17 March 2023: Press Statement of the CDD-EAC ahead of the Governorship Election

17 March 2023
17 March 2023


Friday, March 17, 2023

Governorship Polls: CDD tasks INEC on lessons presidential election

  • Commission’s preparedness and diminished violence key to credible process
  • Calls for responsive communication with voters
  • 109 deaths in three months linked to 2023 polls
  • Says split voting signals new political dynamic

As voters head to the polls to elect governors in 28 states and State House of Assembly members in 36 states, pro-democracy think tank, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has tasked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to learn key lessons learnt from its conduct of the presidential poll of February 25 to improve the conduct of the state elections.

The Chair of the CDD Election Analysis Centre (EAC), Professor Adele Jinadu and CDD Director, Idayat Hassan gave the charge at a briefing during the opening of the EAC in Abuja today. They stated that given that the polls have been delayed a week, to give INEC time to reconfigure the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) devices, the Commission now has sufficient time conduct better elections, which will be devoid of the earlier noticed flaws.

CDD expressed hope that the extra time INEC has had will translate into improved opening of polling units across the country, with those polling units fully equipped with the necessary voting materials to avoid scenarios observed in the presidential polls where voting continued well beyond the scheduled closing time. They stressed that the functionality of the BVAS machines and improved use of the INEC results viewing platform (IReV) will also be critical for the credibility of the polls.

“Improved functionality will contribute to greater election results transparency, but this can still be undermined by compromised INEC officials and ad-hoc staff. The suspension of the RECs for Abia and Sokoto states for ’endangering the electoral process’ is welcome but points to the prevailing challenge that INEC officials and ad-hoc staff can be subject to the whims and caprices of state governments in ways that negatively impact voter confidence and the election’s credibility.”

To ensure the breaches, which occurred during the presidential polls do not happen again, CDD also tasked INEC to reprimand and suspend those found to be colluding with political actors in their state, and support polling unit cancellations in such instances.

“We encourage all ad-hoc INEC staff to abide by the Commission’s code of conduct when carrying out their duties on election day and when announcing results. The prompt submission of polling unit results to IReV is critical and will support an improved perception of INECs performance. We also urge the Commission to be both proactive and responsive in its communication with voters.” CDD urged INEC to avoid elongated periods of silence as this provides fuel for misinformation and disinformation to flourish.

While noting that there will be new governors in 17 states, regardless of the outcome of the polls due to term-limited incumbents who are ineligible to stand, the think-tank however stressed that such keen contests are likely to be sites for election-violence. The group listed ways violence could manifest to include voter intimidation, ballot box snatching and the destruction of election materials.

It said: “states that will hold gubernatorial polls with the most incidents of political violence since 1 January 2023 according to the Nigeria Election Violence Tracker are Lagos, Rivers, Kano, Delta and Anambra – with Kano the state with the most recorded deaths as a consequence at 20”.

“Osun, Imo and Ebonyi have also seen a number of incidents in the past three months that could disrupt state house of assembly polls taking place in the state. In total, 109 deaths linked to political violence have been recorded from the start of the year to 10 March 2023 according to the tracker.”

Based on its mapping, CDD predicted that violence linked to the states elections could worsen due to the activities of armed groups quasi-security outfits. “Groups such as Yan Sakai, the Civilian Joint Task Force, Neighbourhood Watch, Amotekun and Ebubeagu have been, and can be, armed and deployed by state governors and their allies to perpetrate electoral violence or suppress voter turnout, particular in areas of strong opposition support.” Apart from these outfits, CDD noted the presence of the more conventional political thugs, paid to disrupt polls or intimidate political opponents, as a threat to these elections.

“The insecurity they create itself portends dangers for the ability to conduct credible elections, increases the likelihood of inconclusive results and, ultimately, the need for supplementary elections. Bauchi, Kano, Rivers, and Sokoto all faced this scenario in 2019, with a high risk of repeat in 2023.”

On the outcome of the elections, CDD observed that most political parties and online commentaries have erroneously projected similar results to the presidential results of 25 February in the distribution of governorship seats. It said: “But these projections fail to adequately consider the senate and house of representatives’ results, which did not always go along the same line as the presidential outcome.” Given the split voting, which characterised the presidential election, the experts stressed the need for political actors to ensure they do not depend on outsized expectations with respect to the outcomes.

The group alluded to the results from the recent presidential elections, which have also thrown up what it described as new but important dynamics of split voting: “After the 25 February elections, eleven states elected a majority of their national assembly delegations from an opposite party to the candidate they voted for president. Nine of those eleven states will be electing governors tomorrow and nuanced analysis will provide better understanding of how the results might go.”

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