Democracy thrives when the security of life and property as well as safety of the electorate, electoral officials, materials and critical infrastructures are guaranteed before, during and after elections. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) conducted the Edo State off-cycle governorship election on Saturday, 19th September 2020. The election was relatively peaceful confirming the report of our Security Threat Assessment released on 10th September 2020 in which 76.7% of our respondents in Edo State expressed optimism that the election will be peaceful. We commend Edo citizens and all those that made this possible. We commend INEC for the professionalism and dedication shown by most of its ad hoc staff despite challenging circumstances and the failure of technology in some polling units. In addition, we commend the security agencies especially officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force for their dedication and commitment to free and fair elections. Despite the noticeable improvements recorded during the Edo State governorship election, several gaps were observed which we hope will be corrected before the Ondo State governorship election and subsequent elections to be conducted by INEC.
The Election Security Support Centre (ESSC) of CLEEN Foundation, in partnership with the Police Service Commission (PSC), observed the conduct of security agencies deployed for the Edo State Governorship election which was held yesterday Saturday, September 19th 2020. This report covers incidents from the opening of the ballot process to the close of the polling across the state. The ESSC of CLEEN Foundation tracked security related developments across the state through 50 INEC Accredited observers, trained and deployed across the 18 Local Government Areas (LGA) in Edo state. In addition, the CLEEN Foundation deployed a citizen observer mobile application called CLEEN Mobile which allows citizens to report security issues in their polling units. Other information related to election security were tracked through credible sources and CLEEN Foundation social media platforms. The following issues are highlighted as part of our preliminary report:
3.0 Opening of Polling Units
Reports obtained from the 18 Local Government Areas in Edo state indicate that there was early and commendable voters’ turnout for the polls across the state. However, it was observed in some of the polling units that security personnel, electoral officers and election materials did not arrive at the polling units as at 8:30 am. For instance, CLEEN Foundation observers noted that election materials arrived late at Units 016 to 039, Ward 07 in Ikpoba Okha Local Government Area which led to the delay in the commencement of the elections in the venue.
4.0. Security Related Observations
4.1. Election Related Violence: There was an alleged incident of death in Esan South East Local Government Area at L.E.A Primary School Ward 7, Ubiaja where a party thug was allegedly killed at trying to disrupt the election. There are other unconfirmed cases reported by Punch and Guardian Newspapers in Ikpo Okha and Ovia South West LGAs. Furthermore, in Unit 1, Ward 8, Etsako Central, an INEC Ad hoc staff member was reportedly shot which led to the disruption of the voting process. Another staff of INEC also received machete cuts from suspected political thugs. Both INEC ad hoc and permanent staff are responding to treatments. We condemn the electoral violence associated with Edo governorship election and call on security agencies to conduct investigations to ensure that culprits are apprehended and made to face the full weight of the law.
4.2. Snatching of Electoral Materials: There was a reported incident of hijacking of electoral materials by thugs dressed in a military uniform from Units 1,2,3 (Ward 9, Ekpedo Community, Akoko Edo LGA. Furthermore, there was a reported incident of snatching of ballot boxes by political thugs at Obodeko Amahor Primary School Unit 003 of Ward 8 in Igueben LGA.
4.3. Conduct of Security Personnel: CLEEN Foundation observers reported the intimidation and suppression of voters by suspected personnel of the Military and Department of State Service at Unit 1, Ugiogwa Ward, Etsako Central Local Government Area. Similarly, at Etsako East Local Government Area (Unit 7, Ward 5) Military personnel were observed openly disenfranchising voters of a political party by allowing voters of another political party to cast their votes. Furthermore, at Ward 10, Ugboka Uneru in Etsako Central Local Government Area, it was observed that personnel of the Nigeria Police Force were observed receiving money from party agents at the polling unit.
4.4. Early Arrival of Security Personnel: CLEEN Foundation observed that 86% of security personnel arrived at the polling units across Edo state before 8:00am, while 11% arrived between 8:00am – 8:59am; and 3% arrived 9:00am or later.
4.5. Possession of Firearms at the Polling Unit: CLEEN Foundation observed 83% of the polling units across the state were protected by unarmed security personnel. However, there were reports of firearm possession in 17% of the polling units.
4.6. Adequacy of Security Personnel at the Polling Units: CLEEN observed that on the aggregate, 83% of the polling units had three or more security personnel, while 11% of the units noted two security personnel on ground.
4.7. Identification of Security Personnel: CLEEN observed that 96% of the security personnel wore easily identifiable name tags. However, 3% of the security personnel did not wear identifiable name tags.
4.8. Approachability of Security Personnel: Report from our observes shows that 94% of the security personnel at the polling units were approachable. However, 3% were observed to be somewhat approachable, while 3% of the security personnel were not approachable by their disposition.
4.9. Impartiality of Security Personnel at the Polling Unit: Statistics available to CLEEN Foundation shows that 83% of security personnel were impartial while 17% of the security agents were some-what partial. For instance, at Uwa Primary School, Ward 10, PU 21 (Oredo Local Government Area), party and security agents were observed monitoring in the cubicle thereby disregarding the secrecy of the balloting system. Furthermore, at John Boys Model School, Fugar, Ward 1, Unit 1, Etsako Central Local Government Area, party agents in the presence of security personnel were observed inducing voters inside INEC voting cubicles guiding voters to the voting points to cast their votes thereby undermining the electoral process. A Similar experience was reported in Unit 6, Ward 6, Esan South East Local Government Area
4.10 Feeling of Safety at the Polling unit: CLEEN observed that 78% of the polling units were safe and secure while 22% were observed to be somewhat safe and secure.
5.0. General Observations
5.1. Misplacement of Election Result Sheet: CLEEN Foundation observed that at Evbiose Primary School, Sagbongida Ora, Owan West Local Government Area (Ward 4, Unit 5&6,), INEC result sheet distributed to the ward was meant for another ward in the Local Government area and this led to the refusal of the voters to vote.
5.2. Deployment of INEC Officials: CLEEN observed the early arrival and setting up of polling units before 8.00am in most Local Government Areas of the state where our observers were stationed. However, in Ekae Primary School, (Ward 2, Unit 10), Oredo Local Government Area, our observers reported that INEC Officials and voting materials arrived later than 10.30 am.
5.3. Conduct of INEC Adhoc Officials: CLEEN Foundation observed that in some polling units, INEC Adhoc Officials allowed voters to exercise their franchise without checking their PVC. For instance, at Unit 3, Ward 3, Etsako Central Local Government Area, some voters were reportedly observed voting without voters’ cards but with National identity cards. Similarly, at Unit 6, Ward 6, Oluku, Ovia North East Local Government Area, Edo State, it was observed that INEC Adhoc staff did not check voters’ PVCs during accreditation and voting.
5.4. Welfare of INEC Adhoc Officials: At most polling units at Oredo and Ikpoba Okha Local Government Areas in the state, CLEEN Foundation observed the issue of poor welfare of Corps members as they protested nonpayment of their training and feeding stipends and threatened not to commence electoral process until they are paid.
5.5. COVID-19 Protocols: CLEEN Foundation observed that most electorates apart from the wearing of face masks, did not comply with all the non-pharmaceutical measures. In most polling units monitored, it was observed that there was no physical distancing and absence of sanitizers. For instance, in Uwa Primary School, (Unit 1, Ward 10), voters were observed wearing facemasks bearing “Edo state Government Logo- Edo cares with disregard for social distancing amongst voters in the unit. Furthermore, in Ward 4, (Unit 19) at Emokpae Primary School, voters did not observe the physical distancing protocol. At Uneme Osu Primary School (Unit 11, Ward 9), in Akoko Edo Local Government Area, rowdiness was observed, and physical distancing protocol was not adhered to. Furthermore, at Ward 6, Unit 8, Esan south East Local Government Area, observers reported absence of sanitizers and thermometers, and physical distancing was not maintained by voters.
5.6 Vote Trading: CLEEN Foundation observed disturbing incidents of vote trading across the state. For instance, In Oredo Local Government Area, Observers noted cases of vote trading at Igbesanwen Primary School, Unit 1, Ward 9. Furthermore, there were reported incidents of inducement of voters within the range of N2,000 to N5,000 from the party agents of the two leading political parties. At Oza Primary School, voters were induced within the range of N1,000 to N5,000 by agents of the two leading political parties. Furthermore, at Agbado Primary School, Ward 12, Oredo Local Government Area, there was mass inducement of voters by party agents. In Egor Local Government Area, at Edaiken Primary School (Unit 2, Ward 8) party agents of the two major political parties were seen inducing voters at all the polling points with the sum of N5,000. Also, in Ward 9, Okhoro, there was massive inducement of voters with an average price of N5,000.
In Ovia Southwest, (Ward 2, Unit 8), our observers at Obaretin Okpon Primary School, reported that there were financial inducements by party agents of about N500 to N700 to voters at that unit. At Olele Junction, (Unit 9, Ward 1, Etsako West Local Government Area), Police officers were observed collaborating with party agents and INEC personnel in inducing voters. In Igueben local Government Area, political party agents were inducing voters monetarily at Usata Primary School, unit 3, ward 4. At Obe primary school, Sagbongida Ora, Owan West Local Government Area (Ward 4, Unit 7), CLEEN observers noted vote trading between voters and party agents. At Army Children School, ward 6, Ovia North East, our observers reported an incident of voter impersonation. At Ujemen Primary School, ward 005, Ekpoma, Esan West Local Government Area, Party agents from the two leading political parties were observed inducing voters within the range of N1,000 to N2,000, while at Esan South East, unit 11, ward 4 , vote trading was observed by both main political parties.
At Etsako West, (Ward 4, Unit 6, & Ward 5, Unit 3) our observers noted massive inducement of the voters by party agents, while at Akoko Edo LGA, party agents were observed inducing voters within the range of N3,000 to N5,000.Similarly in Unit 12, Ward 4, Owan West Local Government Area, our observers reported that a major political party induced voters with N5,000 upon display of their thumb printed ballot papers. At Osafila Primary School, (units 13&14, ward 11), agents of one of the major political parties were observed sharing rice for voters as a means of inducing them. At Unit 25, Ward 2, Ikpoba Okah Local Government Area, party agents were observed sharing snacks to voters towards inducing them to vote.
5.7. Other Technical, Operational & Administrative Issues
CLEEN Foundation observed that in Oredo Local Government Area, most party agents lacked proper identification. There were issues with the functionality of the smart card readers in some polling units. For instance, at Ekae primary school (Ward 2, unit 10,) Oredo Local Government Area, some voters could not exercise their franchise because the smart card readers were not displaying their names. In Eguare Primary School, (Igueben Local Government Area), Ward 9, smart card readers were faulty, which led to delay in the commencement of the voting process. Similarly, at Orogho maternity (Ward 9, Unit 15), the smart card reader was reported faulty, which led to the delay in commencement of the electoral process in the unit.
6.0 Conclusion and Recommendations
Despite the improvements noted in the conduct of the Edo State governorship election by INEC and security agencies, several gaps were noted that could undermine the electoral process. CLEEN Foundation recommends the following to deepen the democratic process and improve election security management in Nigeria as we plan towards Ondo governorship elections in October 2020.
- Should ensure sustained improvement in the distribution of election materials in polling units in subsequent elections to enable early commencement of polls
- There is a need to sustain the awareness creation and voter’s education amongst communities which INEC carried out in Edo State
- Should comply with Covid-19 protocols during the elections and ensure adequate provisions of temperature thermometer, hand sanitisers and other non-pharmaceutical requirements.
- Should ensure training and retraining of electoral officers to enable them to meet with the changing needs of the electorate in Nigeria.
- The prosecution of electoral offenders remains a key issue INEC should carry out to reduce the tendency by political thugs to disrupt elections.
6.2 Security Agencies
- Security agencies should ensure that those arrested for electoral violence should be properly investigated and handed over to INEC for diligent prosecution. This will serve as a deterrent to others.
- There is a need for the investigation and sanction of security personnel who disrupted the election in some areas in the state in collaboration with desperate politicians.
- Impartiality and neutrality of security personnel as reports of security personnel displaying partisanship was prominent in some polling units.
- There is a need for training and retraining of security personnel deployed for election duty on the Covid-19 guidelines produced by the Nigeria Police Force.
Should maintain the peace, be magnanimous in victory and work with all Edo citizens including those in the opposition parties to make the state a better place.