FIDA Nigeria pre-election assessment findings on women political participation & violence threats ahead of the 2023 general elections
On Saturday 25th February 2023, Nigerians will exercise their franchise across 176,606 polling units across the country towards electing suitable candidates for Presidential and National Assembly seats. This election marks the third major election conducted following the enactment of the Electoral Act 2022 after the Ekiti and Osun states off-cycle Governorship Elections with attention hinged on the Independent National Electoral Commission (Electoral Management Body) performance in administering the polls.
The International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA Nigeria) has diligently observed situational happenings and pre-election incidents ahead of the general elections. We have observed an upsurge in the total number of registered voters with an increase from 84,004.084 million at the last general elections in 2019 to about 96.2 million presently. This indicates that more citizens are engaging in the political process and have taken advantage of the continuous voter’s registration towards ensuring that their votes count at the polls.
Interestingly, from the total number of registered voters pegged at 96.2 million, Nigeria women/female voters account for about 47.51% of the total number of votes. There has been an increase in the number of female voters from 39,598,645 to 44,414,846 and from 47.14% in 2019 to 47.51% in 2023.
Statistics from the Independent National Electoral Commission indicate that about 15,303 candidates representing registered political parties are contesting available seats in the General Elections namely Presidential, National Assembly, Gubernatorial and States Houses of Assembly nationwide. However, only about 1,557 females constituting about 10.17% are contesting as candidates which is below 13% representation totaling 3,163 in 2019. This has clearly reiterated the fact that Nigeria’s democratic experience has not expanded opportunities for meaningful participation and representation of women in politics and governance and a reduction in participatory elective positions for females.
Our Pre-election findings have indicated that Violence and insecurity, among other factors, contribute to the low level of women’s participation in politics and decision-making in Nigeria.
FIDA Nigeria with support from the UNWomen and the Government of Canada has assessed the security environment of the 2023 General elections most especially across four focal states of our intervention mainly Borno, Plateau, Kaduna, and Kwara states, emphasizing election risk factors that could negatively impact election security, cause electoral violence, and limit women’s participation.
2.0. Methodology/ Approach
FIDA Nigeria with support from UNWomen and the Government of Canada under the Advance Women Political Participation Project will observe the participation of women and forms of violence perpetrated against women in the 2023 General Elections through 80 mapped and selected observers who are being accredited by the Independent National Electoral Commission to identify, observe, document and report incidences of violence against women pre, during and post elections. These trained citizen observers have been deployed across 66 Local Government Areas in the aforementioned focal states.
We developed violence against women in elections perception survey tool which was administered in November 2022, through face-to-face interviews. Enumerators conducted the interviews mainly in the English Language but sparingly complemented with the local Language to facilitate comprehension for the rural residents. Using a stratified random sampling technique, geographic quotas were assigned to ensure the selection of a representative sample proportionately covering most local government areas (LGAs) in the focal states.
Consequently, with the aid of a geographic information system, FIDA Nigeria monitored in real-time the movement and location of Enumerators on the field. In addition, a common WhatsApp group was created to serve as a real-time clearinghouse for raising and addressing concerns or challenges encountered in the field. In view of the foregoing, FIDA Nigeria is confident of the validity of the data generated and utilized for the analysis. This perception largely corresponds to findings from other qualitative sources, including documented sources, the internet, and newspaper report amongst others.
Ahead of the 2023 General Elections, We had further developed an election monitoring tool that will be administered by our accredited observers. We will leverage on partnerships with other civil society actors in observing, documenting, and reporting women participation and incidences of violence perpetrated against women. FIDA Nigeria citizens’ engagement will be made possible through the establishment of a central situation room at Nicon Luxury Hotel, Abuja, the Nigeria Capital where our data analysts will be documenting and analyzing incidences and findings from our accredited observers.
A total of 1,558 respondents who were 18 years and above participated in the survey, The general public are respondents who may not have vast, technical knowledge of the subject matter. Specifically, this group includes artisans, civil servants, youths, and businesspeople, among others.
3.0. General Observations/Expectations
i. Low Representation of Female Candidates: Ahead of the Presidential & National Assembly Elections. We have observed that only few women emerged as candidates of political parties. For instance, out of 18 candidates contesting for the coveted seat, only one (1) is a female amounting to about 5.5% representation. Furthermore, from the 1,101 candidates contesting for 109 seats in the Nigeria Senate, only 92 from this number are females representing about 8.35%. Similarly, only 286 persons out of 3,111 candidates contesting for 360 seats in the Federal House of Representatives are females amounting to about 9.2% representation. Cumulatively only 1,557 females constituting about 10.17% are contesting as candidates for all positions in the 2023 General Election.
ii. Identification of 31 Local Government Areas as hotspots triggering violence against women ahead of the 2023 general elections: FIDA Nigeria through her quantitative surveys had identified key hotspots and areas that will militate against women participation in Borno, Plateau, Kaduna and Kwara states. These local Government Areas include: Ifelodun, Ilorin West, Irepodun, Isin, Kaiama, Moro, Offa , Oke ero (Kwara State). Bassa, Shendam, Riyom, Qua’an Pam, Jos East and Kanam (Plateau State). Zaria, Sanga, Sabon Gari, Lere, Kubau, Kajuru, Kaduna South, Jema”a, Ikara, Giwa, Igabi, (Kaduna State) and Marte, MMC, Damboa, Gubio, Damboa, Bama (Borno State). These identified hotspots have been penciled as high-priority areas and presented to the respective security and peace-building architectures towards effective deployment of personnel and materials towards improving women participation and forestalling violence perpetrated against women.
iii. High Expectations for Peaceful Elections towards increased women political participation: Across the four focal states, the expectations for a peaceful election towards enabling women participation is quite commendable. The overall outlook of a peaceful election in the state is quite impressive, with 69.3% of respondents affirming that position in Kaduna State. In Kwara state, 87% of respondents displayed high optimism for a peaceful election. Similarly in Plateau state, 76.4% affirmed this position. In Borno State, 71.8% shared the same optimism. Elections are expected to be peaceful in Kachia, Kaduna North, Chikun, Kagarko, Kaura, Kauru, & kudan Local Government Areas of Kaduna State. In Plateau state, high expectations exist in Barkin Ladi, Bokkos, Jos North, Jos South, Lantang North, Lantang South, Mangu, Mikang, and Pankishin LGAS. Similarly, Asa, Baruteen, Edu, Ekiti, Ilorin East, Ilorin South, Oyun, and Pategi have an average expectation for a peaceful election. Conclusively, Mafa, Magumeri, Bama & Jere are seen as LGAS with high optimism in Borno State
• Issues that can trigger Violence against Women in Elections: Our pre-election findings from respondents across the four focal states have averagely indicated that many factors could engender violence against women in the election. These include and are not limited to economic hardship(79.8%), discrimination against women (79%), kidnapping (80.4%), assassination (78.9%), ethnic, religious & communal clashes (83%), inadequate presence of security agencies (54.1%), media (62.9%), insurgency (83.8%), party thugs (94.2%) , hate speech (94.8%), issues affecting voters registration/non-collection of permanent voters card (88.7%), discrimination (90.7%), economic hardship (93.4%), court judgment (75%), vote buying (96.7%), lack of synergy between INEC & Security Agencies etc amongst others.
iv. Securing the polls: We expect strategic deployment of security personnel across the 176,606 polling units of the state towards forestalling any form of violence at the polls which will limit the participation of women in the general elections. The deployment of 310,973 police personnel by the Nigeria Police is a step in the right direction however the numbers fall short of the global best practice of a minimum of four security personnel stationed in every polling unit as we may have less than 2 persons per polling unit. We call on other sister agencies like the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Federal Road Safety Corps amongst others to massively deploy their personnel at the polls to checkmate all forms of violence perpetrated against women and checkmate vote-buying that may impede the credibility of the poll. We hope to find security personnel at the polling units identified by their name tags , demonstrate non-partisanship in the discharge of their responsibilities and abide with the revised code of conduct and rules of engagement for security personnel on electoral duty.
v. INEC logistical arrangements to aid priority voting for vulnerable female groups: We expect early deployment of sensitive and non-sensitive election materials at the polling units as well as election officials at the commencement of polls. This will help to promote confidence in the system and improve credibility of the poll. We have observed that the Independent National Electoral Commission has religiously followed her set timetable & schedule of activities sequel to the elections which are in consonance with the dictates of the Electoral Act. We hope that the Election Management Body abides by her 2018 framework on access and participation of persons with disabilities in the electoral process and the provisions of the Disability Act of 2019 towards ensuring effective and seamless participation of women with disabilities, nursing mothers, pregnant women, aged/elderly women and other vulnerable groups at the polls.
vi. High turnout of female voters: We expect that the increase in registered voters will translate to more voters especially women participation at the polls. We recall that at the 2019 general elections, only 28,614,190 voters representing about 35.66% of the total voting population exercised their franchise. We expect that due to increased voter’s awareness and continuous voter’s registration, which has witnessed an increased number of registered women voters to 44,414,846, more women will participate actively which will transcend to an increased voters turn-out at the polls.
vii. Functionality of the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System: We have observed the success of the mock accreditation system to test the functionality of the BVAS across 436 polling units nationwide and hope that the system is well configured towards aiding the accreditation and voting process at the polls. FIDA Nigeria through her field observers will critically observe the functionality of the BVAS across the polling units in the states of our observations
viii. Separate Queues for Women: Towards reducing barriers to women participation in these elections due to cultural and religious factors, we expect that INEC will create separate queues for male & female voters which will provide an enabling environment for favorable participation from female voters.
In light of the foregoing, key actors in the electoral processes particularly INEC, political parties, security agencies, mass media, and Civil Society Organisations need to pay increasing attention to the identified risk factors limiting women’s participation with a view to tackling them headlong. This demands short, medium, and long terms interventions that will address the roots of the highlighted contradictions in a sequential manner.
As such, the following recommendations are considered pertinent:
- There is a need for all stakeholders, particularly INEC, political parties, mass media and CSOs to put in place machinery to tackle all forms of violence perpetrated against women in elections.
- Deployment of Electoral materials (Sensitive & Non –Sensitive) across all Registration Area Centres and polling units timeously is key for an improved political participatory process for women
- Effective regulation of the mass media not just to ensure compliance with established rules and standards, but also ensure enforcement of penalties when such rules and standards are violated, especially with respect to equality of access for all parties and candidates to state-own media outlets, as well as the broadcasting and/or publishing of hate speech.
- Greater attention should be paid to the training, welfare and professionalism of security agencies in providing election security. Issues of logistics, timeliness and adequacy of deployment are of critical significance.
- Effective collaboration and synergy with other stakeholders especially INEC, political parties and CSO should be cultivated and sustained.
- Prompt responses to the early warning signs identified in this report should be seen as a priority by appropriate authorities.
These findings incorporated an assessment of the security environment of the 2023 General elections. It specifically explored the prospects or otherwise of peaceful election that can promote women’s participation, drawing insights from election risk factors that could negatively impact election security and trigger electoral violence against women in elections.
It is imperative that Stakeholders respond effectively to the issues raised in this report ahead of the General Elections across the Nation.
May God Bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Amina Agbaje (Mrs)
Country Vice President/National President