By Ralph Madugu
The just concluded presidential and National Assembly elections have been described as a “missed opportunity,” that calls for INEC to be “fundamentally reformed.”
Yiaga Africa, a non-profit organization committed to the promotion of democratic governance, human rights and civic engagement made this declaration in a document released in the aftermath of the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections.
In the document titled, “Post-Election Statement on the 2023 Presidential Election,” made public in Abuja, Yiaga Africa said:“Once again, the 2023 Presidential and National Assembly elections were a missed opportunity.”
According to the body, factors ranging from logistical and technological shortcomings, non-compliance with electoral guidelines, lack of transparency and manipulation of election results undermined public confidence in INEC and the overall outcome of the elections.
It added that the integrity of electoral outcomes was influenced by processes and procedures stating that a compromised process would produce questionable outcomes.
Yiaga Africa listed late arrival of INEC officials and delayed commencement of polls, challenges with locating polling units, deployment of security personnel, insufficient election materials and the functionality of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) as some of its key findings on the election day process.
On voter turnout projection, the organization said it had estimated a national voter turnout of 29.4 per cent for the presidential election based on registered voters and 31.3 per cent for the national assembly polls based on the number of Permanent Voters Card collected.
It added that it had projected that the percentage of rejected ballots would be 3.6 per cent.
According to the document, Yiaga Africa’s findings on resultsbased on reports from 97 per cent of sampled polling units, its statistical analysis indicated that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) would receive between 34.4 per cent and 37.4 per cent of the vote while the Labour Party (LP) would receive between 24.2 per cent and 28.4 per cent of the votes.
The New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) would receive between 4.6 per cent and 6.4 per cent of the vote while the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) would score between 28.3 per cent and 31.1 per cent of the vote, while no other political party would receive more than 0.3 per cent of the vote.
The body explained that the numbers did not reflect voters who were denied access to vote either through delay in election logistics or cases of violence and voter intimidation.
Citing cases of inconsistencies in results, Yiaga listed the state-level presidential results for Imo and Rivers as cases of inconsistences in results.
“For Rivers, INEC announced 231,591 votes for APC or 44.2%; 175,071 for LP or 33.4%; and 88,468 for PDP or 16.9 per cent. This is in sharp contrast to the Yiaga Africa WTV estimates for Rivers.
“For Imo, INEC announced 66,406 for APC or 14.2 per cent; 360,495 for LP or 77.1 per cent; and 30,234 for PDP or 6.5 per cent.”
While calling for a comprehensive audit and investigation into the factors that led to the delay in the upload of election results on the online portal, Yiaga Africa advocated for sanctions on all persons found complicit in sabotaging critical aspect of the election.
“INEC should clarify the inconsistencies in some of the results especially Presidential election results from Rivers and Imo states.”
The body also recommended for an extension of voting hours and increased voter participation in subsequent elections.
It also recommended the introduction of legal timelines in the nation’s electoral legal framework for testing new electoral technologies.
“INEC should provide clarifications on its interpretation of key aspects of the legal framework on issues like results collation and transmission process, the threshold for determining the winner in an election and the commission’s power to review election results declared under duress or in contravention of the Electoral Act, INEC guidelines and Manual.
“INEC should sustain the uploads of polling unit results form EC 8A on its IReV portal.
“Conclusion Once again, incremental reforms have failed to inspire confidence in the electoral commission and the electoral process.
“The inconsistencies in presidential election results for states like Imo and Rivers make abundantly clear drastic steps are now needed and INEC must be fundamentally reformed. INEC must have authority over its state structures and have ultimate responsibility for the conduct of elections.”