Youth Alive Foundation (YAF) with support from International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) implemented the Nigeria Election Violence Report (NEVR) project during the 2019 election. The NEVR project aimed to increase public knowledge and awareness on the dangers of election violence, and increase participation and involvement of election stakeholders in the mitigation and prevention of election violence. Above all, the project sought to monitor and report on electoral violence in the six (6) states of South – South Geopolitical region: Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Bayelsa, Edo, Delta and Rivers States.
The project started off with mapping of violence hotspots in these six states. Based on these findings 28 local government areas in these states were selected for the monitoring exercise. 180 monitors were trained and deployed to these LGAs to monitor Pre-Elections, Election Days and Post Elections violence for this exercise.
These monitors tracked and documented incidences of violence in these LGAs before, during and after the elections. Media partners also worked with the monitors to verify and validate the findings in the field and were also corroborated by relevant stakeholders and institutions of government.
Akwa Ibom State
A total of 14 persons were killed in Akwa Ibom State. The deaths were recorded in Nsit Ibom, Ibiono, Mob, Ukanafun, and Obot Akara Local Government Areas. Many persons sustained physical injuries, some to gunshots and machetes. Public properties were destroyed including the INEC office in Ibesikpo Asutan, and Obot Akara Local Government Areas.
Cross River State
A total of nine persons were confirmed death; three others reported death are yet to be confirmed. In Obudu five (5) persons sustained physical injuries, six (6) in Ikom/Etung and two (2) in Calabar municipality. Public and private properties were destroyed in Bendeghe Ekim in Etung Local Government Area.
In Edo State only Presidential and House of Assembly elections were held, there was no record of death, physical injury nor any form of violence. This was attributed to the extensive sensitization by CSOs in the State.
Four (4) persons were killed in Nembe Bassambiri, and several others including a PDP ward chairman, Mr. Seidougha Tariba and a government house photographer, Mr. Reginald Dei, sustained gunshot injuries.
Prior to the elections, several arrests were made by security agencies and this stirred up tension and fear among voters. More than 70 persons were killed. Some of the deaths were recorded in Andoni, Okrika, Khana. 50 persons were shot dead in Abonima during a gun duel between security operatives and local armed gangs. There was widespread violence, ballot box snatching, intimidation and beating up of voters by security agents.
Two persons were confirmed dead in Oviri and Warri South. There were cases of voter intimidation by unidentified armed men, ballot box snatching by herdsmen and violent attack on INEC ad-hoc staff (corps members).
Late Opening of Polls:
For the presidential and national assembly elections, polls opened late in all the states observed with some severely late. This was mostly a knock-on effect from the late delivery into the states of key election items, with some arriving as late as 3am on Saturday morning.
The late delivery of election material in all of the states was an evolving problem on Thursday 21 and Friday 22 February, where despite the additional week to prepare; key materials were missing or delayed for each of the states. While the missing items were relatively few, in total they delayed whole consignments to local governments, meaning that delivery to local offices was far behind schedule. Data from Watching the Vote network estimated that despite an 8am official start, by 11:30am on Saturday, only 58% of polling units had opened in the ‘South-South’ zone, and observers continued to observe polling units only beginning work in the afternoon. Although voters in the queue at 2pm are in principle allowed to vote, there was confusion nationally about a last minute extension of voting hours which was never communicated effectively. The late start had multiple impacts some of which included widening the space for abuse and violence, with the outright diversion of election materials difficult to separate from extended delays.
Voter Turn Out
Turnout in all of the states observed was markedly down from 2015. In Rivers State turnout was 20% – down from 64%. Delta had a 33% turnout against a 56% turnout in 2015. Akwa Ibom was down to 33% turnout in 2019. It is too early to provide any significant analysis of turnout figures and they would need careful analysis given the complex mix of factors where voter inflation was reported in 2015. The arrest and detention of several young people by the army and the death of over 80 persons during the presidential elections left electorates in a state of despair which informed the choice of not coming out to exercise their civic responsibilities. However, a handful of electorates came out to vote but not as many as it was during the presidential election.
Conduct of Security Officials and Military Personnel
The trend of using security agencies manifested itself on Election Day, with several reports of the police aiding political thugs either in ballot box snatching or the disruption of electoral processes. Such incidents were recorded in Uyo LGA and Ukana Offot junction, where a group of over 30 policemen and thugs came in five vehicles including an anti-robbery squad vehicle to the unit and shot into the air, destroyed ballot boxes and materials, then chased voters away. This happened while results were being announced. A similar incident was also recorded in Essien Udim where security personnel colluded with political thugs to intimidate PDP voters and prevented them from exercising their franchise, as well as taking electoral officials hostage.
Collation of Results
The majority of serious incidents reported related to control of the collation of results, where there were serious, often violent clashes. There were serious partisan breakdowns over the collation of results in all of the states observed. In Delta and Akwa Ibom States the APC rejected the polls in the state. In Rivers State the State Government accused the 6 Division Commander of directing interference in collation while the army alleged attempted bribery against the state Governor.
In Akwa Ibom State, the Senate race of former Governor Godswill Akpabio was highly contentious, with allegations that collation officers had been arrested and were under pressure to rewrite results of the last local government to be declared in the senate race. INEC initially suspended the announcement of results as collation was moved to the state capital Uyo. The Senate seat was eventually declared for Chris Ekpenyong with a margin of 40,000 votes. Some political parties did not have party agents to represent them at some polling units. Therefore, parties without agents did not sign the result sheet to show the credibility of the process in some polling units.
In Rivers State, four local governments were unable to complete results collation due to interference and clashes. In two of these LGAs (Ikwerre and Okrika) INEC Electoral Officers reported that the military were directly involved in dispersing collation officials and forcefully shutting down collation centres on Saturday evening. The loss of six local governments for the election provides an obvious reason for part of the drop in Rivers State but in each of the states it was also possible to note results at extremes – with implausibly high as well as remarkably low turnouts (below 10%) – which reflected a range of the problems reported with access to delayed polls, intimidation, and voter concern about safety. Obio Akpor Local Government, making up part of Port Harcourt, was a good example of a local government impacted by collation disruption, where four wards were never collated, knocking out nearly 25% of the electorate for the local government (turnout was recorded as 13%).
For the state government elections, the elections in Rivers were deeply flawed. Voting and collation were both disrupted, often violent with some fatalities. The situation was so serious that INEC suspended the elections in the state. Collation of the results will now be done during 02-05 April, with any necessary supplementary elections to be held on 13 April. Post-election activities in the state are characterized by protest and counter protest from political party supporters and electorates making all sorts of demands. The state resident INEC commissioner Oboh Effanga had suspended the elections in six (6) LGAs after the commission received collated results from seventeen (17) LGAs, the suspension was due to the level of violence melted on both electorates and INEC officials.
- Efforts should be made to enthrone constitutionalism in the Nigeria polity. Civil society needs to establish a broad based coalition of organizations to promote constitutionalism in Nigeria.
- Elections umpire, INEC MUST improve in the preparation, conduct and management of subsequent elections, to reduce incidences of elections violence and malpractice. INEC must overcome challenges with logistics in the delivery of election materials and be able to stick to the three-day delivery schedule ahead of each poll.
- Efforts must be intensified to reduce election violence in order to restore confidence in the electoral process and enable more voters participate in voting. The relevant authorities should mop up arms in the hands of undesirable elements in the society by increasing the surveillance on arms movement in the period leading up to the elections in order to drastically reduce violence before, during and after elections.
- Perpetrators of violence must be prosecuted thoroughly to deter future perpetrators from carrying out acts of violence.
- It is critical for the next set of polls that questions over partisan security force behaviour are resolved and that scope for violence around collation is also reduced.
- That the law against cultism and other gang related offences should be revitalized and perpetrator made to face the law. The heavy presence of armed gangs in the south-south facilitates elections violence Individuals known as cultists and who support and fund armed gangs should not be given political appointments and other public positions of trust as they utilise them during elections season.
- Military and Police personnel working on election security on Election Day should be properly tagged for easy identification. This is because, ‘men in uniform’ use their ‘authority’ to assist different politicians from different political parties and intimidate perceived opponents of their ‘pay masters.
- Pressure on INEC staff and ad hoc officials over the collation of results must be reduced with security services committing to their safety and independence critical to the stability of the polls.
- All persons engaged as staff or ad-hoc staff of INEC and security operatives must undertake oath of neutrality in line with S. 28 of The Electoral Act and must be seen to be neutral. Persons who are partisan, who lie on oath, be charged to court for Perjury.
- International and donor agencies interested in supporting the electoral processes should do so early by monitoring the elections process before the election not just on elections day to increase international scrutiny on the process.
- There be strong shift from manual voting to electronic voting backed by political will in order to eliminate manual collation and reduce Violence.
- A judicial inquiry into the deaths of persons in all states be setup and these incidences be investigated so that justice will be served. A particular reference is that of Rivers State especially in Khana LGA
- Stakeholders should be encouraged to play by the rules to avoid any violence.
Youth Alive Foundation (Akwa Ibom State)
Social Development Integrated Centre (Rivers State)
Edo Civil Society Organization (Edo State)
Foundation for Non-Violent Social Change (Delta State)
Nembe City Development Foundation (Bayelsa State)
The Bridge Leadership Foundation (Cross River State)