CODE’s Final Report on 2019 Nigerian Presidential Election Observation and Way Forward

CODE is a Non-Governmental Organization, whose mission is to improve access to information and empower local communities in Africa. Its Follow The Money initiative tracks government and international aid spending in rural communities to ensure and promote open government and service delivery. Since 2012, CODE has tracked an estimate of USD 1 million (in budgeted sums for projects) across 100 communities in over 25 Nigerian states, improving over 1 million rural lives. 

CODE is an INEC Accredited Observer for the 2019 Nigerian General Elections. CODE observed electoral processes in Kenya in 2013, Nigeria in 2015 and the USA in 2016, seeking to ensure peaceful electoral process, promote national reconciliation and improve quality of elections in these countries.

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Introduction

Connected Development presents, today, its Final Report on the Nigerian 2019 Presidential Election that held 23 February 2019. The report is being presented by the Head of Mission, CODE Election Observation team, Hamzat Lawal, to members of the press, the government, civil society groups, political parties and other national stakeholders.

The aim of this report is to recount findings by our tech election observation platform Uzabe mapping tool to national stakeholders, highlight recommendations which CODE believes can impact on the improvement of a more credible electoral process in Nigeria in the future.

We have also proposed recommendations for consideration by the Independent National Electoral Commission and relevant stakeholders on how to further improve future elections. These recommendations are offered to help address a number of the shortfalls outlined on Uzabe and to serve as benchmarks for assessing the commitment of the current administration in advancing democracy in Nigeria. 

Uzabe Findings and Analysis

In preparation for the Nigerian 2019 Nigerian Presidential and National Assembly Elections, Connected Development [CODE], launched Uzabe, a real-time (web-based map) situation technology, for gathering real-time security intelligence and observing the electoral process. With Uzabe mapping tool, CODE established early warning systems for communities and voters; and strengthened mitigation and emergency response during the Presidential and National Assembly elections.

Uzabe received over 3,887 reports from on-the-ground observers and online social sentiment analysts. From these reports, Uzabe established about 453 election incidents across 34 States of the Federation and the FCT. Uzabe recorded issues of electoral violence, voter suppression, security personnel and party agents influencing ballots of voters, vote buying, underage voting and destruction of voting materials in Lagos, Bayelsa, Rivers, Kogi, Taraba, Bauchi, Kebbi, Borno and Yobe, leading to death of civilians. 

Operations and Logistics Issues:

Logistics and operational issues were prevalent despite the fact that they were the reason for the postponement of elections. Uzabe recorded 137 cases of logistics and operational issues at many polling units across the country. For example; INEC officials in some States in the South-East and South-West did not arrive the polling stations until 12 pm and commencement of voting started at 2 pm and 4pm in some regions of Akwa Ibom. There were also records of missing stamp, card reader issues, delay of voting processes, causing INEC to extend voting to Sunday as means of covering for lost hours 

Security Issues:

Security remain a prevalent challenge confronting the nation’s growth; and electorates should not have to die or lose loved ones at the cost of participating in the electoral process. As an accredited observer, we are disheartened at the poor level of preparedness shown by the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC] to conduct a violence-free election, despite the week-long postponement of the election to allow for adequate logistics and security readiness.

CODE strongly condemns election-based violence which resulted in the burning of thumb-printed ballot papers in Isolo local government area in Lagos, killing of a young voter at a polling unit in Dekina Local Government, Kogi State; death of two persons in Nembe, Bayelsa, death of 16 persons in Rivers and injuries of citizens.

The Nigerian Police stated that it would be responsible for the protection of electorates and would deploy at least 3 police officers at the 119,973 polling units across the country; however, this level of preparedness was not reflected as Uzabe recorded many polling units having 1 security agent attached, and in some places, there were none. On a positive note, there were reports of security agents restoring the peace, in areas where suspected political thugs tried to incite violence.

Uzabe situation room provided emergency incidents to security agents including the Nigerian police, ensuring minimal violence due to military deployments across the country. Uzabe platform helped mobilise security in some polling units to erase the tendency of violence. 

Bomb blasts rocked the North-East on election morning, however, Nigerians still came out en mass to vote. This is the resilient Nigerian spirit we commend. Over a million votes were cancelled because they did not meet voting standards. We implore INEC and political parties to do better in educating voters on the voting process. A few people could not travel to vote, contributing to the low turnout of voters. we believe the #NotTooYoungtoVote mandate encouraged young people to come out to cast their votes, as expressed in the elected candidates for the House of Representatives. We are still analysing the demography of voters to note the percentage of youth who voted. 

CODE would like to emphasize that Uzabe is not keen on results but rather observing the electoral process and analysing issues that are critical to running a fair electoral process.

Recommendations

  1. CODE suggests that in order to enhance confidence in the election process, INEC’s complete autonomy must be strengthened to ensure it provides more effective and objective electoral process. We seek to see an INEC that is decentralised to avoid issues of logistics and operational issues.
  2. INEC must develop result-management process using competent and secure technology; and must provide a more conducive environment for collating results in regions.
  3. There should be policies and regulations guiding campaign financing to enhance accountability of political candidates and also legal measures should be introduced to address abuse of state resources.
  4. INEC must introduce reforms that allow for Nigerians in the diaspora to vote the candidate of their choice.
  5. Under-age voting is a violation of the Nigerian constitution and it is prevalent in some regions of the country. INEC must work to curb this issue as it serves as an indictment on the credibility of election process and ultimately a threat to our democracy.
  6. Appropriate authorities should investigate all allegations of violence and cases of violent acts, as well as vandalism and destruction of election materials and electorates’ properties, in accordance with the rule of law, and perpetrators held legally responsible.
  7. Party agents must learn to be cordial irrespective of political differences and must desist from inciting election-violence. Government must apply punitive measures in prosecuting criminals and perpetrators of election-based violence.
  8. Security agents must do better in protecting lives and properties of the electorate and ensure lives are not lost during the electoral process. We cannot keep addressing issues of electoral violence except we adequately prepare for these contingencies.

We, however commend INEC, for allowing the will of the people to be heard, and for remaining firm on her duty regardless of pressure from political actors that want to truncate the electoral process. We urge citizens to support INEC, particularly the Resident Electoral Commissioners, and they should come out en mass to vote their candidate of choice for the gubernatorial elections. 

CODE would like to acknowledge the commitment made by various volunteers —the field observers who sent in reports to Uzabe for public awareness to ensure transparency; their time and resources were critical to the conduct of an objective electoral process. CODE also commends Nigerians, particularly her youth, for their loyalty and resilience in the face of insurmountable pressure. This election was a test of the magnanimity of Nigeria’s democratic consolidation.

CODE hereby calls on opposition parties and other stakeholders to act responsibly, to pursue peaceful and legal resolution of their grievances and to uphold the integrity of the political and electoral process.

For Media Enquiries, contact Kevwe Oghide, Communications Lead, Connected Development via kevwe@connecteddevelopment.org

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