Yiaga Africa’s Preliminary Statement on the 2021 Anambra Gubernatorial Election

Yiaga Africa’s Preliminary Statement on the 2021 Anambra Gubernatorial Election

Yiaga Africa’s Preliminary Statement on the 2021 Anambra Gubernatorial Election

 INTRODUCTION

Yiaga Africa’s post election press conference for Anambra Governorship election

On Saturday, November 6, the people of Anambra state went to the polls to elect a governor that would lead the state for the next four years. Yiaga Africa employs the Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) methodology – the gold standard for citizen election observation to provide oversight on elections. On Election Day, Yiaga Africa deployed 500 stationary observers using a representative statistical sample of 248 polling units and 27 mobile observers in all 21 LGAs of Anambra state. With this methodology, Yiaga Africa is able to provide timely and accurate information on the conduct of polling units’ set-up, voter accreditation, voting, and counting processes. The elections were marred by community resistance to the conduct of the election, logistical failures that once again resulted in the late opening of polls in several polling units, and severe challenges with the newly introduced Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS). While election day was peaceful, the pre-election period was characterized by violence, intimidation, and arson resulting to poor voter turnout.

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS

Election logistics

Despite the establishment of Super Registration Area Centers (RACs) close to the polling units to avert logistical hiccups, late deployment of election materials and personnel delayed the opening of polling units. Reports from Yiaga Africa indicates that at 7:30 am, polling officials were present in only 17% of polling units. By 9:30 am, only 27% of polling units commenced accreditation and voting. By 10:30 am, only 48% of the polling units had commenced accreditation and voting. This, however, increased by noon as accreditation and voting were reported in 78% of the polling units. However, 21% of the polling units were still not open by noon. In Ihiala LGA, there were no elections in all WTV sampled polling units.

 

The geographical distribution indicates that 60% of polling units in Anambra Central Senatorial district and 57% of polling units in Anambra North commenced accreditation and voting by 10:30 am, while in Anambra South senatorial district, only 29% of polling units commenced accreditation and voting by 10:30 am.

Based on verified reports from Yiaga Africa observers, 21% of polling units failed to open by 12noon. These incidents are mostly concentrated in Anambra South Senatorial District (23.5%), Anambra Central (17%), and Anambra North Senatorial districts (13%). The non-opening of these polling stations might result in voter disenfranchisement if elections are not conducted in those polling units.

The delays were occasioned by poor logistics management and transportation challenges as per INEC’s announcement. Yiaga Africa anticipated these challenges hence the call in the organization’s pre-election statement to INEC to make contingency plans for situations where transport unions or companies reneged on their contractual obligations to deploy.

 

Distribution of newly created polling units

Ahead of the commencement of the elections, Yiaga Africa raised concerns about the newly created polling units in Anambra State. INEC created the new polling units to reduce the number of registered voters at each polling unit so polling units are more accessible to voters and easy to manage on election day. The Commission however failed to substantially decongest polling units with high numbers of registered voters. In the new polling units configuration, there are over 750 registered voters in 963 polling units. In extreme cases, there are over 3,000 registered voters per polling unit. Yiaga Africa noted that these polling units pose a major challenge for crowd control and effective management on Election Day. Among the 1,112 newly created polling units, 15.6% have less than 49 voters registered at each of the polling units, which reflects the significant disparities between the size of polling units. Yiaga Africa notes that these inconsistencies question the reliability and accuracy of the Commission’s framework for the expansion of polling units.

 

Functionality of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS)

By replacing Smart Card Readers with the BVAS, INEC intended to enhance the integrity of the electoral process by introducing additional checks to ensure only eligible voters could cast ballots on Election Day. The BVAS was used throughout the accreditation of voters in 95% of polling units. However, in practice and as observed by WTV observers, BVAS malfunctioned and slowed the process, resulting in long queues and extended waiting time for voters. Some voters were discouraged from voting due to the malfunctioned BVAS and the time it took for INEC technical staff to fix the technical glitches. In 45% of the polling units, the system malfunctioned at some point during the accreditation. The BVAS was replaced in 1% of the polling units and fixed in 39% of the polling units. In 5% of polling units, the BVAS malfunctioned but was not fixed or replaced. In 3% of polling units, the presiding officers resorted to manual accreditation of voters in contravention of INEC guidelines and regulations.

The 2021 INEC manual for election officials clearly states that where the BVAS for replacement is not available by 2:30 pm, the presiding officers should inform the voters and polling agents that accreditation and voting for the affected polling unit shall continue the following day. Yiaga Africa notes that the commission did not adhere to this procedure in the polling units where the BVAS did not accredit the voters. Yiaga Africa expresses concern with INEC’s framework for adopting new electoral technologies, as the BVAS, though a valuable tool for electoral integrity, fell short of expectations.

Public access to election results

Yiaga Africa notes the value of adopting new technologies to enhance the credibility of the electoral process, including the introduction of the INEC Results Viewing Portal (IREV) to improve the transparency of the results declared at the polling units. Yiaga Africa commends INEC for deploying the portal for the election and further recommends that INEC reviews the portal to make the interface user-friendly and provide electoral results data in a usable format to facilitate citizens’ monitoring of the announcement of election results.

Violence against women in elections

Yiaga Africa calls attention of stakeholders to incidents of violence against women during the election. Yiaga Africa observers reported incidents of intimidation, harassment or violence towards women voters, polling officials, security, party agents or observers at 7% of polling units observed. Yiaga Africa also notes that in 26% of polling units observed, there were no female polling officials. Female presiding officers were sighted in only 38% of polling units. Yiaga Africa implores INEC and security agencies to ensure safety for women voters and for INEC to ensure gender parity in its deployment of officials in electoral processes.

 

Deployment of polling officials: Yiaga Africa WTV observed that an average of 2 polling officials were deployed in the polling units where INEC officials and materials arrived. This is lower than the required number of four polling officials per polling unit.

 

Compliance with COVID-19 protocol: Yiaga Africa observed compliance with INEC’s protocol on voting amidst COVID-19 on the two-tier queuing in 64% of polling units and the presence of disinfectants/sanitizers in 90% of polling units. At 52% of polling units, polling officials ensured physical distancing for voters in the queue. 86% of polling units have either sanitizers or soap and water.

 

Deployment of security personnel: Security forces were sighted at 94% of polling units.  Yiaga Africa notes that the security personnel acted in a professional and non-partisan manner in the observed polling units.

RESULTS VERIFICATION

INEC has so far released results for 20  LGAs. While the election is not yet over and voting has still to take place in Ihiala LGA, Yiaga Africa’s PVT can provide independent verification if the results announced thus far reflect the ballots cast on Saturday, November 6. The release of these figures speaks only to the accuracy of the tabulation process for votes cast on Saturday, November 6 and not the overall credibility of the 2021 Anambra gubernatorial election. As noted, the election is not yet over. Yiaga Africa will continue observing the voting and counting processes as well as the results announcement for Ihiala by deploying its observers to the sampled polling units of the LGA on Tuesday.

Of sampled polling units that opened Saturday, Yiaga Africa has received reports from 96% of from the field observers (195 of 203). Based those reports, Yiaga Africa’s statistical analysis shows that for the votes cast on Saturday 06 November All Progressives Congress (APC) should receive between 16.6% and 21.1% of the vote, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) should receive between 41.0% and 47.6% of the vote; Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) should receive between 19.2% and 24.2% of the vote; Young Progressive Party (YPP) should receive between 6.7% and 11.1% of the vote while no other political party should receive more than 2% of the vote.

For every one of the 18 political parties contesting the Anambra 2021 gubernatorial election the INEC official result of the 20 LGAs released is consistent with Yiaga Africa’s WTV estimate (specifically, it falls within the Yiaga Africa’s WTV estimated range). Had the official results been changed at the ward, LGA or state collation centres, the official results would not have fallen within the Yiaga Africa WTV estimated ranges. Because the official results fall within the estimated ranges, governorship contestants, parties, and voters should have confidence the official results for the 20  LGAs as announced by INEC reflect the ballots cast at polling units on Saturday, November 6.

Table 1:  Comparison of INEC Official Results for the 20 LGAs Released with Yiaga Africa WTV PVT Estimates for Select Political Parties for the 2021 Anambra Gubernatorial Election
Party INEC Yiaga Africa WTV PVT estimates Match
Official Result Estimate Margin of Error Estimated Range
Lower Limit Upper Limit
APC 18.58% 19.1% ±2.5% 16.6% 21.1%
APGA 45.39% 44.6% ±3.0% 41.0% 47.6%
PDP 22.41% 21.7% ±2.5% 19.2% 24.2%
YPP 9.13% 8.9% ±2.2% 6.7% 11.1%
Note: No other party received more than 2% of the vote share                         Source Yiaga Africa WTV Anambra 2021

It is important to highlight the counting process at polling units was transparent and included representatives from the four political parties that received the most votes.

  • At 86% of polling units an APC party agent signed the EC.8A results form, at 98% of polling units an APGA party agent signed the EC.8A results form, at 96% of polling units a PDP party agent signed the EC.8A results form, and at 79% of polling units a YPP party agent signed the EC.8A results form.
  • At 84% of polling units APC party agents were given a copy of the EC.8A results form. At 95% of polling units, APGA, polling agents were given a copy of the EC.8A results form. At 93% of polling units, PDP party agents were given a copy of the EC.8A results form, and at 76% YPP party agents were given a copy of the EC.8A results form.
  • At 83% of polling units the polling official posted the official polling unit results for the public to see.

 Turnout Projections

INEC’s turnout and rejected ballots for the 20 LGA released are consistent with Yiaga Africa WTV PVT estimates. Yiaga Africa is able to estimate that turnout is between 10.2% and 12.8% (11.5% ± 1.3% while INEC’s official result is 10.75%. Similarly, Yiaga Africa estimates rejected ballots are between 2.5% and 3.7% (3.1% ± 0.6%) while INEC’s official result is 3.3%

Preliminary Recommendations

Independent National Electoral Commission

  1. To enhance the transparency of the supplementary election, INEC should publish the total number of Permanent Voter Cards (PVC) collected in Ihiala LGA and inform the public on the status of uncollected PVCs.
  2. INEC should undertake an audit of the BVAS and ensure all the technological glitches with the device are resolved ahead of the supplementary elections to prevent delays and possible disenfranchisement of voters.
  3. Sanction all its staff accused of complicity and conspiracy with political actors and security agents to falsify election, especially Mrs. Comfort Omorogie, Electoral Officer for Orumba north involved in compelling the Returning Officer for the LGA to declare false results under duress.
  4. INEC should terminate its contractual relationship with road transport unions, especially those notorious for breach of contractual obligations. In addition to termination, INEC should seek legal remedies against transporters who are liable for breach of contract.

Security agencies

  1. Maintain nonpartisan and professional conduct in the Nov 9, 2021 supplementary election.
  2. Against the background of security threats in some communities in Ihiala LGA, security agencies should ensure strategic deployment to flashpoints polling units in Ihiala to guarantee the safety of voters, polling officials and materials during the supplementary election.
  3. Investigate and prosecute all security personnel involved in gross misconduct and electoral fraud especially the involvement of police officers in the reported incident in Orumba North LGA

National Assembly

  1. The National Assembly should without further delay conclude the amendment to the Electoral Act and transmit the electoral bill to the President for assent.

Conclusion

It is important to remember that the Anambra gubernatorial election is not yet over and that this report reflects Yiaga Africa’s preliminary findings on the conduct of accreditation and voting,  counting and results announced in the polling units where elections held. Yiaga Africa calls on the people of Anambra to be peaceful and reject any calls for violence as INEC prepares to conduct a supplementary election in Ihiala on Tuesday, November 9.

Yiaga Africa will provide independent verification of the results immediately after INEC announces the outcome of the 2021 Anambra gubernatorial election. If the announced results reflect the ballots cast at polling units then we will confirm the outcome. However, if the announced results have been manipulated and do not match the results posted at polling units then Yiaga Africa will expose it. Yiaga Africa will also issue a comprehensive report after the election has concluded that contains our final findings and recommendations. Yiaga Africa, through the WTV initiative, is committed to promoting more credible elections by providing independent information on the conduct of elections and independently verifying the accuracy of election results.

#WatchingTheVote is For All Nigerians, Beholden to No One, and Driven By Data.

— End —

Samson Itodo                                                                                     Ezenwa Nwagwu

Executive Director                                                                              Board Member

Yiaga Africa                                                                                       Yiaga  Africa

For media inquiries, please contact:

Moshood Isah

Media Officer,

Yiaga Africa

Tel. +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.org or on Twitter @YIAGA.

 

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