The Nigeria Civil Situation Room (Situation Room) observed the 2023 Supplementary Elections held on Saturday, 15th April 2023, in 23 States of the Federation: 2 Governorship, 5 Senatorial, 31 Federal Constituencies and 57 State Assembly elections. Field observers were deployed to Kebbi, Adamawa, Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, Oyo, Imo, Sokoto , Akwa Ibom, Anambra and Edo States.
Situation Room notes that the elections still fell short of the 'Credibility Threshold for the 2023 General Election", a Situation Room document used as a basis for evaluating the elections.
OPENING OF POLLS
Situation Room observed early commencement of polls in many locations particularly in Kano and Kebbi States. However, there was late commencement of accreditation and voting in some polling units due to the late arrival of election officials. In Egor Local Government Area (LGA), Edo State, polls opened by 9:30am, 10:30am in Sokoto South LGA, Sokoto State, about 9:40am in several polling units in Ogbaru LGA, Anambra State, and 11:48am in Michika LGA, Adamawa State.
ILLEGAL DECLARATION OF WINNER IN ADAMAWA STATE
Situation Room received with shock, the illegal declaration of a winner made by the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of INEC in Adamawa State, Barr. Yunusa Hudu Ari, while collation of results was yet to be concluded. Section 25(2)(f) and Section 66 of the Electoral Act 2022 empowers only the returning officer for a Governorship election to announce the result and declare the winner following conclusion of the collation process at State Collation Centre. Situation Room welcomes the action taken by the headquarters of INEC to declare as unlawful the action of the REC in Adamawa State and suspend him from further duties. It is pertinent that the Commission follows up with a proper investigation into what transpired and apply sanctions as necessary. This will serve as a deterrent to erring electoral officials.
Situation Room notes the mob action taken against the supervising National Commissioner in the course of the elections who was physically assaulted and treated with indignity. This action is condemned, and Situation Room calls for the arrest and prosecution of persons involved in this act. Situation Room notes that the action of the suspended REC of Adamawa State represents the collapse of the current system of appointment of RECs and National Commissioners of INEC who are now being appointed by partisan political interests. It also represents the failure of the National Assembly to scrutinise the nominees as required by law and going ahead in confirming partisan persons into INEC at all levels. It is important to revisit the recommendations of the Electoral Reform Committee which in 2010 recommended steps to appoint independent persons into INEC.
Situation Room largely observed vote buying in this election with some political parties displaying with reckless abandon, their pattern of vote buying as seen in polling unit 008, Burum Burum Ward, Tudun Wada LGA, Kano State, where bags of fertilizer, Atamfa (a brand of ankara fabric) and N5,000 were shared to voters who voted for a particular Party. Other places include: polling unit 06, Atani 1 Ward, Ogbaru LGA, Anambra and polling unit 024, Badon Uku Uku Ward, Wamakko LGA, Sokoto States.
VOTER INTIMIDATION AND SUPPRESSION
Reports of voter intimidation and suppression were also received particularly from Uzebu Ward, Oredo LGA, Edo State where local thugs took over Uzebu 1. Owegie Primary School 1 polling unit and the few voters who showed up to vote were asked to display their ballot papers after thumb printing. Also, the Presiding Officer in Kahuta (003) polling unit, Kauru East Ward, Kaura LGA in Kaduna State, is reported to have asked voters which Party they were voting for and consequently paired them with Party Agents.
DISRUPTION OF POLLS AND ELECTION VIOLENCE
Situation Room received reports of disruption of voting in some States with pockets of election violence. In Anambra State, political thugs stormed Atani 1 Ward in Ogbaru LGA and attempted to hijack ballot boxes but were arrested by the Nigerian Army. In Takakume Ward, Goronyo LGA and Badon Uku Uku Ward in Wamakko LGA, Sokoto State, fight broke out between different party agents and voters. Polling units 002, 003, 005 in Amuri 1, Amandugba Ward, Isu LGA, Imo State, witnessed political thugs carting away election materials. Violence also erupted in polling unit 05, Utai Ward, Wudil LGA, Kano State, which led to several voters sustaining varying degrees of injury. Party agents also disrupted the voting exercise in polling unit 010, Iyiowa/Odekpe/Ohita Ward, Ogbaru LGA, Anambra State, thereby halting the voting process for over an hour. Situation Room strongly condemns the attacks on election officials in both Ikono/Ini Federal Constituency, Akwa Ibom State, and in Adamawa State. Desperation of some politicians must not be allowed to disrupt the electoral process and endanger the lives of election officials and voters.
Generally, there was presence of security personnel in most of the polling units observed. However, their impact was not felt in the places where there were violent incidents. It is the duty of security personnel deployed for election duties to protect voters, election officials and materials, which they failed to do in these instances, a reflection of what was witnessed during the 2023 Presidential and Governorship Elections in February and March. This phenomenon is appearing to be the new normal.
Situation Room notes that the supplementary elections of Saturday, April 15th 2023 does not represent an improvement on the two earlier elections that INEC conducted. The same shortcomings of the national and state level elections conducted on 25th February and 18th March respectively, continues to dog our elections in Nigeria. The problems of vote buying, logistics, rogue election officials, compromised security officials, reckless political actors etc., again found their way into the Saturday, 15th April 2023 Supplementary Elections. There is an important need for Nigeria to go back to the drawing board and address the problem of reform of the elections. Part of that reform will need to include accountability on the part of election officials and stakeholders. This election cycle has seen extraordinary levels of abuse of the electoral and collation process by political actors. Their sponsorship of obvious manipulations are electoral crimes that must be prosecuted if this trend is to be reversed. A failure to prosecute the sponsors and beneficiaries of electoral crimes will allow an environment of impunity to continue and escalate, putting both our democratic function and credibility at severe risk.
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Convener, Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room
Co-Convener, Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room
Co-Convener, Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room