The Election Security Support Centre (ESSC) CLEEN Foundation in collaboration with the Police Service Commission (PSC) and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) observed the Governorship/State Houses of Assembly/Council Elections held throughout 29 and 36 states of the Federation respectively as well as Municipal Council elections in the Federal Capital Territory. This report covers incidents from the opening to the close of the polling across the country. Democratic elections thrive when security of life and property as well as safety of electorate, electoral officials, materials and national critical infrastructure are guaranteed. Electoral violence and insecurity remains a serious challenge in the country.
The ESSC of CLEEN Foundation tracked security related developments across the country through 1,600 CLEEN Foundation trained observers deployed across the 774 Local Government Areas (LGA) in the country. In addition, CLEEN Foundation deployed a Citizen Observer mobile application called Tella which allows ordinary citizens to report security issues in their polling units. Other information relating to election security were equally tracked from newspaper reports and social media platforms.
- Security Related Observations
- Election related killings– There were reported killings in Rivers, Kogi, Imo, Akwa Ibom, Oyo, Ebonyi, Benue and Enugu states. Five persons were reported killed in Khana LGA and one person in Ahoada West LGA of Rivers State while Benue, Kogi and Katsina States recorded two deaths per state.
- Snatching of Electoral Materials: The incidents were recorded in PU003, Ward 8 Kwami LGA, Gombe State; Wards 2, 3, 11, 12, 13 and 17 of Gokana LGA of Rivers State; Ward 04 PU 1 and 2 Ikwere LGA and Wards 1, 4, 6, 8, 9 and 10 of Ahoada West LGA
- Presence of Armed Forces: Our observers reported the presence of different security agents including the Nigerian Armed Forces during the elections. The presence of Nigerian Armed Forces was most visible in some states in South South (Akwa Ibom and Rivers), South East (Abia) and North Central (Plateau, Benue and Kwara). In some places, their presence raised different security concerns. For example, in Gokana, Oyigbo, Degema, Ikwerre, Emouha, Ogu-Bolo, Okrika, Khana, Obio Akpor, Etche, Akuku Toru LGAs of Rivers State, Security Personnel in Military uniform were allegedly involved in sporadic shooting, voter intimidation, killing and carting away of electoral materials. In addition, observers reported that they were denied access into collation centres by armed men in Military uniform mostly in Rivers and Akwa Ibom States. In Iwarnyam Ward, Awajir, Konshisha LGA in Benue State, observers reported that armed security personnel were seen aiding politicians in compromising the electoral process.
- Harassment of Observers/Voters: At PU002, Ward 11, Itak Ikom LGA of Akwa Ibom State, party agents and political thugs intimidated and threatened observers and journalists. In addition, the phone and handbag of a CLEEN Foundation Observer were snatched at gun point by political thugs at PU 2 Ward 03 Rivers State Asari Tolu LGA. In addition, the mobile device used by a CLEEN Foundation Observer deployed to Obio Akpor LGA Ward 5, PU 30 was smashed by armed men in Military uniform and memory card removed as he attempted to record an incident of electoral malpractice.
- Arrival of Security Personnel at Polling Unit: CLEEN Foundation observed that 77% of security personnel arrived at the polling units across the country before 8:00am while 16% arrived between 8:00am – 8:59am; and 5% arrived 9:00am or later. However, during the Presidential and National Assembly Elections, our Observer reports show that 65% of security personnel deployed for election duty arrived before 8:00 am. Compared to the Governorship and Houses of Assembly Elections, there is a significant improvement on the punctuality of security personnel at the polling unit.
- Possession of Firearm at the Polling Unit: CLEEN Foundation observed that in 88% of the polling units across the country security personnel deployed for election duty were not armed. However, there were reports of fire arm possession in 8% of the polling units. For example, Ward 1, in Polling Unit 5, Abia State Polytechnic, Aba North LGA, Abia State, security personnel were armed inside the polling area. During the Presidential and National Assembly Elections, 13% of security agents deployed for election duty bore arms at polling unit. This shows a marginal decrease in the number of security personnel who were armed at the polling units.
- Adequacy of Security Personnel at Polling Unit: CLEEN Foundation observed that on the aggregate, 68% of the polling units had two or more security personnel on ground while 31% of the polling units had one security personnel on ground. However, during the Presidential and National Assembly Elections, 70% of the polling units had two or more security agents while polling units with just one security officer was 27%.
- Identification of Security Personnel
CLEEN observed that 94% of the security personnel are wearing easily identifiable name tags. However, 4% of the security personnel were not wearing identifiable name tags. However, during the Presidential and National Assembly Elections, 92% of the security personnel were wearing easily identifiable tags 6% were not wearing easily identifiable tags.
- Approachability of Security Personnel: The security personnel on election duty were observed to be approachable. Reports from our field observers show that 94% of the security personnel at the polling units were approachable. 4% were observed to be somewhat approachable while 2% of security personnel were not approachable. There was no significant difference with the data obtained during the Presidential and National Assembly Elections.
- Impartiality of Security Personnel at the Polling unit: Statistics available to CLEEN Foundation shows that 93% of security personnel were impartial while 1% of the security agents were some-what partial. The status of impartiality of 5% of the security personnel was not ascertained.
- Safety at the Polling Units: CLEEN observed that 89% of the polling units were safe and secure while 9% were observed to be somewhat safe and secure.
- General Observations
- Voters Intimidation:In Ebonyi State, Ohaukwu LGA, voters were forced to vote for a particular political party in addition to widespread vote buying or inducement. Similarly, a party agent was forced to leave the polling unit entirely. In Ondo State at Ward 007, PU 018, Ondo West LGA, party thugs dragged the voting cubicle and insisted anyone not voting for a particular party should leave the polling unit.
- Voter Apathy:Generally, CLEEN observed low turnout of voters across the polling units observed when compared to the Presidential/NASS elections two weeks ago. Specifically, at Polling Unit 011, Customs Qtrs Karu Site 2, Abuja, there was low voter turnout. Almost all the states in the federation experienced low voter turnout.
- Deployment of INEC Officials:The deployment of INEC personnel for the Governorship/NASS elections indicates an improvement from the Presidential/NASS elections. CLEEN observed the early arrival and setting up of polling units across the country. CLEEN observed the issue of poor welfare of Corps members. At PU 026 Ojodu, Ward B Lagos State, INEC Ad-Hoc personnel reportedly refused to go to the polling unit on the allegation that they were not paid. This was also observed in several Polling Units across Lagos State including Ogudu, Ojota and Maryland areas of Lagos Metropolis.
- Card Reader Issues: CLEEN Foundation observed increased performance of card readers across the country, CLEEN only observed few incidents of non-performance of card readers such as at the Community Primary School Alusekere, Owode Ede, Ede North, Osun State as well as Shomolu and Alimosho LGAs in Lagos State. However, the issues were resolved by INEC and voting continued in the respective polling units.
- Vote Trading: CLEEN Foundation observed incidents of vote trading across the country. In some States like Ekiti and Lagos, it was done discreetly, while in some states, it was open and public knowledge. Observers noted cases of vote trading in Ebonyi State (Ohaukwu LGA, Effium Ward 01 PU 004 Akparata Market Square); Enugu State (Enugu East Mbuluowehe Ward CPS Amokpo 1). Niger State, (Chanchaga Polling Unit close to David Umar HousePiggery junction); Imo State (Owerri West Obinze/08 Practicing school Obinze/005); Kwara State (Ilorin East Polling Unit 012 Baare; Ilorin South Akanbi IV Govt Sec school 1/012; Edu Lafiagi Ward 1Somasun Polling Unit 03). Vote trading was also recorded in Kogi state, Muslim Community Secondary Lokoja polling unit 004, ward A. Our observers also noted cases of vote trading at PU3, Makurda/Makurda ward, Rimi LGA Katsina State. In addition, at PU 007 Comprehensive Secondary School Amakohia Owerri North, there were incidences of vote trading. Furthermore, in Makurdi, Benue State, EFCC officials intercepted a bus load of money suspected to be moneys meant for vote trading. Votes were traded at different amounts.
- Under Age Voting: There were cases of underage voting observed by CLEEN Foundation. For example, in Polling Unit 006, Ward Nasarawa, Katagum Zaki LGA, Bauchi State, under-aged voters were present.
- Conclusion and recommendation
The 2019 general elections, despite the unfortunate cases of violence leading to the death of some citizens, can be regarded as another important step in Nigeria’s experience with democracy. It is, however, disturbing that we are yet to have a violence free election. The reports of violence raise great concerns and demands for critical interventions to stop the trend. Elections must be devoid of violence for democracy to continue to grow and flourish. We commend the majority of Nigerians that have demonstrated commitment to the electoral process, by going out to vote and largely conducted themselves in a peaceful manner.
The ESSC of CLEEN Foundation finds it imperative to call on the federal and state governments, the security agencies, civil society organisations and all well-meaning Nigerian citizens to think of measures that need to be put in place to ensure the conduct of free, fair and violence-free elections in Nigeria.
We cannot continue to have violence featuring in our elections at all levels of government. It is disturbing that Rivers State has continued to experience violence in almost all general elections in Nigeria. We call upon the traditional and religious leaders, political leaders, business people and professionals, civil society leaders and government to come together and find lasting solutions to violence that mark elections in that state. Rivers State is only a sad example of what happens in other places during elections. The country as a whole, therefore, needs to take a serious view of election violence with a view to bringing it to an end.
It is our candid view that if politicians do not become desperate in their quest for power, the level of violence will be minimised greatly. Some Nigerian politicians have decided to turn a civil way of acquiring power into war. If politicians have abided by the rules and respected the wish of the people to freely and peacefully choose their representatives, the level of violence in the elections will be curtailed. This resort to violence places unnecessary pressure on the security agencies and the Nigerian people during elections. It is time that political parties commit themselves to peaceful participation in elections beyond the ceremony of key contestants signing peace accords.
It is a worrisome development that requires a serious soul searching on this persistent, but unhealthy culture of electoral violence. Widespread insecurity in the country negatively affected the elections. It led to deployment of the military in policing elections with adverse implications for unfettered participation of the electorates. Deployment of the military for election duties also resulted from the desperation and conduct of politicians who sponsor electoral violence, hire thugs and promote inter-ethnic and inter-religion intolerance and hatred. Government should introduce and implement programmes for political culture reorientation of citizens, especially politicians to internalise the values and norms of democratic politics, elections and governance.
- Thank you and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Benson Olugbuo, PhD