An election defined by operational deficiencies, election security challenges, and abysmal voter turnout
Yiaga Africa deployed trained and accredited roving observers to observe the 12th February 2022 FCT Area Council elections in the six Area Councils of the FCT. Yiaga Africa observers deployed by 7:30 am and they visited polling units within the sixty-two wards of the FCT. The observers will remain deployed until the close of polls and results are announced at the polling units. At the close of polls, Yiaga Africa Collation Observers will deploy to the Area Council results collation centres to observe and send in reports on the collation process.
The Yiaga Africa’s Watching the Vote Midday situational statement is based on reports received from the WTV observers highlighting findings on seven process-related issues. They include; the opening of polling units and the presence of polling officials and election materials; the presence of security personnel, the commencement of accreditation and voting; deployment of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS); and presence of party agents. It also highlights critical incidents that may threaten the credibility of the election.
Yiaga Africa did not deploy the Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) for the FCT Area Council Election.
These are preliminary findings as of 1:00 pm on election day with reports received from WTV observers roving in the 6 Area Councils.
Late opening of polling stations due to poor logistics and election security problems: While polling officials arrived early in some polling stations, Yiaga Africa observers reported late commencement of polls in several polling stations due to logistics issues. Polling officials encountered difficulty in locating assigned polling units. The logistics hiccups were exacerbated with the late arrival of police officers at the Registration Area Centers. For instance, several polling units in Abuja Municipal Area Council especially Gwarinpa and Orozo ward opened late as polling officials couldn’t deploy without security protection. On average, accreditation and voting commenced at 10:00 am in most polling units observed.
Substitution of trained adhoc officials: Yiaga Africa notes that some trained adhoc staff were substituted on election day, just before deployment to the polling units. This implies that adhoc officials who were not trained were deployed to administer the elections. Yiaga Africa notes the late hour substitution could likely affect the quality of election administration.
The functionality of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System: In line with election guidelines, the BVAS was deployed to all polling units observed. In some polling units observed, INEC deployed two BVAS to polling units with high number of registered voters. However, Yiaga Africa observed that in some polling units with over 1000 registered voters, INEC deployed only one BVAS, indicating inconsistency in the guidelines for the BVAS deployment. Despite assurances from INEC on the improvement of the BVAS technology, Yiaga Africa observed technological glitches with the BVAS. The BVAS failed to authenticate both the fingerprints and facial biometrics of voters in most polling units visited. The failure of the BVAS caused delay in the accreditation process in some polling units.
Voter disenfranchisement: Yiaga Africa observers reported disenfranchisement of voters as a result of missing names on the voter register deployed to the polling unit. In the centres where the disenfranchisement occurred, the voters were holders of valid Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) assigned to those polling units. For such voters, INEC’s online voter verification portal also verified their registration status.
Imbalance in the Distribution of Voters to new polling units: Yiaga Africa observed that the imbalance in the distribution of voters to new polling units affected the effective management of polling units with over 1000 registered voters. This led to overcrowding in some polling units. The observation revealed that some polling units had as many as 2,500 registered voters while others had less than 5 voters within the same location. Yiaga Africa notes that these inconsistencies question the reliability and accuracy of the Commission’s framework for the expansion of polling units.
Inconsistent communication on election security: Yiaga Africa notes with dismay the confusion created by the irregularity in the information from the security agencies on the restriction of movement. We note that the inconsistent communication from security agencies may undermine public confidence in the transparency and objectivity of security agencies during elections.
Given the late opening of polls and glitches with the BVAS machines, INEC should extend the voting time to 4:30 pm especially in polling units with a high turnout of voters.
The operational deficiencies noted in this election provide a compelling need for a comprehensive audit of the voter register, BVAS technology, elections logistics and distribution of voters to polling units.
INEC officials should act with utmost sense of integrity, transparency and professionalism in the collation and declaration of election results.
Security agencies should ensure utmost professionalism and remain impartial throughout the conduct of this election.
Yiaga Africa calls on political parties, candidates and their supporters to refrain from disrupting the process and attempts to undermine the elections.
Yiaga Africa WTV remains committed to providing accurate and credible information on the process and will continue to watch the process until the end of voting and the posting of results. In addition, Yiaga Africa observers will be at the result collation centers to observe the process and provide information on the results collation.
The Watching The Vote project is “Driven by Data – For All Nigerians – Beholden to None!”
Samson Itodo Ezenwa Nwagwu
Executive Director Board Member
Yiaga Africa Yiaga Africa
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