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Watching The Vote Mid-day Situational Press Statement for 2019 Presidential Elections

Introduction

Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished guests – welcome to the YIAGA AFRICA Watching The Vote (WTV)’s Mid-day Situational Press Statement on the ongoing Presidential Election. This briefing is the third in a series of planned press conferences to be hosted by YIAGA AFRICA. This statement will contain detailed statistics covering critical aspects on the commencement of the 23 February polls. YIAGA AFRICA will be releasing further reports containing detailed statistics on the set-up, accreditation and voting and counting. As soon as INEC announces the official results, YIAGA AFRICA will follow up with a press conference to share its own statement on the accuracy of the election results and will independently be able to project the vote shares that each candidate should receive within a narrow range. If the official results fall within YIAGA AFRICA’s estimated ranges, then the public, political parties and candidates should have confidence in the ballots cast at the polling units.

This morning, YIAGA AFRICA Watching The Vote deployed 3,906 observers throughout the country to every state and all 774 local government areas (LGAs). These includes 3,030 parallel vote tabulation (PVT) observers who deployed in pairs to a random, representative statistical sample of 1,515 polling units where they will remain throughout the day. This deployment will enable YIAGA AFRICA to independently verify the accuracy of the official presidential election results when they are announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). YIAGA AFRICA also deployed mobile or roving observers to all the 774 Local Government Areas to capture critical incidents occurring both within and in the vicinity of polling units across the country and will also observe the process of collation in all State Collation Centres.

YIAGA AFRICA undertook the Watching The Vote project to provide Nigerian voters, presidential candidates, political parties, civil society and INEC with independent information about whether the official results for the 23 February 2019 presidential election truly reflect the ballots cast at polling units. The Watching The Vote project is “Driven by Data – For All Nigerians – Beholden to None!

Watching the Vote Mid-day Findings

This Mid-Day Situational Statement contains initial finding as of 11:30 am on election day, with reports received from 1,439 of the 1,515 sampled polling units. The following data will be updated as additional reports are received from WTV observers at sampled polling units. What follows is systematic information on the opening and setup of polling units.

1.      As of 7:30 am, YIAGA AFRICA WTV observers reported that INEC Officials had arrived at 31% of polling units. However, arrival rates varied by geopolitical zone. YIAGA AFRICA WTV observers reported that INEC poll officials were present by 7:30 am in 34% of polling units in North Central zone, 42% of polling units in North East zone, 37% of polling units in North West, 21% of polling units in South East zone, 19% of polling units in South South zone and 33% of polling units in South West zone.

2.    By 10:00 am, 41% of polling units had opened across the country.  Opening rates again varied by geopolitical zone. YIAGA AFRICA WTV observers reported that 44% of polling units in North Central zone, 47% of polling units in North East zone, 46% of polling units in North West, 27% of polling units in South East zone, 21% of polling units in South South zone and 52% of polling units in South West zone had opened as of 10:00 am.

3.    By 11:30 am, 74% of polling units had opened nationally; however, opening rates continued to vary by geopolitical zone. YIAGA AFRICA WTV observers reported that 76% of polling units in North Central zone, 83% of polling units in North East zone, 74% of polling units in North West, 61% of polling units in South East zone, 58% of polling units in South South zone and 86% of polling units in South West zone had opened as of 11:30 am.

As of 12:00 am, the YIAGA AFRICA WTV Data Center had also received 110 verified critical incident reports primarily concerning the late opening of polls.  Of additional note:

  1. Arrest and detention of accredited observers: In Kafanchan, the YIAGA AFRICA supervisor was arrested and detained at the Kafanchan Area command in Kaduna state this was however resolved as the observer was later released.
  2. Observers not allowed to observe: YIAGA AFRICA received reports from one polling unit in Yobe State, Machina Local Government Area, Damai Ward where observers were denied access to the polling unit to observe. YIAGA AFRICA is in contact with local authorities and continues to follow the situation closely.
  3. Snatching of Election Materials: election materials were reported to be snatched by unknown persons at the RAC centre in Okrika LGA, River state which led to no voting in ward 06, 07, 08 and 09 of Okrika LGA in Rivers State. This was also reported in PU 003 ward 10 Emohua LGA, Rivers state.
  4. Vote buying: reports of vote buying in PU 010/01/10/13 Omala LGA in Kogi state.

In view of the foregoing, YIAGA AFRICA WTV makes the following preliminary recommendations:

Preliminary Recommendations

1.  Extension of voting hours: YIAGA AFRICA calls on INEC to extend the voting period across board to ensure that all eligible voters exercise their franchise. Voting is expected to ordinarily be conducted from 8am to 2pm, which is approximately 6 hours of voting. In view of the late opening of polls, INEC should ensure clear communication on an extension of the time for close of polls to all polling officials and the public.

2.    Speedy resolution of logistical challenges: YIAGA AFRICA urges INEC to resolve identified logistical challenges in a timely manner to ensure a smooth process and to ensure that all polling units open before 2pm to avoid a second day of voting. This is also important to ensure that there are no further delays at the point of collation. INEC needs to address issues relating to missing names on the voters register and non payment of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) drivers who were expected to support the deployment of election materials and personnel to polling stations. 

3.    Ensure quality and transparency of the results collation process: From all indications, YIAGA AFRICA expects that collation of results will occur at night. To this end, collation centres should be provisioned with adequate lighting facilities and calculators to avoid computational inaccuracies that could undermine the integrity of the elections.

4.       Independent Observation: INEC is encouraged to remind Resident Electoral Commissioners to instruct all election officials under their supervision to allow accredited citizen observers to access polling units in accordance with the electoral law. This includes instruction to the security personnel to allow the free movement of accredited observers.

5.       Adherence to Electoral Guidelines: With the late commencement of polls, YIAGA AFRICA calls on INEC to ensure that polling officials strictly adhere to the electoral guidelines on accreditation and voting across board. This includes ensuring that there is no attempt to speed up the process of accreditation — proper application of the Smart Card Reader to accredit voters must continue throughout the country.

6.   Conduct of Party Agents: Political party agents deployed to the polling units should remain through the voting and counting processes and should continue to conduct themselves in a professional manner, including showing respect for the right of citizen observers to observe the process.

Conclusion

YIAGA AFRICA commends the Nigerian people for their resilience and commitment to vote in this election. We urge voters to remain patient and vigilant to ensure their votes count. We call on voters who are yet to turn out to vote to proceed to their polling units before 2pm confident that the PVT will provide timely, statistically representative information about the conduct of the election as well as an independent check on the accuracy of the officially announced results. YIAGA AFRICA Watching The Vote will continue to observe the process to the end. Our observers will remain at polling units until accreditation, voting, and counting are completed and the official results have been announced and posted by the polling officials. YIAGA AFRICA will issue additional updates as appropriate and plans to issue a preliminary statement on the conduct of accreditation, voting and counting on Sunday 24 February at 10:00 am in the Watching the Vote National Data Center at the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja. You are all kindly invited to join us at this time. WTV appeals to INEC, all security agents, political party candidates and their supporters as well as all Nigerian people to work together to ensure that the Election is credible and peaceful.

Thank you and God Bless the people of Nigeria!

Dr. Hussaini Abdu
Chair, YIAGA AFRICA Watching The Vote

Itodo Samson
Executive Director

For media inquiries please contact:

Moshood Isah
Communication OfficerYIAGA AFRICATel. +234 (0) 703 666 9339
Email: misah@yiaga.org

Learn more about #WatchingTheVote at www.watchingthevote.org or on social media on Facebook at facebook.com/yiaga.orgor on Twitter @YIAGA.

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