Today, Nigerians return to the polls to elect governors and state legislators in 29 and 36 states of the federation respectively. Over 10 political parties are participating in today’s exercise. The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) deployed observers and reporters in 21 states namely, Adamawa, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Cross River, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo, Kano, Kwara, Lagos, Plateau, Ondo, Oyo, Taraba, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Enugu, Delta, Rivers and Sokoto states. Our coverage of the exercise is aimed at assessing the quality of the electoral process and informing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Citizens’ Reporting Centre as well as the general public of cases of irregularity and logistical/technical problems. Election observation and analysis will also enhance the transparency and credibility of the process and discourage electoral malfeasance.
Arrival of INEC Officials, Materials and Accreditation
In terms of the general administration of the election, INEC recorded substantial improvement, especially in terms of timely arrival of electoral officials and materials, as well as in the functionality of the card readers. Accreditation of voters was also generally orderly and peaceful, devoid of hitches associated with the presidential and National Assembly elections. The presence of security officials, party agents and independent observers was noted at the start of the process in most polling stations. However, their presence was not sufficient to deter interruption in some polling units. Despite these improvements, CDD observed the late arrival of electoral officials and materials in some polling stations in Rivers, Delta, Abia and Imo States.
In contravention of stipulated INEC guidelines, there were reports of polling stations where accreditation and voting took place simultaneously. Such cases were reported in Plateau State (Gwon 040-NARAGUTA ‘B’-JOS North), Kaduna State (PU 026 Hanwa Makera Sabon Gari LGA) and Imo State (PU 002 Umuma Isiaku ward, Ideato South).
Although accreditation went on smoothly without incident in most polling units across the country, significant incidences of shootings, protests, arson and fatalities were recorded in most geopolitical zones. For example, election was suspended in Essan PU 004 in Dokota Ward, Gbako LGA, Niger State due to unrest. In Eku community, Ethiope East LGA of Delta State, at least two persons were killed after violence erupted. Furthermore, in Afikpo South LGA of Ebonyi State, thugs reportedly intercepted the transportation of sensitive materials in a polling unit in Oso Ward 2. In addition, the Ogudu, Odi-Olowo (Mushin) and Osoroko (Ibeju Lekki) areas of Lagos State witnessed minor skirmishes between supporters of the two major political parties, namely the PDP and APC, with ballot boxes reportedly thrown into the lagoon in Osoroko. Gunmen were also reported to have taken over the Town Hall Polling Zone in Ilase-Ijesa, Obokun LGA of Osun state. Rivers state reportedly recorded the highest and most serious cases of violence during the accreditation process. Protests, violence and sporadic shootings over alleged non-availability of some electoral materials were reported in Buguma, Obio Akpor and Andoni LGAs. In Obio Akpor, for example, thugs reportedly snatched electoral materials meant for voting. Also in Gokana LGA, men in fake military uniform and identity cards were apprehended by the police. The house of the current Rivers state Commissioner of Women Affairs, Mrs Joeba West, was also reportedly set ablaze. Clashes involving political party agents were also reported in Iyamoyom in Obubra LGA of Cross River State, leading to injuries.
Voter turnout was generally noted to be significantly lower than witnessed during the presidential elections, particularly in urban centres. CDD in its post-election analysis will comment more extensively on the issue of voter turnout and apathy.
While accreditation in the 28 March 2015 presidential and national assembly elections was slowed down by technical hitches, today’s exercise appears to have taken place with a minimal number of glitches despite significantly lower voter turnout. However, many states have recorded worrying levels of election-related violence with considerable deterioration in Lagos and Rivers states, key battlegrounds. CDD notes with serious concern, the high incidence of human rights violations reported across the country including loss of lives, arson and destruction of property, deliberate targeting of electoral officials, intimidation of voters etc. It is crucial that security agencies uphold their primary responsibility of maintaining law and order without partisanship. It is also imperative that party leaders, agents and supporters refrain from all acts of intimidation, incitement and violence. CDD calls on appropriate authorities to bring to justice the perpetrators of all forms of electoral violence.