By Talatu Bala
The Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) on Sunday released a preliminary statement on the conduct of the Presidential and National Assembly elections of February 23rd, 2019.
A statement made available to the media and jointly signed by the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) and Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), the group stated that the report is based on a preliminary assessment of the field reports by observers.
“Observers were deployed to polling units across the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to observe the Election Day processes.
Overall Preliminary Assessment
Reports of our field observers revealed the following:
1. Voter turnout was encouraging in most polling units.
2. Security was adequate, and in most places provided the confidence that most voters required to come out to vote.
3. The election processes in most places were peaceful and orderly.
4. Election materials were generally adequate.
5. Ad-hoc staff showed commitment and largely appeared well trained.
“However, several of the old challenges that featured in previous elections were again present in these Presidential and National Assembly elections. These include:
1. Late arrival of election officials and materials at some polling units, resulting in the late commencement of the election processes, contributing to voters’ apprehension.
2. Inducements to influence voters.
3. Attempt to disrupt voting and result collation processes by thugs, persons dressed in military/police uniforms and political party agents in some places.
4. Difficulties in the authentication of some registered voters due to malfunctioning of smart card readers.
5. Cases of voting irregularities: unaccredited voters, multiple voting, snatching and burning of election materials and underage voting.
“Our preliminary assessment nevertheless shows that these challenges and malpractices were relatively low.
Summary of the Election Day Activities
Opening of Polling Units
“There were evidences of delay in start to the polls in different locations across the country. These were observed in places like Adamawa, Bayelsa, Rivers, Kogi, Lagos, Nasarawa, and Oyo amongst others. This was due to late arrival of materials and personnel. However, there were a few polling units at which the process started early.
Accreditation and Voting
“According to INEC guidelines, accreditation and voting should be done simultaneously. Accreditation of voters apparently proceeded generally smoothly. There were incidents of accreditation difficulties. The secrecy of voting was guaranteed in most of the polling units. However, there were cases where secrecy was compromised.
Counting and Result Declarations at the Polling Units
“Vote counting and result declaration processes generally proceeded without much incidents. Reports from our observers indicate that counting and sorting of ballots were done openly in the presence of the party agents, security personnel and election observers in most cases. Observers reported that results were announced and displayed in conspicuous places for people to see.
“Voter turnout was generally encouraging, though it was low in some polling units observed by our field observers. Voters were observed to have arrived at many polling units well ahead of opening time. This was witnessed all over the country including: Lagos, Ogun, Jigawa, FCT, Abia, Taraba, Kebbi, Kano, Adamawa, Edo, Kwara, among others.
Election Materials and Officials
Election officials and materials arrived in relatively good time at most polling units. Late arrival of materials and INEC officials were however witnessed in the following polling units:
1. Ward 18, Obafemi Owode LGA, Ogun State
2. PU 17, Umuhahia, Abia State
3. PU 010, Tafawa Balewa LGA, Bauchi
4. PU 008B, Chit in Plateau State
5. Ward 06, PU 025 Zuwah in Plateau State
Incidences of Malfunctioning of Card Readers
TMG observers reported difficulties in authentication of registered voters in some Polling Units due to malfunctioning of smart card readers and inexperience of some ad-hoc staff. These include: PU 006, Akko, Gombe State and PU 068, Ilasamaja in Mushin, Lagos. Others are:
1. Ward 3, PU1, Oriade LGA in Osun State
2. Ward 4, Obanla, Akure South in Ondo State
3. PU 10, Abule Egba ward in Lagos State
4. PU 16, Ward 04, Oba in Kwara State
Security was generally adequate with paramilitary and security forces deployed to provide security during the period of election. Female officers also reportedly played important roles in ensuring peace. In most places, these security personnel were civil, coordinated and displayed high level of professionalism.
Nevertheless, voters expressed apprehension over massive deployment of security personnel in Ganaja, Ajaokuta Local Government Area (LGA) of Kogi state.
We observed massive turnout of women in Lagos, Oyo, Enugu, Edo, Kaduna and Kano.
Separate queues were maintained for men and women in most of the polling units observed in the northern part of the country. It was reported that preferential treatment was given to pregnant women, the aged and the physically challenged in some polling units across the country.
Electoral Irregularities Observed
A. Incidences of Voter Inducement
We recorded reports of voter inducement in Abeokuta, Kano, Lagos, Kogi and Sokoto.
B. Incidences of Ballot Snatching/Illegal Thump Printing of Ballot Papers
Incidences of ballot snatching and illegal thump printing of ballot papers were reported in:
1. PU 014, Lugbe ward FCT, Abuja
2. PU 006, Ward 017, Ogala in Eleme LGA of Rivers State
3. Ward 6,7 and 8 in Okrika, Rivers State
4. Baba Ewe Street, Okota, Lagos
5. PU 071, Ward A, Mushin, Lagos
6. Ward G1, Unit 036, Maxwell, Mushin, Lagos
C. Incidences of Electoral Violence/Intimidation
Our field observers reported violence in the following places:
1. A nursing mother reportedly sustained injury from stray bullet in Bonny LGA of Rivers State.
2. TMG observer was arrested and taken away at Community School, Izombe in Oguta LGA, Abia State on the instruction of former IGP, Mike Okiro
3. High level of violence in Abbonema, Ogbakiri ward 1, Emohua LGA and Asari Toru LGA, resulting in the killing of a soldier and six assailants in Abbonema.
In conclusion, the Election Observation Platform is of the preliminary opinion that the election was relatively well executed. The lapses observed were consistent with our experiences in previous elections.
We urge all stakeholders not satisfied with the outcomes of the elections to refrain from violence but follow due process in seeking redress.