COUNTING THE VOTES: WARD-LEVEL COLLATION DURING NIGERIA’S 2019 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION – A POSTMORTEM ANALYSIS

BACKGROUND

The collation of results has been a much-exploited weakness in Nigeria’s election process, since the country’s return to democratic civilian rule in May 1999. Collation is the process by which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) aggregates and tabulates polling unit-level results via a multi-layered process, starting from the ward level, through the local government and state levels, to the federal level at the INEC national headquarters.
The integrity of this collation process is fundamental to the overall success and credibility of Nigerian elections. If conducted in a transparently organised and well-regulated way, collation will produce credible election results and boost voter confidence in the process. In the 2019 elections, however, civil society observers all across Nigeria saw a collation process that was chaotic, vulnerable to manipulation and, in some locations, violently disrupted and unnecessarily opaque.
The documentary evidences that informed the in-depth analysis in this report were gathered from the INEC accredited 8,809 observers CDD and its partners deployed during the 2019 elections. In addition, the Zabe SR (software) was further used in collecting data during the elections. Other sources of data include from CDD partners across the civil society organizations and the media, and also from the outputs from CDD Election Analysis Centre.”

THE CULTURAL, ECONOMIC, LEGAL AND POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT AFFECTING COLLATION OF RESULTS

Although this report is about the collation of results during the 2019 general elections, it is important not to isolate the collation process from the broader cultural, economic, legal and political environment for the conduct of elections in the country. The violence, disruptions, and compromised collation of election results detailed in this report is symptomatic and should be understood in the general context of the typical do-or-die, zero-sum approach to political and electoral competition in Nigeria, the deepening poverty and infrastructure deficits in the country, and the culture of political and legal impunity it has tended to encourage and even reward. While the highlighted challenges that constraint INEC for conducting credible elections is acknowledged, the electoral umpire cannot be totally exonerated being a major stakeholder in the country’s electoral system. How logistic arrangements are made during elections, interactions with stakeholders are coordinated, amongst other mandates of INEC, could create a very tensed atmosphere that discourages conduct of credible elections. Nevertheless, the burden to finding lasting solution to challenges bedeviling elections in Nigeria lies with all the actors including INEC, citizens, political parties, civil society organisations, the media, security agencies etc. All stakeholders must work collaboratively to re-define our socio-political and economic environment. This is a major message from this report.

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