INTERIM STATEMENT ON THE MARCH 18, 2023 GOVERNORSHIP AND STATE ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS BY CLEEN FOUNDATION ELECTION SECURITY SUPPORT CENTRE
Gentlemen of the Press, CLEEN Foundation opened her Election Security Support Centre (ESSC) at 6 pm,17th March 2023 to monitor in real-time security situations during the 2023 Governorship and State Assembly Elections. This statement provides the public with developments across the 36 states where the elections into state houses of assembly are being conducted. Our focus is on election security management for the smooth and peaceful conduct of the elections. Since the postponement of the Gubernatorial and State House of Assembly Elections from 11th to 18th March 2023, there have been developments in Nigeria’s political space that elicited safety concerns among electorates participating in the election. It can be recalled that the Nigeria Police Force reported the deployment of 310,973 personnel to maintain law and order. The primary objective of CLEEN’s Election Security Support Center is to observe the conduct of security personnel across the country in discharging their duties as stipulated in relevant laws on elections in Nigeria. The gubernatorial election is being contested in 28 states and 993 state assembly constituency elections across 176,846 polling units in the country.
The CLEEN Foundation Election Security Support Centre (ESSC) trained and deployed 109 INEC accredited roving observers and is also liaising with citizen observers across the 108 senatorial zones in Nigeria. The ESSC also deployed roving observers, who use the “CLEEN Mobile App” to observe security and other related issues in their respective areas/locations. The primary data collected from the CLEEN Foundation observers were triangulated and complemented with information from credible and reliable sources. In addition, CLEEN Foundation set up real-time multi-communication platforms (WhatsApp, Twitter and Zoom) to receive real-time incidents across the 36 states. These were complemented with secondary information from credible media sources. The ESSC received calls and messages from citizens observers in different states which were brought to the attention of INEC and Security agencies for appropriate action.
3.0 OPENING OF POLLS
The ESSC observers reported that elections commenced early in most of the polling units visited across the country. Security agents and INEC adhoc staff were visibly seen before 8 am in majority of visited polling units. For instance, reports from PU 16, Danchuwa ward, Potiskum LGA of Yobe State and in Imo State, Owerri Municipal LGA, Ward 1 World Primary School, PU 001, security agents and officials got to the polling units as early as 6:30 am. However, in PU 004, Umuaka Hall 1, Nsude Ward, Udi LGA, Enugu State INEC officials and security agents were not on site as at 9.42 am. Similarly, the Umuoleyi Primary School polling unit in Obollo Orie Ward in Udenu LGA, Enugu State, had no INEC and security officials as at 9:45 am.
4.0 SECURITY RELATED OBSERVATIONS
4.1 Early Arrivals of Security personnel:
Reports from CLEEN observers show that in most of the visited PUs, security personnel reported in time. Report showed that at 61% of the polling units visited, security personnel were at the assignment post between 6:30 am and 8:00 am. Despite the prompt arrival of security personnel in most visited PUs, there were also reports of the late arrival of security personnel in some PUs. About 16% reported that security personnel were not at their polling units at around 8:30 am and beyond.
4.2 Adequacy of Security Personnel:
The CLEEN Foundation ESSC observed that in 75% of the polling unit, there were adequate security personnel. At most of the polling units, two or more security personnel were sighted. For instance in Bayelsa State, Southern Ijaw LGA, Ward 2 Oporoma, PU 19 Otuobiri Primary school, (2) two policemen were seen at the polling unit. However, in Delta State, Okpe LGA, Ward 10, PU 16, Ubrete (Jeddo Town), security personnel were not on the ground.
4.3 Identification of Security Personnel and Approachability of Security Agents:
CLEEN Foundation observers reported that security personnel were wearing easily identifiable name tags and were approachable.
4.4 Feeling of Safety at the Polling Stations:
CLEEN Foundation observers reported that there was an overall feeling of safety and security in most polling units visited. However, some polling units recorded some safety concerns such as polling unit 050, Ago Palace Way, Lagos State, show that voters were scared because of the presence of alleged political thugs. There have also been reports of safety worries from Rivers and Bayelsa states respectively.
4.5 Impartiality of Security Personnel:
Early reports from CLEEN observers suggested that security personnel acted professionally and impartially towards voters. This was displayed by police officers assigned to PU 19, Ward 2 Oporoma, Southern Ijaw, Bayelsa State; PU 36/07/09/013, UBE Low Cost, Tudun Wada, Gusau LGA, Zamfara State, amongst others. Meanwhile, in PU 19, Ward 2, Otuobiri Primary School, Southern IJaw LGA, it was reported that the polling unit was rowdy, and a reinforcement of security was deployed to manage the crowd.
4.6. Overall Conduct of Security Personnel:
CLEEN Foundation Election Security Support Centre observed that most security personnel exhibited professional conduct at the various polling units. In the majority of the polling units visited by CLEEN Foundation, observers noticed that security personnel discharged their duty professionally. Similarly, over 90% reported that security personnel did not use force on voters during the process.
5.0 GENERAL OBSERVATIONS
5.1 Voter Intimidation/Thuggery
As at the time of filing the preliminary report, CLEEN ESSC observed that in Lagos, Enugu, Imo, Bayelsa, and Rivers states incidences of voter suppression/intimidation, as well as thuggery, have been reported. For instance, in Enugu State, Enugu North LGA, Ward: OGUI New Layout, PU: Obiagu Primary last bus stop, thugs attacked an INEC accredited observer. Also, voting materials for Ogbia ward 2, 3, 4 and 5 under Constituency 2 in Ogbia Local Govt Area of Bayelsa State were carted away and destroyed by thugs. In PU039, Sabo Oniba, Ojo LGA, thugs were seen with arms threatening voters. In Lagos Amuwo Odofin, polling unit 069, thugs were visibly seen vandalizing people’s cars to intimidate voters. Again, in PU053 Oke-Afa, Ejigbo LGA, Lagos State, party agents were seen intimidating INEC staff to inflate the result sheet in favour of a particular political party.
CLEEN Foundation notes that the stakes are high, as some incumbents seem to be demonstrating a high level of desperation and frustration across the states. Citizens are urged to maintain the peace and remain resolute in exercising their franchise. CLEEN Foundation ESSC calls on security agencies to rise to prevent and control violent incidents erupting from different states.
We commend the good people of Nigeria for the peaceful conduct and turnout so far, and INEC for an improvement on logistics, over the challenges during the Presidential and National Assembly elections.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria