CDD-EAC Preliminary Statement on the Conduct of and Key Election Day Processes for the 11 November 2023 Off Cycle Governorship Polls in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi States.
The CDD Election Analysis Centre (CDD-EAC) has been observing the off-cycle elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi with a deployment of over 150 fact-checkers and observers in all three states, as well as a team of data clerks, reviewers and analysts in its situation room in Abuja. As highlighted yesterday, the importance of these elections cannot be overstated as they mark another milestone in Nigeria’s longest democratic period and represent the chance for citizens in these three states to vote for their governors.
Delayed voting and deployment challenges
Our observers reported that voting in 65% of polling units observed in Bayelsa and 80% of polling units observed in Imo started late, well after the 8am commencement time. While this was different in Kogi, where this rate was 40%, there were still pockets of late polls commencing across the state. Of particular concern is the low voter turnout that we have noted in the various polling units we have observed. Observers at Comprehensive Secondary School Ward, Polling Unit 001, Orsu LGA, in Imo, reported that INEC officials were not at the PU. The few voters who were present confirmed that many eligible voters were scared of coming out to vote due to fear of violence. We are particularly concerned about the turnout rate and how this will affect future engagements between the citizens and elected officials.
Several observers in Bayelsa have reported the late arrival of INEC staff and security personnel. In PU 24 WARD 4 (Yenagoa) voting started as late as 11:37am. In Oporoma, the headquarters of the Southern Ijaw LGA, INEC officials only arrived at 12:15pm, while in Ogbia LGA Ward 10 Unit 3, voting only commenced at 12:40pm. The same observation was made about Kogi, where, as at 10:54am, voting activities had yet to resume in Iluteju, Okesi, Okibo, Eni, Oshobeni and Aiyeronmi wards in Ogori-Magongo LGA.
This was also the case in Imo, where observers reported INEC officials arriving late at a majority of polling units observed including Avu/Oforola, Ehime Mbano, Mbaitoli-Ezinihitie, Umuokpiriri, Umuogu, Owerri North and Isiala Mbano LGAs. In Ihitteoha PU, in Owerri North LGA particularly, staff arrived as late as 10:23am, when elections had already commenced in other PUs in the state.
There have been several reports about voter inducement across all three states. Observers reported incidents in PU 1, Ward 8 and PU 11, Ward 1 in Sagbama LGA in Bayelsa West. In Bayelsa Central, vote trading was reported in PU 16, Ward 6 in Yenegoa LGA, PU 22, Ward 13 in Southern Ijaw LGA with reports of voter inducements ranging from 5,000 - 22,000 Naira including other items such as wrappers. In PU 30 and 31, Ward 13, along with money, rice was also shared to buy votes and we are concerned that there were allusions that it might be linked to the delayed flood and subsidy palliatives that state governments only started distributing two days ago.
In Kogi, there were reports of vote buying in PUs 004, 038 and 039 in Ward A of Lokoja LGA, where party agents were allegedly sharing out money to voters upon confirmation that they voted for their party candidates. Furthermore, both APC and PDP agents were reported to have engaged in vote buying, with 2000 to 3000 naira shared, at PU3 Mbutu Ward, Aboh Mbaise LGA and PU11, Civic Centre Ward, Mbaitoli LGA. There was also another incident in Olamaboro LGA, Ward 3 and Unit 12, with reports of vote buying by APC and PDP agents.
There were similar trends in Imo, where we observed incidents of vote buying in PU 11, Civic Centre Ward and PU 1, Umuodu Ward, both in Mbaitoli-Ezinihitte LGA. In PU 7, Central School UmuNakanu Ehime LGA, there were reports that INEC ad-hoc staff were given monetary inducement by party officials. Based on our observation, incidents of vote buying have so far been concentrated in Mbaitoli-Ezinihitte, Owerri West and Njaba LGAs. This is particularly interesting, because Mbaitoli-Ezinihitte and Owerri West LGAs have the highest number of collected PVCs amongst the LGAs in the state with 150,012 and 134,192.
Of particular concern were the reports of irregularities in Ogori/Magongo LGA where there were pre-filled election result sheets in areas where voting had not even commenced. These concerns were shared publicly and led to significant concern and disturbance in the states and on social media. We are assured that INEC has cancelled voting in those areas and urge the commission to exercise the strongest punishment for those caught in this act.
This followed reports of party agents who were alleged to have canvassed support for their candidate at the Iluteju PU of Ogori/Magongo LGA before the start of voting activities. There were also reports of the Igalamela LGA chair being caught by security personnel with bullets and wads of naira notes.
This follows a troubling development in Ward 11 and 12, Nembe LGA in Bayelsa, where election materials were allegedly secretly hijacked to a different location and where agents were reportedly thumbprinting for APC. Our observers reported the presence of military officers in the area where the suspected culprits were arrested and taken to a different location, with gunboats deployed in the area. While we are mindful of the need to confirm this with security agencies, we are also concerned about how such information has been widely reported and, if true, how this does not inspire confidence in the electoral process.
Regrettably, electoral violence has remained a sore point in this election. Electoral violence was reported in Dekina LGA, specifically in Agala Ogane PU, Anyigba town, a thug was reportedly shot and killed by military officials while fleeing in an attempt to snatch a ballot box. There was a similar attempt in Ganaja PU, Ajaokuta LGA where the LGA chair was apprehended by voters.
In Yenagoa LGA, observers reported that one person was shot at Famgbe community and, in PU 24 Ward, voting ended abruptly when thugs destroyed election materials at about 11:45am. We note that in these area polling units, there was little to no presence of security officials. Similar instances were reported in Brass PU 7 Ward 7, observers reported that there were no security agents as late as 10:19am, despite voting having started. Similarly, in PU 9 Ward 4, security officials only arrived at 11:10 am.
An incident was reported in Imo, PU1, Aladinma Ward, Owerri Municipal LGA; where a former House of Representatives member was reportedly making trouble in the area, leading to arguments with other party agents.
Days to the election, it was consistently claimed that the SDP candidate in Kogi, Murtala Ajaka, stepped down from the race and on the morning of the election, a false message was circulated that Ajaka was disqualified because of his running mate’s certificate controversy. There was a similar situation in Imo, where a video was circulated that purportedly showed the PDP’s candidate, Sam Anyanwu, had stepped down and endorsed the incumbent governor of the APC. This video was similarly debunked but not before it had been widely reported on social media and on news platforms.
Our observers reported wide use of BVAS, and a quick resolution time when there were issues, however, there were pockets of irregularities in the three states. Notably, in Kabawa PU, Lokoja LGA, the BVAS machine was not working and electoral officers resorted to the use of Voter Identification Number (VIN) to accredit voters. Similarly, the BVAS machine was reportedly unable to display accredited voter information in PU 047, Adankolo Open Space Ward, Lokoja LGA.
We will continue to pay close attention to the electoral process as they unfold. Ahead of our press conference on Monday, we will issue our post-election report and take a look at the collation and result declaration process.
Professor Adele Jinadu,
Chair, CDD EAC