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Yiaga Africa, an observer group, narrates its experience on the Ekiti election.

By Rotimi Ojomoyela

For the Saturday, June 18 governorship election in Ekiti State, Yiaga Africa employed the Parallel Votes Tabulation (PVT) methodology and deployed 500 observers in pairs to a representative random sample of 250 polling units, 25 mobile observers in all 16 local government areas (LGAs) and 16 LGA results collation observers.

This deployment strategy enabled Yiaga Africa to provide timely and accurate information on the Election Day process commencing from the set-up, voter accreditation, voting, and counting and to independently verify the official results for the Ekiti gubernatorial election as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). 

The process and results verification statement is based on reports from 245 to 250 (98%) sampled polling units in Ekiti State.

Yiaga Africa commends INEC for the marked improvement in logistics management and the deployment of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for the election. The retinue of National Commissioners and Resident Electoral Commissioner deployed for the election improved the quality of oversight and fast-tracked escalation and response to Election Day challenges. Yiaga Africa commends civil society groups and media organizations for the sustained oversight of the electoral process before, during, and after the election.

While polling units generally opened in record time, there were a few polling units that recorded late commencement due to the late arrival of polling officials. Yiaga Africa had highlighted its areas of interest in the election to include tracking the deployment and functionality of the BVAS for voter accreditation, and the use of the Permanent Voter Card (PVC) in determining the conclusiveness of the election and the new framework for election results management. Considering the important role of the data on PVC collection in this election, Yiaga Africa had called on INEC to publish the final data of PVC collection rate ahead of the election; however, the Commission failed to make public the final data of collected PVCs per polling unit. Yiaga Africa also observed non-compliance with the election guidelines in some polling units. According to the INEC guidelines (Section 20(iii)), polling officials were required to tick the appropriate box against a voter’s name labeled FA (denoting Failed Accreditation) at the left margin of the voter’s detail on the register.

 Yiaga Africa observed that the voter register deployed to the polling units had no box labeled FA.

Key Findings on Election Day Process

Yiaga Africa’s WTV observers monitored accreditation, voting and counting at polling units in all 16 LGAs. Yiaga Africa received and confirmed 29 critical incidents. The following are key observations on Election Day processes.

Set up and opening of polling units

1.Early Opening of Polls: Yiaga Africa WTV observed the early arrival of polling officials and materials at polling units across the state. As of 7:30 am, Yiaga Africa WTV observers reported that INEC officials had arrived at 75% of polling units.

2.Early Start of Polls: By 8:30 am, 23% of polling units had commenced accreditation and voting. This, however, increased to 99% by 10:30 am. This is consistent with Yiaga Africa’s observation findings in the 2018 elections, where officials had arrived at 78% of polling units by 7:30 am and 91% of polling units opened by 9:00 am.

3.Deployment of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS)

The Functionality of the BVAS: Yiaga Africa observed the deployment of the BVAS to all polling units. In 92% of polling units, the BVAS functioned properly. However, in 8% of polling units, the BVAS malfunctioned and it was fixed.

In 96% of polling units, the BVAS had zero records for the total number of accredited voters on the BVAS before the commencement of the process.

In 34% of polling units, some voters were refused accreditation because the BVAS did not verify their PVC or authenticate their fingerprints or facial biometrics.

Deployment of INEC Officials, Security Agents and Party Agents

4.Deployment of polling officials and women representation: 96% of polling units had more than three polling officials present, and 55% of polling units had at least two female polling officials present while 40% of the presiding officers were women. Yiaga Africa notes that some polling units with high numbers of registered voters had more than 4 polling officials.

5.Deployment of Party Agents: All Progressives Congress (APC) polling or party agents were seen at 100% of polling units, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were seen at 98% of polling units and Social Democratic Party (SDP) polling agents were seen at 98% of polling units.

6.    Deployment of security personnel: Security forces were observed at 99% of polling units. In 90% of the polling units, they were professional and non-partisan.

Considerations for persons with disabilities

7.    Deployment of Assistive Materials and Set up of Polling Unit: The Braille ballot guides were observed in 61% of polling units, the poster with written instructions on how to vote was seen in 66% of polling units and form EC 40H (PWD voter information and statistics) was seen in 76% of polling units.

Critical Incidents Reports

Yiaga Africa received and confirmed 29 critical incident reports from its WTV observers. The incident reports capture instances of infractions that could undermine the electoral process. These included:

1. Voter Inducement/Bribery: Vote-buying was reported by WTV observers in Alowodolu/Ojo – The Apostolic P.S Compound with PU code 13/09/04/00 in Ijero Ward D of Ijero LGA. Party agents from APC were reportedly sharing N7, 000 to voters who showed how their ballot papers were marked. A similar report on vote-buying by APC was received from Open Space at Bamitale along St. Mary’s Road in Ikere.  Also in Ogidi – in Ipoti Ward A, party agents from PDP and SDP were seen bribing voters.

At C. A. C. Gramm. School/Ola Oluwa II with PU Code 014 in Ado-Ekiti, APC agent was also reportedly giving N5, 000 to voters who confirmed they had voted for the party.

2.Polling Unit Not Opened: WTV observers in premises of Staff Nur & Pri. School. Balemo, Oke Ila with PU Code 13/01/07/006 in Ado Ekiti reported that as of 12:00 noon, neither INEC officials nor materials had arrived at the polling unit.

3.Secrecy of the Ballot Compromised: Secrecy of the ballot was compromised as people could see how voters marked the ballots in Igede Ward II 13/13/06/014 in Irepodun/Ifelodun LGA. Party agents for the APC, PDP and SDP clustered around the voting cubicle and saw how voters marked their ballot papers.

4.Voters’ Names Not Found on the BVAS: Yiaga Africa also received and verified three reports of missing names of registered voters on the BVAS. The voters were prevented from voting despite holding INEC-issued PVCs. Upon further investigation, Yiaga Africa discovered the voters were allocated to new polling units but INEC failed to communicate the reallocation to the voters, and neither did the Commission update the voter records on the online portal for voter status verification.

5.    Ballot Box Snatching: Yiaga Africa received reports of ballot box snatching in two polling units with codes 13/05/06/005 and 007 in Ilawe Ward IV, near St. Patrick’s School.

6.    Failure of Polling Officials to Use BVAS for Accreditation: Yiaga Africa received a report from Ilabo in Ire Ward II, Front of Fagbemigun’s House with PU Code 016 of Oye LGA, that polling officials failed to use the BVAS to verify voters’ fingerprint or for facial recognition. This led to the disruption of the process by aggrieved party agents.

7.    Suspension of Counting: WTV Observers in PU 006, Ward 7, Saint Paul’s Primary School, Ise/Orun LGA reported that at the end of sorting and counting, there were discrepancies with the outcome as the total votes cast did not tally with the number of accredited voters. This led to the disruption of the process by aggrieved party agents.

Results Verification

Based on reports from 98% (245 of 250) of sampled polling units, Yiaga Africa’s statistical analysis shows that the All Progressives Congress (APC) should receive between 50.5% and 54.1% of the vote, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) should receive between 19.0% and 22.4% of the vote, Social Democratic Party (PDP) should receive between 20.4% and 24.6% of the vote, while no other political party should receive more than 5.5% of the vote. The PVT statistical analysis is based on the number of registered voters and not the number of PVCs collected.

Table 1:  Comparison of INEC Official Results for the 16 LGAs with Yiaga Africa WTV PVT Estimates for Select Political Parties for the 2022 Ekiti Gubernatorial Election Party INEC Yiaga Africa WTV PVT estimates Match Official Result Estimate Margin of Error Estimated Range 

Note: No other party received more than 5.5% of the vote share   

•    Source Yiaga Africa WTV Ekiti 2022

INEC official results for the 2022 Ekiti State governorship election 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, candidates, parties, and voters should have confidence the official results for the Ekiti 2022 gubernatorial election reflect the ballots cast at polling units on Saturday, June 18.

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

•At 100% of polling units, an APC party agent signed the EC.8A results form, at 99% of polling units, a PDP agent signed the EC.8A results form at 97% of polling units and an SDP agent signed the EC.8A results form.

•At 99% of polling units, APC party agents were given a copy of the EC.8A results form. At 97% of polling units, PDP polling agents were given a copy of the EC.8A results form. At 96% of polling units, SDP party agents were given a copy of the EC.8A results form.

•At 96% 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 16 LGA released are consistent with Yiaga Africa WTV PVT estimates. Yiaga Africa is able to estimate that turnout is between 35.7% and 38.7% (37.2% ± 1.5%), while INEC’s official result is 36.47%. Similarly, Yiaga Africa estimates rejected ballots are between 1.8% and 2.6% (2.2% ± 0.4%) while INEC’s official result is 2.46%.

Conclusion

Yiaga Africa commends the people of Ekiti for their resilience and commitment to a non-violent election. We encourage the voters to sustain their participation in the electoral process beyond the elections by holding political parties and candidates accountable for their campaign promises.

Yiaga Africa encourages INEC to uphold the principles of transparency by publishing the total number of PVCs collected in Ekiti on its website. In addition, Yiaga Africa calls on INEC to audit the newly created polling units and ensure equitable distribution of voters to the polling units. In cases where voters have been allotted to new polling units, INEC should update the voter records on its website and communicate the changes to prevent voter disenfranchisement.

Yiaga Africa commends and appreciates the Ewi of Ekiti, His Royal Highness, Rufus Adeyemo for his interventions in appealing to the moral conscience of the NURTW which may have inspired the prompt deployment of materials by the NURTW. This royal intervention has contributed in no small measure to the early commencement of polls and the success of the election.

Yiaga Africa commends the professionalism of the security agents who worked to maintain peace on Election Day. We commend the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for the arrest of mercenaries deployed by political parties to buy votes. We urge the EFCC and security agencies to investigate and prosecute all citizens involved in electoral fraud, especially those involved in vote trading. Yiaga Africa also calls on the security agencies to remain non-partisan and professional towards the Osun governorship election.

Yiaga Africa would like to thank the many Nigerians across the state who volunteered to serve as non-partisan WTV citizen observers on behalf of all the people of Ekiti. Yiaga Africa commends the dedication of the permanent INEC staff in Abuja and Ekiti State who organized the election and the commitment of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members who served as poll officials. Yiaga Africa would like to thank other sister election observer groups and the international community for their solidarity and support.

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.

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.