Guber And State HOA Elections: Early Interim Reports Of NBA Situation Room Showed Instances of Vote Buying, Violence/ Voter Intimidation, Low Turnout Of Voters And Improvement In Accreditation/Voting Process – Maikyau
The President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Y. C. Maikyau, OON, SAN has said that of the 210 NBA observers that filed reports before 1.00pm on election day 18 March, 2o23, 33.6% reported that the conduct of the polls were excellent, 60.4% reported the polls were somewhat satisfactory, while 6% reported the polls were not satisfactory.
The report also indicated incidences of low turnout of voters, early deployment of INEC officials and materials, vote buying, violence and intimidation of voters, and improvement in accreditation and voting process.
See the full report below…
In furtherance to the mandate of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to promote the conduct of free, fair, credible and inclusive elections in 2023, I set up an NBA election working group headed by the 1st President of the NBA, Mrs Linda Bala, to observe the conduct of the elections. I also set up an Election Observation Situation Room, and deployed 1000 lawyer-observers drawn from our 128 branches across the country.
NBA observers are in all parts of Nigeria observing the conduct of the elections and reporting to the NBA Situation Room. Nigerians are today voting to elect members of the house of assembly of all the 36 states of the federation, and Governors in 28 states.
2. PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS OF NBA ELECTION OBSERVERS
a. Early deployment of INEC officials and voting materials
In most polling units, our observers reported that INEC officials and voting materials arrived on schedule, some of them before 8.30am. For example, in PU 024, Ward 12 Zanwan B Zaramaganda, Jos, Plateau State, INEC officials, security agents and party agents arrived at 7.00am and commenced accreditation at 8.30am. Similar report of early commencement of accreditation and voting were sent from PU 028 Ekpan Ward 10, in Uvwie LGA of Delta State; PU 09-012 at Olulumo Bus stop, Okuni, Ikom LGA of Cross River State, and PU 005 Dandagoro, Batagarawa LGA Katsina State. Also in PU007 Malmatari Ward, Damaturu Central 03, Ramaru LGA Yobe State, electoral officers, security agents and voting materials arrived on time. In PU 01, 02, 03 Government Girls Secondary School Ogoja LGA Cross Rivers, materials and officials arrived as early as 7.30am. Also, as at 7.50am, PU 09 Ward 9 Akoda Ede South LG Osun State, accreditation had commenced.
It was also observed that voters are more aware of the relocated or new Polling Units than was the case at the Presidential and National Assembly election of February 25, 2023. Report from PU B019 Nwala B, Batagarawa LGA Katsina state, a new PU, many voters turned out as early as 8.30am.
However, in a few places, observers reported that officials and materials did not arrive on time. For example, as at 2.16pm in Ward 6, Sangotedo Eti Osa LGA Lagos, no INEC official was cited. In PU 011 Ward 14 Eneka Obio Akpor LGA River State, voting was yet to commence as at 11.00am because of late arrival of materials. Also, as at 10.42am, in New Owerri Ward PU 01-021, incomplete voting materials were reported, but nonetheless, voting commenced at 12.15pm. As at 12.30pm in PU 125/126, VGC, Eti Osa LGA Lagos State, voting was yet to commence.
b. Low turnout of voters
Across the country, NBA observers reported low turn-out of voters, compared with the Presidential and National Assembly elections of 25 February 2023. Reports from PU 015, Ward 9 in Ijebu Ode, Ogun State, of the 116 registered voters, only 48 voted as at 2.00pm, and in PU018 Ward 9, out of the 451 registered voters, 112 were accredited as at 2.30pm. Similar reports of low turn-out of voters were recorded in Ward 3 PU 006 Odogbolu Ward Ogun State and Ward 12 PU024 Zanwan B Zaramaganda Jos Plateau State, where out of 2,115 registered voters, only 956 were accredited to vote at 1.45pm. In Ward 10 PU028, Uvie LGA of Delta low turnout of voters was reported as well as in many parts of Rivers, Delta, Imo and Osun States.
c. Violence and Voters Intimidation
NBA observers reported that conduct of polls were peaceful and orderly in many parts of the country. However, there are reports of intimidation of voters especially from Lagos State. Observers reported that in Kosoko Poling Unit, Ojodu Berger Ward 146, thugs attacked voters who were not voting for a particular party. Verified video reports sent by our observers show thugs openly announcing on the streets of Ajegunle in Ajeromi/Ifelodun LGA Lagos state, that any voter who would not vote a particular political party should not come out to vote. There were also other reports of thugs disrupting voting and catting away ballot boxes in some parts of the state; for example, in a polling unit in Aguda, Surulere, an INEC official was captured in a verified video sent by our observers announcing to voters that the election result would not be uploaded at the close of polls.
Similar reports of violent attack of voters were reported in PUs along Ago Palace Way, Isolo Lagos. In PU069 TEdi/Muwo Ojo LGA of Lagos State, an NBA observer reported that armed thugs attacked voters and officials, and carried away voting materials. In PU 039 OniIba, Ojo LGA of Lagos, at 2.21pm, a verified video sent by our observer showed thugs threatening voters at the polling station to vote a particular political party or be harmed. In Ward 06, Sangotedo Eti Osa LGA of Lagos state, thugs were reported to have attacked polling units and destroyed polling materials.
d. Vote buying
There are many reports of vote buying across the country. In Dayi ward, Malumfashi LGA, the turn-out of voters was reported very impressive but NBA observers reported that voters were receiving wrappers and food stuff from party agents. Also at PU 020 and 021 in Anambra North LGA, party agents were seen recording names and accounts numbers of voters at the polling station. In PU 015 Ward 9, Ijebu Ode in Ogun Ode, observers reported that the party was distributing gift cards worth 5,000 naira to voters. At about 12.19pm there was a report from Ward 09, Unit 09 Ijebu Ode, a voter was seen being handed over money by a political party agent.
e. Functioning of BVAS
Nearly all our observers reported that BVAS were functioning very well in the PUs covered. However, there were reports of wrong allocation of BVAS in some PUs. In PU044 Idemili North LGA Anambra state, voting started at about 10am because a wrong BVAS was given to the INEC staff, and it took time for INEC officials to replace the machine with the correct one.
f. Conduct of security officers
Most security officials arrived on time along with INEC officials and have conducted themselves properly in line with the electoral guidelines. However, in some PUs, there were no security officials. In PU 042 Saint Paul N/P Ogidi Idemili North LGA, no security personnel were seen at 12.30pm while accreditation and voting were going on smoothly.
g. Conduct of other agents
There is widespread presence of political party agents in most PUs covered by our observers, mainly for the APC, PDP, LP and ADC. Most of the other political parties do not have agents representing them in most of the reported PUs. However, in PU 004, Ekpan 2, Ward 10 Udumuloho Uvwie LGA of Delta state, some youths supporting a political party were reported intimidating voters at the polling station who were not voting their political party.
h. Access to voters to polling
PU locations were more accessible to voters at this election as compared to the February 25, 2023. The relocation of PUs by INEC was no longer a problem. In PU 019 Nwala B Batagarawa LGA in Katsina State, which is a new polling unit, many voters turned out very early. In Unit 021 in Dandagoro in the Batagarawa LG of Katsina state, as at 11.46am, no voter was seen in the polling station. Observers reported it was a new polling unit.
3. GENERAL OBSERVATION ON THE ELECTION PROCESS
In general, NBA observers reported that the accreditation and voting processes improved at the State Governorship and House of Assembly election than was the case at the Presidential and National Assembly elections. In particular, of the 210 NBA observers that filed reports before 1.00pm, 33.6% reported that the conduct of the polls were excellent, 60.4% reported the polls were somewhat satisfactory, while 6% reported the polls were not satisfactory.
NBA observers also reported that in many polling units, as at 4.00pm, counting of votes have commenced, a development that signalled significant improvement in the INEC management of the polling process.
I have in my earlier statement on our report of the Presidential and National Assembly election urged INEC to ensure that the hitches that characterised the February 25 2023 election were addressed, in particular, that results of the voting were uploaded directly from the polling units, and that were election materials arrived late, that poll should be extended so as to ensure that no citizen is disenfranchised.
Yakubu Chonoko Maikyau SAN, OON
President, Nigerian Bar Association