POST-ELECTION REPORT ISSUED BY THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION ELECTION WORKING GROUP (NBA EWG) ON THE EKITI STATE GUBERNATORIAL ELECTIONS HELD ON THE 21ST JUNE 2014.
Democracy is founded upon certain fundamental precepts among which is the ability to hold periodic free and fair elections, effective judicial oversight and independent electoral gatekeepers. Elections are important in any democracy as they afford the citizens the opportunity and power to either express their satisfaction with any incumbent leader or political party or display their displeasure with an incumbent leader or political party. Election is a process and not an event. Any attempt to perpetuate irregularities in the electoral process destroys the whole essence of democracy and erodes legitimacy that may be conferred on the elected by the governed. Sadly, Nigeria continues to grapple with challenges caused by an underlying failure to establish and sustain a credible electoral system.
The Ekiti State Gubernatorial Election was held and concluded on the 21st of June, 2014. The election was conducted in all the 16 Local Government Areas of the state. A total of 732, 166 voters were registered to vote while 2,195 polling units and 2,803 voting points were used by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct the election.
The NBA observer group comprised of about 36 observers including the NBA Election Working Group and members from all our branches in Ekiti State. Our team of observers was able to cover all the 16 Local Governments Areas in the State
PREPARATION FOR THE ELECTION
The pre-election environment was relatively peaceful though a few days earlier there were clashes between the supporters of the two of the dominant parties, namely the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). The violent clashes resulted to the death of at least one person.
INEC conducted a training for all election observers on the 9th – 10th June, 2014 in Benin City. It also held briefings with all observers and distributed a list comprising the number of registered voters and the list of polling units in all the 2,195 polling units in Ekiti State. Distribution of observer kits to all accredited observers was also conducted by INEC from 17th – 19th June, 2014 in Ado Ekiti.
Prior to the election, INEC had several meetings with political parties and other stakeholders to ensure that everyone adhered to the electoral guidelines and regulations to ensure a hitch free election devoid of violence and other electoral malpractices.
Security personnel were deployed to the various polling units in good time.
SETTING UP AND ACCREDITATION
The voters’ accreditation exercise for the Ekiti State Gubernatorial elections was scheduled to start at 8:00am. In most of the polling units visited by our team, accreditation began on schedule. Indeed, in Ado-Ekiti, for instance, the INEC ad-hoc staff got to the polling units before the voters. In a few others, the exercise commenced about five minutes behind schedule. In Ward 10, Gbonyin Local Government Area accreditation started at 9:00am in Polling Unit 015. There was no proper set up at Polling Unit 013, Ward 10, Gbonyin Local Government Area and accreditation commenced at 9:30 am.
VOTING PROCESS/VOTERS’ TURNOUT
Voting commenced almost immediately after accreditation in most of the Polling Units visited by our team. Voting started at about 12.30 pm in most of them. The turnout was relatively impressive as in most polling units about 50% of registered voters turned up to vote. For instance, at a polling unit in Ward 10 in the Better Life Area of Ado-Ekiti, out of 1,045 registered voters, 566 of them were accredited to vote and 321 out of 734 registered voters in Polling Unit 008, in Okeyinmi area were accredited.
Voters conducted themselves properly and in an orderly manner.
In most of the polling units visited, INEC officials pasted copies of the register on the walls of the polling units for the voters to confirm their names and thereafter come for accreditation. Voters who did not have the permanent registration card were not allowed to accredit and vote.
COUNTING PROCESS & RESULTS DECLARATION
Voters waited patiently after casting their votes at each polling unit visited for the votes to be counted and the results announced. The counting process was done in a participatory manner in all the locations we observed. In Polling Unit 011 at Ward 05, in Ado Ekiti Local Government Area voters were observed counting along with the presiding officer. In Polling Unit 003 at Ward 02, in Ikole Local Government Area the counting was conducted in public and the result announced in public. This method helped in showing some level of transparency in the different polling units observed. Ballot papers were sorted out according to political parties and the invalid ballot papers were separated afterwards counting was done and witnessed by all.
The results were declared after the counting of the ballot papers by the Presiding Officers in the various polling units. The results were entered into the result sheet and signed by party agents before pasting on the wall of the polling station in accordance with INEC regulations.
Security was commendable. Heavy Security presence could be seen in Ekiti State. In most of the polling units, our team of observers recorded a minimum of three security agents comprising the police and civil defense, in each polling units. The security personnel’s conducted themselves in a civil and orderly manner. There were also military patrols and checkpoints in all the area councils.
Out of the 18 political parties that were set to participate in the election, party agents present at the polling units visited by our team were mostly drawn from PDP, APC and Labour Party. The agents of the Accord Party were only found in a few polling units. The party agents conducted themselves well and worked with the INEC officials and security agents in each polling unit visited.
INEC must be commended for the successful conduct of the Ekiti State Gubernatorial Elections. The elections were generally free and fair. INEC rose up to the challenge and if they keep this up there is hope for the future.
The Nigerian Bar Association Election Working Group observed the following:
Turnout of voters was impressive in all polling units visited.
The security agencies cooperated and mounted effective security in and around the polling units.
INEC officials were not very adequate in most of the polling units visited.
In most of the polling units visited the NYSC ad-hoc staff discharged their duties conscientiously.
In comparison with the last governorship election in Anambra, INEC has improved in its deployment of electoral materials and officials to polling units. However, there is room for better performance in this regard in future elections.
Some of the polling units were haphazardly located especially in the outskirts, setting up polling units under trees in some areas where there were public schools located not far away from the tree. This was inconvenient to the voters and, ultimately the umpires themselves, thereby making accreditation of voters very cumbersome and problematic.
A number of voters complained that they could not find their name on the voters register.
Our Team also observed the presence of under-aged people loitering around the polling units.
Civic education was lacking on the part of INEC and the political parties. We noted that there were instances of elderly and illiterate persons going to cast votes without a clue as to who was being voted for and for what purpose.
The election was generally peaceful as voters conducted themselves in an orderly manner.
Unlike the previous elections, logistic challenge did not characterize the Ekiti election.
Many senior citizens voted in the Ekiti election. We therefore recommend that the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended should be further amended to give Presiding Officers the discretion to create a separate queue for elderly. Some senior citizens had a hectic time coping with younger elements on the queue even though they were allowed in some instances to have the first go. Some of them could hardly withstand the harsh weather and the surging crowds in some of the polling units. The creation of a separate queue for senior citizen will encourage them to remain engaged with the electoral process and continue to perform their civic responsibility.
The Independent National Electoral Commission should accelerate the process of constituency delineation. Some of the Polling Units are located in front of or too close to residential buildings despite the availability of schools and other public places near such dwellings. The location of some of these polling units in front of or very proximate to people’s houses does not make for secrecy of the votes and independent electoral action by the voters. It is important to move such polling stations away from residential accommodation and awkward locations to schools and public places.
The Independent National Electoral Commission should move towards the use of Electronic Voting Machines for elections, as INEC has indicated that it has the capacity to use such process, which it used to collate results in the collating centers.
INEC needs to deploy adequate officials in each polling unit for future elections.
Stakeholder, especially political parties, should carry out more effective civic education to increase the electorate’s involvement in future elections.
The police and other security agencies should have enhanced enlightenment on the various electoral offences so as to have a clear understanding of their responsibilities in this regard.
Dafe Akpedeye, SAN
Chairman Election Working Group