March 16, 2023

March 18 Polls: Yiaga Africa to deploy 1, 547 observers in 28 states

…calls on INEC to deploy only trained ad-hoc staff

…begs voters to resist vote-buying

By Gabriel Ewepu

AS Nigerians gear up to cast their vote on Saturday’s governorship and State Assembly elections, Yiaga Africa, Thursday, disclosed deploying 1, 547 observers in 28 States.

This was made known by the Chair, Watching The Vote Working Group, Yiaga Africa, Ezenwa Nwagwu, and Director of Programmes, Yiaga Africa, Cynthia Mbamalu, during a media briefing about Yiaga Africa’s preparedness ahead of the elections.

They said the elections are crucial for the people as their votes remain paramount in the electoral process, therefore urged the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to right the wrongs experienced during the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections.

According to Yiaga Africa, on the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly Elections, the late commencement of polls, deployment of insufficient election materials and not conducting election in some polling units caused “major hardship to voters and denied some voters the opportunity to vote”, which their findings noted a few polling units where voters were permitted to vote without due accreditation with the BVAS and the undue delay in uploading the polling unit’s results on the INEC Election Results Viewing Portal, IREV.

Yiaga Africa also said in addition, a major learning from the presidential election is that logistical challenges and disregard for the electoral guidelines undermined public confidence in the electoral process and outcome.

The pre-election statement on the governorship election also pointed out that the March 18 Governorship and State Assembly elections present another opportunity for INEC as a way to improve and also to address its logistics and technological challenges experienced during the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly elections as Saturday’s elections’ stakes and expectations are higher with the elections expected to be “competitively unpredictable.”

The statement reads in part, “For the March 18 Governorship Election, Yiaga Africa is deploying a comprehensive and systematic observation of the elections which involves deploying the Parallel Votes Tabulation (PVT) to observe the governorship elections in Benue, Delta and Kano States. Yiaga Africa will also be deploying stationary and roving observers to observe and report the Election Day process in the other 25 states.

“Further, at the end of polls, Yiaga Africa will be deploying observers to all the Local Government Areas (LGA) and State Results Collation Centers in all the states where elections will be conducted to observe and report on the Governorship results collation process.

“On March 18, 2023, Yiaga Africa will deploy a total of 1,547 duly trained and accredited stationary and roving observers to observe the conduct of the Governorship election in 28 states. Yiaga Africa will be deploying the Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) methodology to observe the governorship elections in Benue, Delta and Kano states.

“This will involve deploying 900 stationary observers to a representative randomly selected sample of 300 polling units for each of the states, Yiaga Africa will also be deploying 97 roving observers in the three states.

“Additionally, Yiaga Africa will deploy 517 stationary observers and 33 roving observers in the other 25 days where the governorship elections will be held, to observe and report on the entire election day process from setup of the polling units, accreditation, voting, announcement and posting of the official results and will send in periodic reports to the Watching the Vote National Data Centre. At the end of polls, Yiaga Africa observers will deploy to all LGAs and State’s results collation centres to observe and report the results collation process.

“This deployment will enable Yiaga Africa to provide the most timely and accurate information on the governorship elections in the states.

“Using the PVT, Yiaga Africa will also provide an independent projection of voter turnout in Benue, Delta and Kano States, and will be able to project the vote shares that each party should receive within a narrow-estimated range. If the official results fall within Yiaga Africa’s estimated ranges, then the public, political parties and candidates should have confidence in the ballots cast at the polling units.

“Only INEC, however, has the legal mandate to announce the election results. As soon as INEC announces the official results, Yiaga Africa will follow up with a result verification press conference to share its statement on the accuracy of the election results.

“Utilizing information communications technology and statistical principles, PVT is the gold standard for citizen election observation and has been utilized throughout Africa and the world. Yiaga Africa has also deployed this methodology in the 2023 presidential election and eleven (12) off-cycle gubernatorial elections in Nigeria.

“Yiaga Africa restates its commitment to the objective, non-partisan and credible observation of the election. The Watching The Vote is “Driven by Data – For All Nigerians – Beholden to None!”

However, Yiaga Africa, made some recommendations that would help INEC perform better and conduct credible and acceptable elections on Saturday; INEC must ensure the shortcomings observed in previous elections are properly addressed ahead of the Governorship elections.

INEC should ensure proper and consistent communication with the transport union and companies providing logistics support to ensure early Election Day deployment. This also includes the need to ensure that only trained ad-hoc officials are deployed on Election Day. Contingency plans in situations where respective transport unions /companies withdraw from the contract or fail to deploy.

INEC Should ensure proper and timely communication with stakeholders on the election day process, challenges experienced and immediate plans to address those challenges to inspire citizens’ confidence in the process; Yiaga Africa calls on the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Elections Security ICCES to ensure that security personnel deployed complies with the code of conduct on election security.

“Yiaga Africa urges voters to resist efforts to purchase their votes, to turn out in their numbers and vote according to their preferences on Saturday, March 18 and remain peaceful during the election”, it added.