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YIAGA Interim Report on Observation of the Gubernatorial & State Assembly Elections
The 2015 Gubernatorial and State Assembly elections scheduled for Saturday 11 April 2015 commenced in earnest across the country. Following the success of the Presidential elections held a fortnight ago, expectations were high that INEC and security agencies will build on that success, improve on areas of challenge and provide an election day outing that would facilitate and ensure the people’s exercise of their sovereign right to elect their leaders in the various states.
YIAGA, in keeping with its mandate to facilitate regular analysis and documentation of the dynamics of youth political participation in Nigeria, deployed about 530 stationary and 30 roving youth observers in nineteen (19) states of the Federation to observe the elections and also track the participation of young people in electoral process. The YIAGA Observatory Tracking Centre opened by 7am on election day to collate reports from the field observers and also monitor trends on social media. Observers sent in real time field reports using a specific checklist for tracking compliance with electoral guidelines, youth participation and electoral impunity. This preliminary report presents the findings with regards to the accreditation exercise, election security and the effective use of Card Readers.
Arrival of INEC staff
Across the country, INEC officials were reported to have arrived on time in most polling units. Our observation and tracking show that some INEC staff (29%) arrived before 8am while most (59%) arrived between 8am and 9am. Only in about 12% did the officials arrive after 9am. There were isolated incidents of very late or non-arrival of INEC staff and materials in some polling units. For instance, by 10am there were no INEC officials at PU01/01/12/006, Umuogor ward, Aba North, Abia State and at Wonigi polling unit, Tagagi ward, Niger State.
Commencement of Accreditation
Our observers and information from social media tracking indicate that accreditation commenced on time, and between 8am and 9am, in about 89% of the places and after 9am in about 9% of the polling units observed. However, there were some reported cases of very late commencement of accreditation in some places. For instance, accreditation commenced by 10:55am PU 10, Ward 5, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
Security has been a pressing concern in some parts of the country, through the early phases of the elections. Although generally most polling stations reportedly had security presence, there are reports that security was either absent or insufficient in a number of places. There have been reports of killings in Ebonyi, Delta, Oyo, and Rivers states. There are also reports of violence, intimidation, harassment of voters/observers and disruptions in Abia, Akwa Ibom, Benue, Ekiti, Edo, Kogi, Nassarawa and Rivers States. The violence has been credited to the activities of political thugs and in some cases, party agents.
Disruption of accreditation
Generally the accreditation process went on smoothly, with little or no disruption in most places. The instances where there were disruptions, it was reportedly as a result of incomplete materials or interference by political thugs. These cases were however isolated and not widespread. The accreditation process proceeded peacefully and finished on time in most places across the country.
Card Reader Related Issues
Going into the elections, INEC restated that Card Readers will be used and where there were problems, voting will be done the following day. Our observations indicate that this was adhered to in most places in the country. We also note that there were improvements in the functionality of the Card Readers compared to the experience during the Presidential elections. However, there were still some challenges: in some places, there were no spare batteries; in some others, the Card Readers were faulty or had not been reconfigured after the presidential elections. So of these situations were however quickly addressed. But there were also isolated reports of manual accreditation and parallel accreditation and voting.
- INEC should follow up on its ad hoc staff in potentially volatile areas to ensure that they are not under any form of duress or undue influence to compromise the process;
- Security agencies should reinforce security in identified flashpoints and areas of violence. Reported incidents should be investigated and urgently addressed;
- INEC should ensure adequate preparations are made for the counting of ballots and collation of results. They should also reach out to political parties to ensure that their agents respect the integrity of the process;
- Citizens are encouraged to be orderly, patient and vigilant throughout the voting and counting of ballots at the various polling units;
- The security reports from Rivers state have been worrisome. If the situation continues to escalate it would undermine the free expression of the will of the people through the ballot. In that case, we would strongly urge INEC to consider cancelling and rescheduling the elections in Rivers State.