Issued: 2:00pm Saturday, 9th March 2019
With votes on-going in the 2019 Governorship and State Houses Assembly elections, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room (Situation Room) is receiving field reports from its observers and networks, across the country. Situation Room hereby makes the following interim observations:
Situation Room notes that at the time of this statement, voter turn-out remains low. However, Situation Room commends the resilience and determination of Nigerians to actively participate in the electoral process, despite the fear and apprehension created by the build up to the elections. In the build up to the election, there has been high-level deployment of security agencies as well as politically induced violence. These have dominated the discus so far on the elections and could be a major determining factor for voter behavior and the resultant outcome of the election. There are indications of improved logistics management of the elections while institutional overreach is still a cause for concern for a level playing field for the elections.
Commencement of Polls
In most parts of the country, voting started on time. The average starting time of voting at most polling units across the country was 8:30am. However, there were few cases of late arrival of materials and polling officials in some States.
Logistics Preparations for the elections
It would appear that while logistics preparations for the Governorship and State Legislative elections may have improved from the earlier election of February 23, concern remains that there are still some shortcomings. Reports of late delivery of materials and delayed commencement of polls were received from some States, including Imo State. Situation Room is also concerned about INEC’s handling of its personnel and Ad-hoc staffs. Our observers report multiple cases of protest by INEC officials and Ad-Hoc staffs on issues around welfare in Anthony, Ejigbo, Ketu, Mile 2& Ojudu in Lagos State and Vom in Plateau State.
Involvement of the Military
Situation Room continues to be concerned about the excessive and intimidating deployment of military and security personnel throughout the 2019 Nigeria General Elections. Under section 29(3) of the Electoral Act, security personnel can only be involved in electoral duty as requested by INEC. The Act specifically states:
“PROVIDED that the Commission shall only request for the deployment of the Nigerian Armed Forces only for the purpose of securing the distribution and delivery of election materials and protection of election officials”
The Situation Room continues to voice its concern with the level of deployment of the military in the elections. The level of deployment of military arsenal including fighter jets and attack helicopters remains a serious concern for us. Indications from the field on the low voter turn-out points to concerns from citizens on the military deployment. There are reports of observers and poll officials being arrested across Oruk Anam LGA of Akwa Ibom State by Military and police personnel with phones and other personnel effects being confiscated. There are reports of the Military arresting poll officials and carting away materials in Ini LGA of Akwa Ibom State. In Okrika LGA there are reports of military interference in the process.
The situation room is concerned that despite this high deployment we are still having pockets of violence. In Ezza North LGA, Ebonyi State suspected thugs were reported to have set fire to election materials at the RAC. In Etinan LG in Akwa Ibom State Youth Corp members were attacked by suspected thugs while voting materials were snatched and a police officer shot in Odukpan LG of Cross River state. Six (6) Journalists were kidnapped in Ahaoda West LGA of Rivers State. We had seven (7) deaths so far today. Two (2) in Egbe Yagba in Kogi and the others in Rivers States including Emilia Gilbert a former Chairperson of Andoni LGA.
The Situation Room continues to reiterate its earlier position that no election should cost the life of any Nigerian and calls on the security agencies to arrest and prosecute all election offenders irrespective of their party affiliation. It is also calling on political actors to call their supporters to exercise restraint.
Low Voter Turn-Out
At the time of writing this statement there is evident low voter turnout. The low turn-out of voters can only but be attributed to two factors – voter apathy arising from the effect of the disappointment of citizens over poor conduct of the February 23 Presidential and National Assembly elections and the excessive and heavy deployment of military and security personnel for the elections, that has now created fear in the citizenry, including concerns over the neutrality of these security personnel and indeed the integrity of the electoral process.
There are reported widespread incidences of vote buying across the country by our observers and the Situation Room is concerned this could undermine the credibility of the outcome of the election. Sokoto, Zamfara, Ekiti, Kebbi, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Ondo and Borno States among others have reported cases of vote buying.
As voting sets to close, Situation Room implores Nigerians to continue to exercise their right to vote and prepare to observe the collation process. Situation Room also calls on INEC to ensure that the electoral process delivers on credible election, including ensuring that the collation of results at the ward, Local Government and State levels are in line its own guidelines and the law.
Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room
Clement Nwankwo – Convener
Y.Z Yau – Alternate Chair, Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room
Esther Uzoma, Alternate Chair, Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room
The Situation Room is made up of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working in support of credible and transparent elections in Nigeria and includes such groups as Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), CLEEN Foundation, Action Aid Nigeria, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Proactive Gender Initiative (PGI) Enough is Enough Nigeria, WANGONET, Partners for Electoral Reform, JDPC and YIAGA Africa. Others are Development Dynamics, Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), Partners West Africa Nigeria (PWAN), Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN), Human Rights Monitor, Reclaim Naija, CITAD, Nigerian Women Trust Fund, Alliance for Credible Elections (ACE), CISLAC, and several other CSOs numbering more than seventy.
Read the second interim statement