FIDA Nigeria Pre-Election Statement on The Governorship & State Houses of Assembly Elections as It Relates To Women Participation
On Saturday 18th March 2023, Nigerians will exercise their franchise across 176,606 polling units across the country towards electing suitable candidates for Governorship and State House of Assembly seats. This election marks the fourth major election conducted following the enactment of the Electoral Act 2022 after the Ekiti and Osun states off-cycle Governorship Elections and just concluded Presidential & National Assembly Elections conducted on the 25th of February 2023 which was characterized by a lot of shortcomings with several issues ranging from the late arrival of electoral materials at several polling units across the country. The just concluded elections also experienced some technical hitches caused due to failure / slow pace of the bimodal voters’ accreditation system which led to the dis entrancement of a lot of Nigeria Voters inclusive of women, reported incidence of violence, failure of transmission of results from the polling units, which albeit others affected the credibility of the poll.
A major fallout of the elections witnessed women low representation in the forthcoming 10th National Assembly as only 16 female candidates amounting to about 6% won elective positions out of 378 female contestants. We have witnessed only 3 women winning seats in the Nigeria Senate, while 13 winning seats in the Federal Houses of Representative. Comparatively only 3.7% of National Assembly seats were won by women out of the 423 seats declared thus far by the
Independent National Election Commission. 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.
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 alongside forms of violence perpetrated against women in the 2023 Governorship and States House of Assembly Elections through her 77 INEC accredited observers deployed across 66 polling units in the aforementioned four focal States.
An election monitoring tool will be administered by our accredited observers at the respective polling units while leveraging partnerships with other civil society actors in observing, documenting, and reporting women participation and incidences of violence perpetrated against women.
3.0. General Observations/Expectations
i. Low Representation of Female Candidates
Statistics from the Independent National Electoral Commission indicate that about 10,636 candidates are participating in Gubernatorial and States Houses of Assembly nationwide. 419 persons have been sponsored as Governorship and Deputy Governorship Candidates, while, 10,217 candidates are contesting for seats in the House of Assembly. However, only about 1,178 females constituting about 11.07% are contesting as candidates.
A further breakdown indicates that out of the 419 candidates contesting for Governorship seats, only 25 female candidates are contesting, while 102 females are running as Deputy Governorship Candidates, and 1,051 females contesting for seats in the states Houses of Assembly.
We are optimistic that more women will be elected at this level, thereby increasing women representation. ii. Securing the polls:
We expect strategic deployment of security personnel across the176, 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. We observed that from the Presidential /National Assembly elections, only about 26.8% of polling units had more than 4 security personnel, while 22.5% had 3 security personnel, Cumulatively less than 50% of polling units observed had more than 3 security personnel.
This reiterates the call for the sufficient deployment of security personnel to checkmate all forms of Gender Based violence 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 by the revised code of conduct and rules of engagement for security personnel on electoral duty.
iii. Turnout of female voters
We expect that we will witness more participation of women at the polls. We recall that there has been a low turnout of voters at the just concluded presidential and National Assembly with only 26.71% of registered voters actually participated in the polls with about 73.29% abstaining from the voting process. Notwithstanding, this low turnout, we encourage more women to exercise their franchise in the polls while calling on INEC and Security agencies to provide the enabling platform for women participation.
iv. INEC logistical arrangements to aid Electoral Process:
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 the credibility of the poll. We recall that the just concluded presidential and National Assembly Elections were characterized by a lot of shortcomings with several issues ranging from the late arrival of electoral materials at several polling units across the country which led to the dis entrancement of a lot of Nigeria Voters inclusive of women and affected the credibility of the poll adversely.
9.09% of polling units under our observatory had concluded voting and counting of votes had either commenced or ended accordingly at 2.30 pm. However, about 72.7% of polling units visited still had the voting process ongoing as of 4 pm due to the late arrival of the electoral materials or malfunctioning of the BVAS
We hope that the Election Management Body provides electoral materials timeously towards ensuring the effective and seamless participation of women at the polls.
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 factors limiting women participation ahead of the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly Election.
As such, the following recommendations are considered pertinent:
Deployment of Electoral materials (Sensitive & Non –Sensitive) across all Registration Area Centers and polling units timeously is key for an improved political participatory process for women.
Effective collaboration and synergy with other stakeholders especially INEC, Security agencies, and Election Observation Groups should be cultivated and sustained.
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.
May God Bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Amina Agbaje (Mrs)
Country Vice President/National President