FIDA Nigeria post-election statement on the governorship & state house of assembly elections as it relates to women participation
The Gubernatorial / States Houses of Assembly Elections held on the 18th of March 2023 has been concluded with the Electoral Umpire (Independent National Electoral Commission) declaring the results of twenty states inclusive of our four focal states namely Plateau, Borno, Kaduna, and Kwara State. We still await the results of the other states toward having a holistic assessment of women representation in elective positions across the Nation.
This election marked the fourth 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.
Observations demonstrated that the election was an improvement from the Presidential & National Assembly Elections as we witnessed the early arrival of electoral materials and officials which culminated in the early commencement of polls, effective transmission of results from the polling units to the INEC Result Viewing portal, improved deployment of security personnel to hotspot areas amongst others. However, despite this improvement, we observed shortcomings relating to vote trading and voter apathy which affected women participation at the polls.
We commend eligible voters and all women that participated actively in the process for their commitment and belief in the electoral system.
We have observed that within our focal states, some women emerged as winners in their respective state constituencies at the polls. In Kwara State, a 26year old female journalist Rukayat Shittu won a legislative seat at Owode/Onire constituency in Asa LGA. Similarly in Plateau State, Mrs. Happiness Akawu emerged winner and now representing Pengana constituency from Bassa LGA. In Kaduna state, Ms. Comfort Amwe won re-election to represent the Sanga constituency in the Kaduna State House of Assembly. We celebrate these women and hope that this serves as an impetus for the more effective representation of women in subsequent elections
FIDA Nigeria through her situation room situated at Nicon Luxury Hotel, Abuja, the Nigeria Capital observed the participation of women in the elections alongside other forms of violence perpetrated against women across four focal states of our intervention. Our Observations culminated in the dissemination of our pre-election statements on Friday 17th March and preliminary statements on Saturday 18th of March 2023.
2.0 Methodology /Approach
FIDA Nigeria with support from UNWomen and the Government of Canada under the Advance Women Political Participation Project observed the participation of women alongside forms of violence perpetrated against women in the 2023 General Elections through her 77 INEC accredited observers deployed across 66 polling units in the aforementioned four focal States.
An election observation tool was administered by our accredited observers at their respective polling units while leveraging partnerships with other civil society actors in observing, documenting, and reporting women’s participation and incidences of violence perpetrated against women. FIDA Nigeria through her observations provides post-election findings as follows:
2.1 Close of Polls
FIDA Nigeria observers reported that as of 2:30 pm, 47.44% of polling units under our observatory had concluded voting, while the counting of votes had either commenced or ended accordingly. This is an improvement from the Presidential & National Assembly Elections which witnessed only 9.09% of polls concluding at 2.30 pm. 50% of polling units visited were further observed to have had the voting process concluded at 4 pm with only 2.56% of polling units having elections ongoing after 4 pm.
For instance, at polling unit 001, Kafanchan Ward, Jema” an LGA, Kaduna State, voting was concluded at 3.20 pm, Similarly at Polling unit 11, Gwantu, Sanga LGA . Sorting of ballot papers commenced at 3.05 pm after the voting process was concluded. In Kwara State, voting was concluded at 2.30 pm in Polling unit 10, open space, Govt House, Ilorin East LGA. At polling unit 19, ward 10, Ilorin West LGA, elections were concluded at 2.30 pm.
In Borno state, at polling units 10& 44, ward 21, MMC, Borno State, voting was concluded at 2.30 pm. Similarly, at polling unit 10, Naraguta ward, Jos North LGA, Plateau State voting was concluded by 2.30 pm
2.2. Polls Commencement
Reports across the polling units across our focal states observed indicate that election materials arrived at polling units observed between the hours of 8:30 – 9:30 am. 81.4 % of the polling units had the election materials before 8.30 am, 10% by 9.00 am, and 8.6 % later than 9:30 am. This was a massive improvement from the Presidential & National Assembly Elections which recorded only 38% of polling units across our focal states receiving electoral materials at 8.30 am and 19.7% of polling units at about 9.30 am.
Our observations indicate that at polling unit 002, ward 04, Kachia LGA, Kaduna State, Electoral Officials arrived as early as 7.40 am with electoral materials. Similarly, at polling unit 012, ward 02, Kagarko LGA, Kaduna state electoral officials arrived at 7.58 am. In Plateau state, INEC Officials arrived polling unit 001, taagbe ward, Bassa LGA at 7.25 am, At polling unit 008, ward 02, Dalori primary school, Konduga LGA, Borno state, electoral materials arrived at 8.04 am, while at polling unit 008, ward 01, Damboa LGA, INEC officials were sighted at 8.30 am.
We witnessed the early arrivals of electoral officials in Kwara State. For example, in polling unit 006, ward 02, Kaima LGA, and polling unit 007, ward 07, Ilorin West LGA, these officials were seen at 7.40 am and 7.57 am respectively
2.3. Secrecy of the Ballot:
FIDA Nigeria observed that in about 96.2% of polling units, women exercised their franchise freely, while 59% of female voters exercised their franchise in secrecy without interference from party agents. Our observers reported that the ballot process was transparent and fair in about 94.9% of the polling units, while 97.1% of female voters found their names on the voters register.
2.4.Reported Incidences of Violence Perpetrated Against Women:
FIDA Nigeria observed little incidence of patriarchal, physical, and other forms of violence perpetrated against women in 7.1% of polling units within our observation in focal states and across the country. This violence was perpetrated against 11.1 % of women politicians and party agents, while 2.9% of women were observed instigating or promoting violence in the polling units under our observatory.
For instance, at the Kaduna State collation center for Sanga House of Assembly Constituency, INEC Officials were observed being intimidated and threatened to declare a woman as the winner of that constituency.
2.5.Turnout of Female Voters.
FIDA Nigeria observed a turnout of female voters in about 57.2% of the polling units observed. This is comparatively low compared to the Presidential/National Assembly Elections where we experienced a turnout of women amounting to 66.2%. For instance, at polling unit 004, ward 05, Jos South, Plateau State, very few women were observed exercising their franchise. Similar incidences occurred at polling unit 027, tudun-wada, Zaria LGA, Kaduna State, and polling unit 006, ward 02, Kaiama LGA, Kwara State.
2.6. Vote Trading:
FIDA Nigeria observed a few disturbing incidents of vote trading across 8.6% of the polling units. However, 91.4% witnessed no incidences of vote trading in the polling units. At polling unit 027, tudun wada, Zaria LGA, Kaduna State, women were observed been induced by party agents towards swaying their votes for a particular party with the sum of N1,000.
15.7% of female party agents and politicians were found to perpetuate vote buying. At polling unit 21, ward 18, Sabon-gari LGA, Kaduna state, women were observed obtaining food items towards swaying their votes to a leading party. At polling unit 004, ward 7, Ilorin West LGA, Kwara State, female voters were persuaded to vote for another party with the promise of a bank transfer after voting. At polling unit 11, Hayin Mahuta Ward, GIwa LGA, Kaduna state, a leading political party was observed disbursing funds to women.
At polling unit 009, community secondary school, Irepodun LGA, Kwara state, women were being induced to vote for a particular party with an undisclosed sum of money, food, and drinks. Similarly, at polling unit 001, ward 04, Ekiti LGA, women were observed being swayed with food items.
2.7. Security-Related Observations
We observed that only 14.3% of the polling units visited had more than 4 security personnel. This is comparatively low compared to the Presidential/National Assembly Elections where 26.8% of polling units had more than 4 security personnel.
Females were observed not fully mainstreamed by relevant security agencies in the polling units visited. Statistics from the field indicate that no female security official was seen in 52.9%, 30% of the polling unit had less than two female security personnel, while only 17.1% had above 2 female security officials. Furthermore, security personnel were found armed at polling units in about 7.1% of the polling units observed, however, in 92.9%, security personnel were not armed.
2.8. Priority Voting for Women from Marginalized/Vulnerable groups
FIDA Nigeria observes that women with disabilities, the elderly/Aged, pregnant women and Nursing mothers were prioritized in the voting process by INEC Adhoc Officials. Our Observers reported that in about 94.3% of the polling units, priority voting occurred, however in 5.7% of the polling units, these groups were compelled to join existing queues toward exercising their franchise.
For instance, at Polling Unit 003, Airforce Primary school, ward 6, Jos South LGA, Plateau State, and polling unit 05, ward 11, Riyom LGA, Plateau state, priority voting was enforced. Similarly, at polling unit 090, Naraguta, Jos North LGA, only aged women were prioritized. At polling unit 10, ward 21, MMC, Borno State aged women and women with disabilities were prioritized. The same occurrence was witnessed at polling unit 004, ward 07, Ilorin west LGA, Kwara State.
2.9. Existence of Separate Queues for Women
In 84.3% of the polling units visited, we observed that INEC ensured that separate queues were created for women to exercise their franchise. However such was not existent in 15.7% of the polling units visited as INEC made no provisions, and neither were no forms of enforcement by security agencies. In polling unit 001, LGEA Primary school, ward 02, Ifelodun LGA, Kwara State, separate queues were observed being enforced. Similar occurrences were observed at polling unit 3, ward 2, Kaura LGA, polling unit 21, ward 18, Sabon-Gari LGA, and polling unit 01, ward 7, Zaria LGA all in Kaduna state. Furthermore, separate queues were observed at polling unit 008, ward 2, Isin LGA, Kwara State, and polling unit 008, ward 02, Dalori primary school, Konduga LGA, Borno state.
In view of our pre-election, preliminary, and post-election observations/findings during the election, FIDA Nigeria recommends the following to all stakeholders and relevant actors towards deepening the democratic process in Nigeria ahead of subsequent elections.
- Establishment of the Electoral Offences Commission to facilitate in the prosecution of electoral offenders observed to have committed all forms of electoral offenses in contravention of the Electoral Act 2022 (as amended) which will serve as a deterrent to other intending offenders.
- The Independent National Electoral Commission is advised to institutionalize a multi-stakeholder approach towards encouraging the participation of more female electorates and citizens, in general, to exercise their franchise at subsequent elections.
- The voters register needs to be cleaned up by INEC to enable the country to have an accurate number of truly registered voters.
- Security agencies should continually adhere to the principles of impartiality and neutrality toward securing the polls which will help in mitigating electoral violence, especially those perpetuated against women in elections.
- Elected Leaders should be magnanimous in victory and improve the participation of women at all levels of governance.
- The Media should remain professional, neutral, and non-partisan in the discharge of duties.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Amina Agbaje (Mrs)
Country Vice President/National President