KDI observed the Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi elections on November 11, 2023, and set up her Election Day Data Room (EDDR) to get reports from 254 trained observers deployed across the fifty-six (56) LGAs of the 3 states for swift, credible, real-time information, analyses and escalation of incidents on the election during and after the poll. Also, to give objective insights into the incidence of election violence, document the same and conduct trend analysis in continuation of her pre-election phase analytics from the last 10 months of pre-election environment tracking. KDI also worked with other Civil Society Organizations in the field for synergy and exchange of information. In addition, reports were gotten from the public via the toll-free line provided by KDI, and many of these reports were tracked and verified by the long-term monitors in various neighbourhoods. These issues and incidents were escalated where necessary for swift responses and intervention by relevant stakeholders.
KEY OBSERVATION/FINDINGS: POTENTIAL FOR VIOLENCE.
THE ARRIVAL OF ELECTION OFFICIALS AND THE COMMENCEMENT OF POLLS
KDI Election Day Data Room gathered that voting commenced relatively early in most of the polling units observed in the three states where the election was conducted on 11th November 2023. The data gathered indicated that in 77.42% of the polling units in Bayelsa State, election officials and materials arrived between the hours of 7 am and 8:30 am. In Kogi state, 73.91% of polling units also witnessed the early arrival of election officers and election materials. However, the case differed in Imo, where the early arrival of election officers and materials was 47.89% of the polling units observed. Despite the early arrival of INEC officials in certain community and polling units, voting did not commence early as the officials had to wait for voters to come out to the polling units to vote. In Imo State, only 29% of the polling units had commenced voting by the official time of opening of polls, which is 8:30 am. Some of the LGAs that INEC Officials did not turn up in Imo state are Ideato North and Ideato South, and some polling units in Orlu, Orsu, Okigwe, Ikeduru and Oru East LGAs (Exact details of the polling units will be published in our final report). The failure of INEC Officials to turn up for the elections disenfranchised voters in the affected areas to a large extent. The case was relatively different in Kogi and Bayelsa States, where 86% and 66% of the observed polling units commenced voting by the official time of 8:30 am. The incident of the boat convening INEC and materials that capsized in Southern Ijaw on the night before the elections affected the early commencement of polls in that part of Bayelsa State.
BVAS, since the inception of its use in Nigeria’s elections, has afforded the opportunity for increased transparency; KDI has continuously expressed her belief in the BVAS innovation. For most of the day, BVAS functioned well, an improvement from the 2023 general elections. The functionality of the BVAS was swift in PUs observed in both Bayelsa and Kogi, as accreditation was done within 1-2 minutes in 91.67% of the polling units in Bayelsa and 82.50% of the polling units in Kogi. Things were not the same for Imo State, as accreditation took up to 3 minutes and above at the polling units observed. However, like any technology, the BVAS is not perfect, as we recorded some malfunction, hanging and outright malfunction of the technology in some of the polling units observed. The challenges with the BVAS took the form of low battery, failure to accredit, slow functioning and some other system issues that observers could not determine. However, the faulty BVAS was replaced swiftly in 80% of the polling units where the faulty BVAS was observed to have malfunctioned.
INEC RESULT VIEWING PORTAL (IReV)
KDI noted that the INEC’s Result Viewing Portal’s (IReV) functionality was not in question. There were no reports of INEC officials’ inability to upload results in PU observed. This is commendable and an improvement from the February 2023 elections.
KDI observed that INEC officials came to some polling units in Kogi state, precisely in Ogori/mangongo LGA, with pre-filled result sheets before elections even started, which was duly escalated by civil Society organizations. INEC later released a statement that it was going to investigate this irregularity. However, while we await the outcome of the promised INEC investigation, we condemn in the entirety this act of sabotage as it brought a dent on the integrity of the election. It is our hope that the investigation will be thoroughly conducted and the persons within and outside INEC identified to be responsible will be held accountable and prosecuted to serve as deterrent for future elections.
In like manner, we urge INEC to investigate allegations of the same handwriting filling out Form EC08 that were uploaded to the IReV in some wards in Imo State where elections were said not to have been conducted. We identify 15 polling units in Ward/RA: OHAEKE/OKPORO OF Orlu Local Government; the polling units include PU Codes 16/21/02/001 – 013, 16/21/02/015, and 16/21/02/017. We noted the same thing in 12 polling units in Ward/RA: EBENESE/ UMUEZE/NNACHI IHIOMA of Orlu local government. The polling units are PU Codes 16/21/03/001-012. We also note the bypass of BVAS in some polling units that resulted in overvoting across the three states.
We condemned vote buying in all its forms. The political class has continually devised new innovations to vote buying since it gained prominence in Nigeria; however, the Saturday governorship election in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi witnessed flagrant impunity in vote trading. Voters openly traded their votes with political party agents for material things and money ranging from
N1,000 to N40,000. The secrecy of the ballot was blatantly ignored as party agents clogged the voting areas and openly canvassed for votes in exchange for money. The voters openly showed their thumb printed ballot paper to guarantee payment in some of the polling units that we observed vote buying. These acts put Nigeria’s budding democracy in jeopardy, as the free will of the voters cannot be guaranteed because of inducement. KDI commends the arrest of some vote traders. However, this should not stop at mere arrest. There must be a well-publicized prosecution and conviction, if possible so that it could serve as a deterrent to would-be vote traders in future elections.
Written by: EaglesFM