Anambra 2021: CLEEN Commends INEC, Security Agencies, Urges Improvement in Logistics

Anambra 2021: CLEEN Commends INEC, Security Agencies, Urges Improvement in Logistics

…Says Upload of Polling Unit Results on the INEC Portal Enhances Transparency …Thumbs Up for Priortising Voting by Pregnant Women, Elderly, PLWDs …Deplores Vote Buying, Demands Prosecution of Culprits …Advocates Community Campaign to Check Low Voter Turnout Despite widespread hitches in many polling units, hinged largely on the failure of the newly introduced Bimodal Voter

…Says Upload of Polling Unit Results on the INEC Portal Enhances Transparency

…Thumbs Up for Priortising Voting by Pregnant Women, Elderly, PLWDs

…Deplores Vote Buying, Demands Prosecution of Culprits

…Advocates Community Campaign to Check Low Voter Turnout

Despite widespread hitches in many polling units, hinged largely on the failure of the newly introduced Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), Cleen Foundation has commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the security forces on the conduct of last Saturday’s Anambra Governorship Election.

It also lauded the Commission for ensuring an all inclusive election via prioritizing the voting of pregnant women, nursing mothers, the elderly and persons living with disabilities (PWDs).

While saluting the Commission’s technical staff for their prompt responses to fix the malfunctioning BVAS device, it called for improvement and overhauling of the entire logistics processes so as to avoid a repeat of Saturday’s fiasco in the off season election of 2022 and the General Election of 2023.

“We commend INEC for making the voting process inclusive through prioritization of persons living with disability, the elderly and pregnant women who were made to vote first during the election.

“The professionalism and dedication shown by most of its ad-hoc staff despite challenging circumstances should be replicated in future elections. We also commend the prompt response of INEC’s Situation Room to incidences escalated to them especially by the CLEEN Foundation Team.

“However, the failure of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) in some polling units was a key operational challenge during the polls. While the introduction of the technology is with a view to improve the electoral process and voter authentication, INEC should seek to address these challenges before further their utilization in future elections.

“Finally, we commend the Commission’s technical teams who were seen swiftly responding to some of these technical challenges as they arose,” the organization says.

In a post election statement released in Abuja, on Monday, signed by its Acting Executive Director, Ms Ruth Okogun, the organization also praised the security forces both for adequate turnout making the polling units 94.5 safe and secured, comportment and professionalism during the election.

Slamming the prevalent acts of vote buying which attended the election, CLEEN Foundation called for the arrest and prosecution of culprits to serve as deterrent to others in future.

Deploring the abysmally low turnout of voters put at 20 percent, a far cry from the 2.5million registered voters in the state, the organization called for stepping up community campaign via dialogue between INEC, traditional and religious leaders to check it though it attributes the low turnout to the increasing security challenge of the state particularly on the eve of the election.

The report reads in part:

“CLEEN Foundation observed that the election was visibly marked with logistics and operational challenges with regards to the distribution of election materials and late arrival of INEC officials across most of the polling units. These challenges led to late opening of the polls in some polling units, the extension of the polls from 2.30pm–4.30pm and subsequent disenfranchisement of some electorates due to unavailability of election materials and INEC Officials.

“We also observed that the election marked a huge improvement in terms of the deployment of security personnel across most polling units and their conduct on election duty. The Nigeria Police Force deployed a total of 34,587 police personnel, while the Nigeria Security and civil Defence Corps deployed about 20,000 personnel to provide security for the elections and electorates and to maintain law and order during the voting process in the state.

“Findings from our accredited observers deployed indicated that the election was generally peaceful as against initial fears of security threats and their potentials to disrupt the elections. You will recall in the build-up to the election, the atmosphere in Anambra State was characterized by heightened tension, inflammatory statements and violent clashes amongst political actors including killings of persons in some parts of the state

“It is worthy to note that 43% of the respondents interviewed during the CLEEN Foundation Election Security Threat Assessment conducted in Anambra ahead of the election believed that the election will be peaceful while another 15% indicated that it will be very peaceful. We commend Ndi Anambra and all the stakeholders who made this possible. However, despite the peaceful nature of the election, we observed a low turnout of voters despite the relatively high number of registered voters in various polling units across the state.

“Strikingly, there was no election in Ihiala LGA which has over 148,000 registered voters. Hence, the election has been declared inconclusive by INEC in the early hours of today Monday 8th November, 2021, at around 12.20am.

“The Election Security Support Centre of the CLEEN Foundation observed, tracked, documented, escalated and followed-up on security related developments across the state through its twenty-one INEC accredited observers deployed across all the Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Anambra state. In addition, CLEEN Foundation deployed its mobile application called the CLEEN Mobile App which allows accredited observers to report security issues in their respective areas of observation and proceedings of the elections.

“Other information related to election security were tracked and verified through credible media sources and social media platforms of credible partner organisations. The following issues are highlighted as part of our post-election findings for the 6th Gubernatorial elections.

“Reports across the twenty-one (21) Local Government Areas of Anambra state indicate that while there were early arrival of voters for the polls, there were delays in the arrival of election materials and INEC officials at some polling units across the state. Opening of the polls was found to be generally late across the state. However, a few polling units, witnessed early arrival of INEC officials.

“For instance, at Unit 4, Ward 2 in Njikoka LGA, election materials arrived by 8am and voting commenced at 8.30am. Similarly, at polling unit 2, Ward 1 Awka South LGA, voting commenced early. For late opening of the polls and arrival of election and security officials, at polling unit 21, ward 20, Nnewi South LGA, there was absence of security officials and election materials at 9.20am

“Similarly, at polling units 08 & 09, ward 001 & polling units 1 & 2, ward 002, GRA, Anaocha LGA, there were delays in the arrival of election materials at 9.30am. Also, at Polling units 002, 006 & 007, Ward 4 Awka North LGA, voting materials and security personnel had not arrived as at 9.27am.

“At polling unit 2, ward 008, Idemili South Local Government Area, there was the absence of election officials as at 9.50am. At polling units 4 & 7 Idemili South Local Government Area, ward one (1), security and electoral officials were also yet to arrive the polling units as at 10.30am.

“By the close of polls at 4.30pm, we observed the following issues relating to election security management and conduct of security personnel on duty as follows:

* Early Arrival of Security Personnel: Statistics generated through our observer reports at the end of polls indicated 61.1% of security personnel arrived the polling units across the state before 9:00am, while 38.9% arrived from 9:00am upwards. This is quite commendable and an improvement from the preliminary findings by CLEEN Foundation released by 2pm on Saturday 6/11/2021. In the preliminary findings, 47% of security personnel arrived at the polling units across the state before 9am, while 53% arrived from 9:00am upwards.

* Possession of Firearms at the Polling Unit: CLEEN Foundation observed 88.9% of the polling units across the state were protected by unarmed security personnel. However, there were reports of firearm possession by security personnel on patrol across the state.

* Adequacy of Security personnel at the Polling Units: CLEEN observed adequacy of security personnel at all the polling units covered.

* Identification of Security Personnel: statistics from the CLEEN Foundation observers confirmed 88.2% of the security personnel were wearing easily identifiable name tags which is commendable. However, 11.8% were observed without easily identifiable name tags.

* Approachability of Security Personnel: Reports from our observers confirmed 50% of security personnel at the polling units were approachable. 44.6% of security personnel were very approachable by their disposition while 5.4% were observed to be somewhat approachable.

* Feeling of Safety at the Polling Unit: CLEEN observed 94.5% of the polling units were safe and secured at all polling units visited by our observers. This is commendable and should be sustained to enhance citizens trust in the security of elections and their own safety.

CLEEN Foundation also noted that the upload of polling unit results on the INEC results portal is commendable as it enhances transparency in the collation of results during the election and reduces the usual tension which has been a common feature at collation centers.

CLEEN observed the prioritization of persons living with disabilities and the vulnerable including the elderly, pregnant women and nursing mothers who were given preference in some polling units observed across the state.

“For instance, at polling unit 13, ward 3 & 6 Awka South LGA, persons living with disabilities and the elderly were allowed to cast their vote first. At polling unit 2, ward 2, old & sick persons were given priority to vote as well. At polling unit 9, ward 1, Ekwusigo LGA, the same practice was also replicated.

“We observed that elections did not hold in some polling units leading to voters disenfranchisement. For instance, at ward 1 & 2, Idemili South LGA, elections were not held due to poor logistics arrangements and unavailability of INEC officials at the polling units. This made voters to be aggrieved at the process. At polling units 009, Ward1, Ekwusigo LGA, INEC’s sensitive materials and officials were not available. This again led to a case of no election at the polling unit. Further, at Polling unit 005, Edeke Central School, ward 4, Isseke in Ihiala LGA, there were reports also of no election as INEC officials and security agencies were absent. Similarly, at polling unit 001, Okija ward 2, and polling unit 008, ward 1 Ihiala LGA, INEC officials and voting materials arrived late and voting could not commence due to malfunctioning of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) device. Consequently, election did not hold at the polling unit. At polling unit 10, Ekwusigo LGA, our observers reported non-availability of sensitive materials and INEC officials as at 5.16pm subsequently disenfranchising the electorates within that location.

CLEEN Foundation observed disturbing incidents of vote trading across the state. For instance at polling units 7, 8, 17, & 18, ward 3, Awka South, there were reported incidents of inducement of voters by a leading political party with the sum of N1,000 and food. Similarly, at polling unit 17, ward 15, Ogbaru LGA, we observed inducement of voters with the sum of N2,000 per vote. At polling unit 4, ward 2, Njikoka LGA, party agents were observed infringing on voters’ choices through massive vote buying of votes. At polling unit 10&11, ward 2, Dunukofia LGA, we observed massive vote buying by three leading political parties from the range of N3,000– N10,000 which interestingly led to increase of voters at the polling unit.

Furthermore, at polling unit 008, Oganiru primary school, ward 8, Idemili South LGA, a leading political party was observed to induce voters with N3,000. Money exchanged hands for votes in this process.

Voter Apathy
CLEEN Foundation observed a low turn out of voters across the polling units covered in the state by our observers. For instance, at polling unit 4, ward 1, Idemili South LGA, we observed that out of 644 registered voters, only 53 voters were accredited and voted. Similarly, at polling units 10, 11, & 14, ward 11, Dunokofia LGA, out of 1269 registered voters, only 135 voters were accredited. Also, at polling unit 9, ward 11, only 84 voters were accredited and voted out of a total of 538 registered voters. At polling unit 2, ward 2, Njikoka LGA, only 127 voters were accredited out of a total of 626 registered voters, and at polling unit 12, ward 8, Anambra West LGA, out of a total of 451 registered voters, only 58 voters were accredited and voted.

Covid 19 Protocol

The organisations noted that Electoral Officers were observed wearing facemasks and complied with all the non-pharmaceutical measures stipulated by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). However, most voters were seen without facemasks in some polling units visited. For instance, at polling unit 2, ward 2, Ayamelum LGA, this was observed. Also, at polling unit 9, ward 1, Ekwusigo LGA, voters did not comply with social distancing.

Welfare of Security Officials

It observed that security personnel deployed to the state especially the Nigeria Police Force were poorly remunerated. For instance, while police inspectors and Senior Police Officers were paid N67, 000, the rank & file were paid N32,500 as allowance for policing the polls.

“We observed that a lot of policemen were found without hospitable accommodation. This portrays a wrong impression and brings to fore the issue of welfare package for police officers which has been a recurring challenge in previous elections.

INEC Logistics/Operational Challenges

“CLEEN Foundation observed voting did not commence early in some polling units due to malfunctioning of the Biometric Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) which was newly introduced and deployed by INEC. For Instance, in polling units 010, 011 & 014 Ward 3, Dunukofia LGA, there were reports of late accreditation due to the malfunctioning of the BVAS device. Similarly, at virtually all the polling units at Ward 2, Anambra East LGA, and polling unit 4, ward 4, Abaga, Njikoka LGA, we observed the malfunctioning of the BVAS and poor logistics by INEC including delayed commencement of polls. Moreover, at polling units 001 & 002, Ward 5, Orumba South LGA, BVAS malfunctioned and could not authenticate the fingerprints of voters, hence delayed voting. Also, at Ward 2, Aguata LGA, we observed the same challenge of BVAS including polling unit 010, ward 8. However, INEC Officials were seen in attempts to fix the technical challenges.

Conclusions/Recommendations

In spite of the improvements noticed in the conduct of the Anambra State governorship election by INEC and security officials, CLEEN Foundation maintained that several gaps were observed with capabilities that disrupted parts of the electoral process.

“In view of the observations during the election, CLEEN Foundation recommends the following to deepen the democratic process and improve election security management in Nigeria ahead of future off-cycle in 2022 and the general elections in 2023:

* There is need for INEC to improve on logistics and operational challenges associated with the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) to deliver more transparent and credible elections;

* The INEC result portal should be improved for more transparency and accountability through automation of sum of votes received by political parties at the polling units;

* INEC should prosecute electoral offenders to serve as deterrent to others;

* INEC should provide enough sensitive materials such as Braille for voters with visual impairment;

* The Commission should train and retrain electoral officers and ad-hoc staff to enable them meet with the changing needs of the electorates in Nigeria.

* Conduct more voter awareness of the BVAS machine. There were instances in some polling units that the device was confused with the defunct Smart Card Reader.

*For future elections in Anambra state and given the persistent low voter turnout which is fast becoming a historical pattern with the state, we urge INEC to embark on high-level dialogues with key stakeholders including traditional and religious leaders to encourage the electorate to come out enmasse to cast their votes.

* We call on the security agencies deployed for election duty to arrest and investigate all those involved in vote buying in different parts of the state for prosecution.

*Politicians and Political Parties should maintain peace and be magnanimous in victory.

*They should work with all Anambra citizens including those in the opposition parties to improve the governance of the state.

* The electorate in Ihiala LGA should turnout en-mass to exercise their franchise in the supplementary election to hold tomorrow the 9th of November, 2021. They should exercise patience whenever INEC has challenges with technology and internet connection. They should also remain calm throughout the process and to the formal declaration of the winner of the election.

The organization urge the media to eschew sensational headlines and hate speeches that can contribute to increased tension before, during and after elections.

“They should verify and fact-check all information received before releasing to the public.

“They should remain professional, neutral and non-partisan in the discharge of duties.”

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