The Bayelsa state election is slated for December 2019–off-cycle to the majority of state elections held in Nigeria in early March 2019. These elections have previously been marred by widespread malpractice, partially attributed to poor oversight. SDN is seeking to improve the credibility, fairness, and freedom of state-level elections in Bayelsa, by strengthening the capacity of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to manage polling and monitor the activities of political party agents, who often play a role in electoral interference. SDN will support INEC by training their staff to subsequently train other core and temporary INEC election staff to better manage the voting process and regulate the activities of party agents on election day. SDN will also sensitise police to spot and respond to election malpractice around polling stations, and engage directly with party agents to register them and educate them on what they are permitted to do. By reaching out to all parties involved, SDN hopes to reduce interference with the proper conduct of the Bayelsa state elections.
SDN, in partnership with the Bayelsa Non-Governmental Organization Forum (BANGOF), will also be delivering a campaign over social media, radio broadcast, and face-to-face to overcome voter apathy and educate voters in Bayelsa about participating in the upcoming elections in a way that supports rather than undermines democracy in the state–such as vote selling.
The project is funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF), for the period of 18 months.
- Train INEC’s ad hoc staff on election oversight and administration procedures – particularly in areas of Bayelsa at risk of fraud and violence.
- Support INEC and the police in project target areas to register political party agents, as well as sensitise those party agents to their permitted conduct over the election period.
- Partner with BANGOF to deliver face-to-face education to voters in areas at risk of ‘vote buying and selling’ about the negative effect this has on democracy in Nigeria.
- Carry out a campaign over social media and broadcast radio aiming to sensitise 170,000 citizens to the negative effects on democracy from selling or otherwise transferring their vote, and support citizens to participate safely in the election.
The need for support
Bayelsa state receives a comparatively large federal budget allocation, as part of the formula for sharing the revenue for oil and gas production, fuelling particularly fierce competition over winning political office that typically involves many different actors–including militants, cult groups, security forces, politicians, and party agents. In the past, some areas of state elections in Bayelsa have been marred by electoral malpractice–often at the hands of unregistered party agent–such as vote-buying around polling stations. Malpractice, like vote buying, flourishes due to an apathy amongst voters selling their votes, and poor or non-existent training and sensitisation of INEC officials and police responsible for challenging this malpractice around polling stations on election day.
To address these widespread issues undermining past state elections in Bayelsa, therefore, reducing both malpractice by party agents on election day and apathy amongst voters is critical to the state election’s credibility, freedom, and fairness.