Wednesday, 23rd of October, 2019
Distinguished guests, on behalf of the board, management, and staff of the CLEEN Foundation, I welcome you all to the public presentation of the report of 2019 general elections in Nigeria by the CLEEN Foundation.
The CLEEN Foundation (formerly known as Centre for Law Enforcement Education) is a non-governmental organization established in January 1998 with the mission of promoting public safety, security and accessible justice through the strategies of empirical research, legislative advocacy, demonstration programmes, and publications, in partnership with government, civil society and the private sector.
The 2019 general elections were considered to be significant in many aspects. First, it was the first general elections under the ruling All Progressive Congress Party (APC) in Nigeria; secondly, the elections were conducted under a new leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission with Prof. Mahmood Yakubu as the Chair of the Commission; and lastly, the elections featured an unprecedented high number of political parties totaling ninety-one (91) registered political parties and seventy-three (73), presidential candidates. Antecedents in the build-up to the 2019 general election saw a politically charged environment particularly between the two leading political parties- APC and PDP. The situation was further compounded by a tensed security environment occasioned by security threats across the country ahead of the general elections.
Hinged on this backdrop, CLEEN Foundation carried out a study designed to assess the threats posed by different actors connected to the elections in Nigeria. The research work was carried out in 3 batches with all addressing the issue of security threats associated with the election in Nigeria. Therefore, the study explored the perception of the general public on what they identify to be a threat to the election. The goal is to generate empirical evidence on threats to the process of election and also to help proffer recommendations to key stakeholders on how best to mitigate a negative upsurge in the process of the election. Recommendations from this study are targeted at different the different stakeholders in order to achieve free, fair, and peaceful elections in Nigeria. Thereafter, the CLEEN Foundation engaged in the election observation across the 774 Local Government Areas in Nigeria as a national accredited observer.
CLEEN Foundation deployed its duly accredited one thousand six hundred observers across the 774 local governments in Nigeria to observe the elections, Specifically, they were tasked with the mandate to observe the conduct of security personnel whilst on election duty and to provide live reports using a checklist that incorporates provisions in the code of conduct developed in collaboration with the Police Service Commission. The Foundation hosted Election Security Support Centres across its offices to support real-time analysis of election-related reports from the field. In deploying technology to enhance the analysis of field reports, CLEEN deployed the ‘Tella’ app, developed by Horizontal which is a data gathering and analysis mobile application, which saves time and minimizes error due to data entry. The quantitative information and empirical data were complemented with information from the state coordinators across the country and they provided periodic feedback to the ESSC through phone calls and dedicated social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Twitter, and Facebook.
Election Related Killings
The general elections witnessed deaths across some states during the Presidential elections such as Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Kogi and the Zamfara States. The governorship elections also recorded killings in Rivers, Kogi, Imo, Akwa Ibom, Oyo, Ebonyi, Benue, and Enugu states. Five persons were reportedly killed in the same elections in Khana LGA and one person in Ahoada West LGA both of Rivers State while Benue, Kogi and the Katsina States recorded two deaths per state. The supplementary elections further compounded the scale of deaths with special focus on Kano and Benue States. Elsewhere, our observers reported cases of deaths of voters allegedly perpetrated at the instances of political thugs and other unidentified criminals. These incidents and related discussions on election violence showed the need for lasting electoral reforms that incorporate the use of technology and reduce contact amongst the electorates.
The sheer scale of vote trading in the 2019 general elections assumed an alarming trend. The 2019 general elections witnessed massive incidences of vote trading observed in most states across the regions of the country. For the governorship elections, CLEEN observed incidents of vote trading in states such as Ekiti, Lagos, Ebonyi, Enugu, Niger, Benue, Imo, Kwara, Kogi and Katsina. While for the Presidential, it was witnessed in states like Kogi and Akwa Ibom.
Logistics and Operational challenges of INEC
The 2019 general elections witnessed logistical challenges related to the late arrival of INEC officials at their duty stations with many voters on the ground awaiting the arrival of INEC officials. Additionally, there were recurring cases of SCR malfunction in most parts of the country. Although there was a slight improvement in the governorship elections, these factors on their own created challenges in the ballot process as some Presiding Officers resorted to the use of manual accreditation. In some instances, however, responses to calls from observers and civil society groups by INEC on the need for replacement of the SCRs were achieved in different parts of the country.
The elections were characterized by heavy military deployment across the country bothering on alleged professional misconduct involving the military with regards to the incidences that involved the obstruction of electorates from polling units and some collation centers as seen in Rivers State. Their presence was also heavily felt across the south-south, southeast, north-central including during the supplementary elections. Despite the position of the laws, codes of conduct and policies on this matter, the outcome of the 2019 general elections is indicative of the need to reflect and debate constructively on the role of the military in elections in Nigeria.
Coordination and Adequacy of Security Actors
In terms of coordination and adequacy of security agents at the polling units, CLEEN Foundation observed multi-agency deployment of security personnel such as the Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Federal Road Safety Corps, Nigeria Immigration Service, Nigeria Prisons Service, Nigeria Customs Service, Department of Security Service, the Armed Forces, Federal Fire Service among others. Despite the perceived lopsidedness that characterized the deployment of security officers, about 68% of the polling units had two or more security personnel during the gubernatorial elections.
INEC should continue to improve on the process of collection of the permanent voters’ card (PVC) to reduce to the barest minimum the challenges encountered in the collection of the same in the build-up to the 2019 general elections.
The use of SCRs must be made compulsory nationwide rather than lopsided application in some parts of the country while the Commission intensifies the deployment of modern technology with a view to reducing human interference in the electoral process.
INEC should commence early planning and training of its staff and ad-hoc staff. Presiding Officers should be trained on the use of the SCRs ahead of the elections.
Prompt payment of all allowances due to ad-hoc staff to forestall any possible hindrances in the election process on the sole purpose of delays in payment of wages. In the same vein, greater protection and security arrangements should be made for NYSC staff deployed to hotspot areas in the country.
INEC should revise the code of conduct for Political parties and place greater emphasis on punishment for political parties involved in vote-buying. Political parties should educate their agents and supporters on adherence to the code of conduct for the smooth conduct of the polls and collation of results.
Timely and adequate preparations and coordination of all security agencies involved in election security as fundamental for the successful conduct of violence free elections. There should be an improvement in the security architecture for upcoming general and off-cycle elections.
The Interagency Consultative Committee on Election Security should have a member drawn from the civil society to regularly provide and share updates on security threat assessments conducted ahead of upcoming elections and feedback from civil society on election duties.
There should be more deployment of security officials to hotspots areas of the country to prevent violence in polling areas and units. A situation where polling units in high-risk areas are under-policed bodes ill for the lives of the electorate and the sanctity and credibility of the ballot.
Security institutions should continue to ensure allowances of officers deployed on election duties are paid promptly. This will not only boost the morale of personnel to work more but will also go a long way to dissuade security actors from being lured by politicians to influence the election process.
Civil society groups should scale up their roles in sensitizing the electorate through peace messaging and voter education ahead of elections. These sensitization programs will encourage citizens to shun electoral violence, ballot-box snatching, vote-buying and use of thugs by political parties and other incidences capable of impinging negatively on the elections.
For the Nigerian Armed Forces, its Code of Conduct of the Armed Forces on Elections should be made public for civil society organizations and other stakeholders to understand the role of the military in elections and develop campaign programs for public awareness. By the same token, the Military should ensure that all soldiers on election duty are duly accounted for and abide by the rules of engagement for their participation in the elections.
All electoral offenders in the 2019 general elections should be brought to book including security personnel as this will serve as a deterrent to potential electoral offenders in future elections.
Thank you all and may God bless Nigeria.
Benson Olugbuo, PhD