The Oasis Reporters
November 20, 2017
INTERIM STATEMENT BY NIGERIA CIVIL SOCIETY SITUATION ROOM ON THE 2017 GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION IN ANAMBRA STATE
Issued: 11:00am, Sunday 19 November 2017
The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room’s observation of the Anambra State November 18, 2017, Governorship election continues its tradition and practice of observing run-off Governorship elections throughout Nigeria, which it started in 2011. The Situation Room received field reports from its deployed observers and other election observer networks and at this time, Situation Room will like to make the following initial observations:
Situation Room notes that there were initial delays in the Independent National Electoral Commission’s deployment of its personnel for the elections, as well as delay in transporting materials to the Polling Units. Situation Room observers, report that INEC’s promise to commence polls at 8:00 am on voting day across all of the State was not achieved. Only very few polling units commenced the voting process at the prescribed time. In several polling units across Anambra State, commencement of polling was delayed owing to late delivery of polling materials and the late arrival of INEC personnel. In PU/04/19/05/006/02 (Awa Ward, Orumba North) for instance, officials did not arrive until well after 8:30am.
There were indications of logistics challenges, including inadequacy of the transportation arrangements made to convey both materials and personnel to the polling units and the absence of police personnel. In addition, protests by some adhoc staff of INEC over poor welfare conditions such as non-accommodation and non-provision of stipends affected their early deployment and in some cases efficiency in execution of their assigned tasks.
Observers also reported several incidents of hitches with the use of the card readers in some polling units. This was the case in quite a few local governments, including Anaocha, Anambra East, Aguata North, etc. In the cases of faulty card reader machines, INEC replaced the faulty card readers with the back-up machines, and where there was failure of the card reader machines to authenticate fingerprints of voters, incident forms were used. It was observed that across the State that voting cubicles were positioned in ways that compromised the secrecy of voting.
There was no standard or consistency with regards to setting up of the polling units. Contrary to earlier recommendations from the Situation Room, information of the polling unit name and numbers amongst others were not displayed openly. This slowed the accreditation process and hampered the ability of voters to locate their polling units on time especially at locations with multiple polling units.
There was also a report of INEC staff seizing and disappearing with ballot papers, with one of the instances cited in Orumba North. He was however arrested by the Police. There were a few other reports of skirmishes around some election vicinity and also of political thugs snatching result sheets at PU:04/02/07/006 (Ama Agbaja 1, Omor II, Ayamelum).
Security concerns ahead of the election was major. This prompted fears of massive violence, voter apathy and low turnout. However, the widespread fear of over-policing of the elections by the security services did not manifest. We note the weakness of the deployment plan of the Nigeria Police particularly in the rural areas.
In Nzam, the headquarters of Anambra West LGA, more than forty police personnel deployed from Benue State were stranded as a result of not having vehicles to move them to polling units for their assignment. We also note that the perennial problem of inadequate provision for the welfare and salaries of police personnel also reoccurred. However, we note that the policemen conducted themselves in a non-intimidating and civil manner.
The inadequate and inefficient deployment of police personnel created its own challenges, with INEC unable to deploy its personnel and election materials in time for polling to commence at the stipulated time of 8:00 am. Observers did not however report any unsavoury incidents of Police unprofessionalism. We note the proper conduct of the military on the major roads during the election.
Observers reported blatant incidents of vote buying across the State, involving the major political parties. Party agents stationed themselves at polling units paying voters sums ranging from N500 to N5,000 to get them to vote in favour of their candidates. This emerging impunity of vote-buying happening in the full glare of security officials appears to be a dangerous trend in our elections that needs to be addressed urgently.
Initial reports indicate low turn out of voters, although this can only be confirmed when the full voting figures becomes available. The low turn out however raises questions about the current practice of restricting movement in Nigeria on Election Day. With voters unable to get to the polling units where they are registered and which is sometimes located far away from their residences, the turn out gets severely affected.
COLLATION OF VOTES:
The vote collation process started out late in most Collation Centres, owing to the late arrival of the Collation Officers. Sorting and counting commenced early on the average. By 2:30pm several of the polling units had begun counting of the votes. Collation of votes is currently on-going and Situation Room will be following the process until announcement of the final results.
Despite the initial fears and challenges, the election went on peacefully. Delays in opening of polls noted in a number of polling units was regrettable and every effort should be made to continue to improve logistics, because some delays were as a result of the need to resolve transportation issues and welfare of adhoc staff.
The report of poor welfare conditions of Youth Corp members was a disappointing aspect of the election. The Election Management Body should take steps to ensure that in future elections, the welfare of NYSC members is adequately addressed.
Situation Room continues to call on INEC to evaluate the use of card reader technology in election with a view to improving on its efficiency and effectiveness. Situation Room is also disappointed with political leaders in the state whose conduct, carriage and disposition encouraged blatant buying and selling of votes to their citizens.
Lastly, Situation Room calls on the Nigeria Police to ensure that in future elections all of the personnel that it indicates to deploy for elections are fully mobilized and efficiently and effectively deployed across the areas of election coverage.
The Situation Room is made up of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working in support of credible and transparent elections in Nigeria and includes such groups as Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), CLEEN Foundation, Action Aid Nigeria, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Proactive Gender Initiative (PGI) Enough is Enough Nigeria, WANGONET, Partners for Electoral Reform, Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), Nigeria Women Trust Fund, JDPC and Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA). Others are Development Dynamics, Stakeholders Democracy Network, Human Rights Monitor, Election Monitor, Reclaim Naija, Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, CITAD, Alliance for Credible Elections (ACE), RECHDI, WREP, CISLAC and several other CSOs numbering more than seventy.