On November 16, 2019, the people of Kogi state will go to the polls to elect a Governor in what promises to be a keenly contested election with 24 political parties jostling for the votes of 1,646,350 registered voters. In addition, to the governorship election, the state will also be having a senatorial election in Kogi West Senatorial District following the Appeal Court’s ruling ordering a fresh election for Kogi West Senatorial District.
These elections, plus the governorship election for Bayelsa scheduled for the same day, are first major elections conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) since the 2019 general elections. With the experience of the general elections earlier this year still fresh in the minds of the people, these elections in Kogi will serve as an important test to assess the lessons learned by INEC, as well as other electoral stakeholders responsible for the conduct of elections, notably security agencies and political parties, to address the perennial challenges to electoral integrity in our country. As one of Nigeria’s largest non-partisan and independent movements of citizens observers committed to promoting electoral integrity, YIAGA AFRICA’s WTV will be providing systematic, accurate and timely information on the election day process and accuracy of results. YIAGA AFRICA will be the only observer group that can independently determine if the official results announced reflects the total votes cast. If the announced results have been manipulated and do not match the results posted at polling units, then YIAGA AFRICA will expose it.
YIAGA AFRICAs Watching the Vote is “Driven by Data – For All Nigerians – Beholden to None!”
WTV Pre-election Observation
In line with our commitment to electoral integrity through citizens oversight on the electoral process, Watching The Vote deployed a Pre-Election Observation (PREO) mission to Kogi from September 19, 2019, to observe the pre-election environment. 27 Long Term Observers were deployed to all 21 LGAs to observe the pre-election environment over a period of eight weeks. This press statement highlights findings of observations from all four reporting phases. In previous pre-election observation reports, we presented our findings on the activities of major political actors, voter education campaigns, activities of marginalized groups and threats of violence. In the final reporting period, YIAGA AFRICA Watching The Vote makes observations on early warning signs of violence, the conduct of electoral stakeholders, compliance with electoral laws amongst others.
YIAGA AFRICA WTV PREO observation findings provide an indication of emerging trends during the pre-election period.
Summary of Findings:
- Political Campaigns and Rallies Trailed by Violence: Political campaigns and rallies in Kogi State were trailed with brigandage, assault and all forms of violence. Reports of violent physical attacks of rallies/meetings or campaign trails were observed in several part of the especially Yagba West. Intimidation of candidates/supporters were also reported in Ankpa, Dekina, Idah and Ofu LGAs.
- Campaigns driven by money not issues: The campaigns have been devoid of debates on governance, public leadership and quality representation. The campaigns have been a contest between the highest bidder and spender. WTV monitored and tracked voter inducement through the distribution of money or gift items and other suspicious empowerment programs. Political party candidates and supporters were visibly doling out money and gift items such as vehicles in several communities especially in Okehi and Ankpa LGA during political campaigns. YIAGA AFRICA observed political parties moving from house to house in Ankpa LGA, documenting names and polling unit numbers and addresses of citizens with PVCs, while offering advance payments of Five hundred naira (N500) ahead of the election. This may result to financially induced voter turnout and not issued-based electoral participation.
- Displacement of voters due to flooding: YIAGA AFRICA pre-election observation reports highlighted the plight voters in flooded communities. YIAGA AFRICA is concerned that if adequate provision is not made for communities experiencing flooding, it may lead to disenfranchisement or voter suppression. YIAGA AFRICA notes that in places where INEC has made provisions, there is a lack of clarity on the modalities for determining where polling units and collation centres will be located. We fear that this might be subject to manipulation and it could trigger violence. YIAGA AFRICA calls on INEC to quickly finalize and popularize plans on conducting elections in flooded communities in Ibaji, Koton Kafe, Lokoja, Ofu, Ajaokuta, Omala and Idah LGAs.
- Status of Election Administration and Preparations: WTV recognizes the role of INEC in election administration and therefore monitored the commission’s activities in the past two months. Findings from WTV’s monitoring reveals the reasonable compliance of INEC with the elections timetable as indicated in the conduct of preparatory activities such as recruitment and training of ad-hoc staff, stakeholder engagements and voter education amongst others, in preparations for the November 16 polls. Out of the 16 activities on INEC’s timetable, 14 activities have been successfully concluded, YIAGA AFRICA will continue to track the remaining two activities.