA AFRICA reminds all security agencies involved in election security operations that the 2010 Electoral Act as amended prescribes electoral offences and sanctions. Therefore, it will be unconstitutional and a disregard of the rule of law to invoke sanctions not prescribed by law for electoral offences.
YIAGA AFRICA and Watching The Vote Observation of the 2019 Presidential Election
YIAGA AFRICA is a strictly nonpartisan and independent civil society organization without affiliation to any political party, candidate or state agency. YIAGA AFRICA’s Watching The Vote effort includes volunteers representing Nigeria’s diversity: women and men, youth and the elderly, persons with disability, Muslims and Christians from the six geo-political zones. YIAGA AFRICA’s observers have all been carefully selected and extensively trained in accordance with strict criteria to ensure their independence and neutrality, are properly accredited with INEC and have signed a project Code of Conduct to uphold standards of impartiality, objectivity and professionalism. YIAGA AFRICA observes on behalf of all Nigerian people and speaks in their name on the basis of verified data. YIAGA AFRICA will deploy a parallel vote tabulation or PVT. Findings are from a statistical sample of polling units located in all 774 LGAs that is truly representative of the entire country and therefore provide unbiased information on the overall conduct of the presidential election and the accuracy of the results.
YIAGA AFRICA conducts comprehensive observation of elections. In the pre-election period, YIAGA AFRICA deployed 822 Long Term Observers (LTOs) in all 774 Local Government Areas (LGA) of Nigeria. These citizen observers monitored political developments and preparations for the general elections over a four months period. For the Presidential election, YIAGA AFRICA will deploy a total of 3,906 observers throughout the country. This comprises 3,076 stationary PVT observers deployed to a random representative statistical sample of 1,515 polling units and 23 voting points; 822 roving observers; and 8 Working Group members who run real time election analysis. YIAGA AFRICA will also deploy observers to the State Collation Centres in every state. Our observers will observe the entire election day process from setup of the polling units through the announcement and posting of the official results and will send in periodic reports to the Watching the Vote National Data Centre located in the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja where they will be processed and analyzed.
This deployment will enable YIAGA AFRICA to provide the most timely and accurate information on the opening of polls; the conduct of accreditation and voting; and the counting, announcement and posting of results throughout the country. Based on reports from its observers in the sampled polling units YIAGA AFRICA will also provide an independent projection of voter turnout and will be able to project the vote shares that each party should receive within a narrow range. If the official results fall within YIAGA AFRICA’s estimated ranges, then the public, political parties and candidates should have confidence in the ballots cast at the polling units. Only INEC, however, has the legal mandate to announce the election results. As soon as INEC announces the official results, YIAGA AFRICA will follow up with a final press conference to share its own statement on the accuracy of the election results and will publicize these projections.
Utilizing information communications technology and statistical principles, PVT is the gold standard for citizen election observation, and has been utilized throughout Africa and the world. In recent elections in Africa, the conduct of parallel vote tabulations by nonpartisan citizen organizations has bolstered citizen confidence and provided credible, independent estimates of presidential election results in Zimbabwe (2018), Kenya (2017), Ghana (2016), Zambia (2016 and 2015), Côte d’Ivoire (2015) and Burkina Faso (2015). YIAGA AFRICA has also deployed this methodology for recent off-cycle gubernatorial elections in Nigeria, including: Osun (2018), Ekiti (2018), Anambra (2017) and Ondo (2016).
On election day YIAGA AFRICA expects to receive more than 33,000 observer reports containing over 500,000 unique pieces of information on the process and results of the election. Over 94 data clerks as well as a team of data analysts will work tirelessly throughout February 23 and 24 to process, analyze and verify these reports at the Watching the Vote National Data Center located on Floor 02 of the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja. On 23 February, the Watching The Vote National Data Center will open promptly at 6:30 am and will remain open until counting has finished at all sampled polling units and all YIAGA AFRICA citizen observers have sent in their observation reports. The WTV National Data Center is open to the public and media at all times. Throughout election day, YIAGA AFRICA will provide timely updates on the conduct of the election based on the near real-time reports from its observers. These will include press conferences at the WTV National Data Center to share a mid-day situational statement on 23 February 2019 and a press conference on the morning after (Sunday February 24) to share preliminary data on the process. YIAGA AFRICA will share regular post on social media including YIAGA AFRICA’s Facebook page – facebook.com/yiaga.org and through YIAGA AFRICA’s Twitter handle @YIAGA.
YIAGA AFRICA undertook the Watching The Vote project to provide Nigerian voters, presidential candidates, political parties, civil society and INEC with independent information about whether the official results for the 23 February 2019 presidential election truly reflect the ballots cast at polling units. The Watching The Vote project is “Driven by Data – For All Nigerians – Beholden to None!”
YIAGA AFRICA is fully prepared to observe the rescheduled 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections. To that end, we invite the assembled guests to accompany us now on a tour of the WTV National Data Center where a live simulation exercise is currently underway to test the readiness of our observer network to observe and the functionality of our data management systems. At present, all 3,076 PVT observers are sending in practice reports based on an election day scenario, which will be duly processed by the data clerks and data analysis teams. YIAGA AFRICA stands ready to observe the presidential elections on behalf of all Nigerians and to ensure that the people’s votes are accurately counted. YIAGA AFRICA calls on the citizens of Nigeria, the parties and candidates, INEC and the forces of law and order to also play their parts to ensure a peaceful, credible and inclusive process. YIAGA AFRICA calls on every eligible voter to get ready with their permanent voter’s card (PVC) and come out in their number to exercise their civic responsibilities and vote.
Thank you and God Bless the people of Nigeria!
Dr. Hussaini Abdu
Chair, Watching The Vote Working Group
Executive Director, YIAGA AFRICA
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