Post-election statement on the presidential & national assembly elections as it relates to women participation
The Presidential/ National Assembly Elections has been concluded with the Electoral Umpire (Independent National Electoral Commission) declaring Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressive Congress Party (APC) as winner of the presidential elections with 8,794,726 votes constituting 36.61% of total votes cast defeating the other seventeen contestants to emerge victorious. According to INEC records, the total number of registered voters is pegged at 93,469,008 million, however, only 24,025,940 constituted a total number of valid votes cast.
This election marked 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.
Observations demonstrated that the election was characterized by a lot of shortcomings with several issues ranging from late arrival of electoral materials at several polling units across the country, technical hitches 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.
Despite the shortcomings in the political process, we have observed the competitiveness across the four leading candidates which can be attributed to political consciousness and socialization by the electorates. We commend eligible voters and all citizens that participated actively in the process for their commitment and dedication.
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; mainly Borno, Plateau, Kaduna, and Kwara States respectively. Our Observations culminated in the dissemination of our pre-election statements on Thursday the 23rd and preliminary statements on Saturday the 25th of February 2023. FIDA Nigeria through her observations provides a further update on our findings as follows:
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 monitoring tool was administered by our accredited observers at their respective polling units while leveraging on partnerships with other civil society actors in observing, documenting, and reporting women participation and incidences of violence perpetrated against women.
3.0. Voters Turnout
FIDA Nigeria observed from INEC official results made available in the public space that 24,025,940 Nigerians exercised their franchise at the polls from a total of 93,469,008 million registered voters. This indicates that about 26.71% of registered voters actually participated in the polls with about 73.29% abstaining from the voting process. Comparatively the turnout is lower than 2019 where 28,614,190 out of 82,344,107 registered voters voted, 2015 where 29,432,083 out of 68,833,476 registered voters exercised their franchise, and 2011 which witnessed 39,469,484 out of 73,528,040 registered voters performing their civic duty respectively in the presidential Elections. Comparatively in percentiles across the three previous elections, we have observed that about 34.75%, 43.65%, and 53.68% of the total voting population respectively exercised their franchise accordingly. The implication of this dwindling participation underscores the urgent need for the voters register needs to be cleaned up by INEC to enable the country to have an accurate number of truly registered voters.
Matters relating to the timeframe for conducting elections needed to be extended, and the electoral process needs to be improved upon to enable Nigerians on essential duties during elections to exercise their franchise. There is a further need for an improved voter awareness strategy by all stakeholders towards ensuring an increase in the voting population of women.
4.0. Commencement of Polls
Reports from 38% of polling units across our focal states indicated the arrival of electoral materials at 8.30 am. 19.7% of polling units received electoral materials and commenced voting at about 9.30 am. At polling unit 11, ward 10, Baruteen LGA, Kwara State, polls were observed to have commenced at 9:15 am, similarly, at Polling unit 2, ward 4, Kachia LGA, Kaduna State, polls commenced at 9:30 am. Despite this early commencement, voting was observed to have commenced in about 42.3% of polling units between 9:30 am to 1:30 pm. For instance, at polling unit 17, Ward 4, Ilorin South LGA, polls had not commenced as of 12 noon. Further inquest from polling unit 34, Afak, in Igabi LGA of Kaduna State indicated the commencement of voting at 10:20 am, same experiences repeatedly occurred at Polling Unit 002, Ward 002, Barkin Ladi LGA, Plateau State, and polling unit 007, Ward 02, Mafa LGA of Borno State where electoral materials arrived the respective polling units from 10 am.
5.0. Close of Polls
FIDA Nigeria observers reported that as of 2:30 pm, only 9.09% of polling units under our observatory had concluded voting, and the counting of votes had either commenced or ended accordingly. However, about 72.7% of polling units visited still had the voting process ongoing as at 4 pm due to the late arrival of the electoral materials or malfunctioning of the BVAS. Voting procedures were observed in about 18% of polling units after 4 pm. For instance, at polling unit 001, ward 12, Kagarko LGA, Kaduna State, voting was witnessed ongoing after the hours of 4 pm due to heavy rain downpours which impeded the voting process. Similarly, in polling unit 047, Chikun LGA, Kaduna State, quite a large number of persons including women had not exercised their franchise as of 3.45 pm. At polling unit 029, Kurgwi, Shendam LGA, Plateau State, polls were observed ongoing as of 4.00 pm. However, the elections in that unit were canceled, due to the non-availability of sufficient ballot papers and rescheduled to Sunday 26th February 2023.
5.0 Other Major Findings
5.1. Reported Incidences of Violence Perpetrated Against Women:
FIDA Nigeria observed some negative incidences of patriarchal, physical, and other forms of violence perpetrated against women at some of the polling units within our observation in focal states and across the country. For instance, at polling unit 003, Ward 4, Kaura LGA, Kaduna State, men in the polling unit protested and resisted the prioritization of women voting. At Polling Unit 18, Ward 8, Marte LGA, Borno State, there were incidences of physical violence in which women became victims which discouraged and limited their participation in that unit. At polling unit 001, Kawbai, Zaria LGA, we observed that male party agents clearly interfered with the voting process by ensuring that women had voted for only a particular political party.
In Edo state, a lady was shot dead by assailants who shot sporadically at her polling unit while votes were still counted. This incident disrupted the voting process. A similar incident had occurred in the Surulere area of Lagos where a woman was attacked and stabbed by party thugs. She however despite these violent setbacks returned to cast her votes in her polling unit.
5.2. Mainstreaming of Female Electoral Officials:
We observed that in 26.8% of the polling units visited, three electoral officials were provided by INEC. 69% of polling units had 4 electoral officials, and less than 4 % of polling units had two (2) electoral officials. With regards participation of female electoral officials, we observed about 47.9% of polling units had more than 2 female electoral officials, 39.4 % had less than 2 officials, and 12.7% had no female electoral officials.
5.3. Security-Related Observations:
We observed that 26.8% of polling units had more than 4 security personnel, 22.5% had 3 security personnel, 28.2% had 2 security personnel, and 22.5 % had either one or no security presence at the polling units. Females were observed not fully mainstreamed by relevant security agencies in the polling units visited. Statistics from the field indicated that no female security official was seen in about 49.3% of observatory polling units. 33.8% of the polling units under our watch had less than two female security personnel, while only 16.9% had above 2 female security officials. Furthermore, security personnel were found armed at polling units in about 18.7% of the polling units observed, however, in 81.7%, security personnel were not armed.
In 88.7% of the polling units, women felt very secure in the polling units, while women in 9.9% of the polling units, experienced some level of insecurity.
5.4. Partiality of Electoral and Security Personnel:
In 91.5% of our polling units, electoral and security personnel were observed to have demonstrated some level of impartiality, however, there were some concerns about the level of partiality in about 8% of polling units visited. For instance, at polling unit 002, ward 001, Zaria LGA, Kaduna State, An electoral official was observed tampering with the voting process, while party agents were observed also distributing the process with connivance by security agencies.
5.5. Turnout of Female Voters:
FIDA Nigeria observed a large turnout of female voters across 66.2% of the polling units visited. In polling unit 006, Ward 2, Kaiama LGA, Kwara State, and unit 007, Ward 2, Mafa LGA, Borno State, women were observed in good numbers exercising their franchise. Similar experiences were observed at polling unit 07, Ward 4, Ilorin South LGA, Kwara State, and polling unit 001, Katugal, Kagarko LGA, Kaduna State. However, at unit 3, ward 004, Kaura LGA, Kaduna State, a large number of women who had lost their Permanent Voters Cards from the recent attacks and loss of property were not allowed to vote.
5.6. Participation of Under-Aged Female Voters:
In 94.4% of the polling units visited, we observed no incidence of underage voting by Females. However, in 5.6% of polling units observed, underage voting was witnessed. For instance, in polling unit 003, Ward 1, Zaria LGA, young girls were observed clearly below the stipulated age for voting. In polling unit 006, Ijabo ward, Oyun LGA, Kwara State, a similar occurrence occurred.
5.7. Priority Voting for Women from Marginalized/Vulnerable groups:
FIDA Nigeria observed 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 85.9% of the polling units under our watch, priority voting occurred. However, in 14.1% of the polling units, these groups were compelled to join existing queues towards exercising their franchise.
For instance at Polling Unit 001, Magajin Gari, Jema” an LGA, Kaduna State, Priority voting was not observed as women were not given special considerations. A similar experience occurred at polling unit 002, Government Secondary School, Kachia, where a woman with an infant baby carried on her back was not prioritized. However, in polling units 002 and 003, Ward 7 Igabi LGA, an aged woman was observed given priority. In Plateau State, at polling unit 001, kitago in Bassa LGA, elderly and pregnant women were observed to have been provided with a separate voting priority queue, similarly, in polling unit 005, RCM Primary School, Qua’an Pan LGA of the state, the elderly and pregnant women also had a separate voting priority queue. At polling unit 002, Ward 6 Langtang North LGA, Plateau State, women with disabilities were given priority voting. While at Mafa LGA Polling Unit 007, Ward 2, Borno State, older women, nursing mothers, and pregnant women were also prioritized.
5.7.1. Existence of Separate Queues for Women:
In 84.5% of the polling units visited, we observed that INEC ensured separate queues were created for women to exercise their franchise. However such was not existent in 15.5% of the polling units visited as INEC made no provisions, and neither were no forms of enforcement by security agencies. In polling unit 001, RCM primary school Kabwir, Kanke LGA, Plateau State, separate queues were not prioritized.
5.8. Functionality of the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System:
FIDA Nigeria has observed that across most polling units within our purview, the bimodal voter’s accreditation system was functional which aided accreditation and the voting process. In 91.5% of polling units visited, the BVAS Machine was observed functional, however, in about 8.5% of the polling units, women participation was limited as a result of technical difficulty in capturing and recognizing women voters. For instance, at Polling Unit 18, Ward 8, Marte LGA, Borno State the BVAS under captured a large number of female voters which affected voting and left women disenfranchised. Similarly, at polling unit 9, ward 2, Irepolodun LGA, and Polling unit 001, Ward 002, Ifelodun LGA, both in Kwara state, BVAS Malfunction was observed but was later on resolved, which enabled voting to continue. Other incidences occurred in Polling Unit 175, Maisandari Ward, MMC, Borno State, where only one voter was accredited at 12:45 pm due to the slow pace of the BVAS.
5.9. Secrecy of the Ballot /Vote Trading:
FIDA Nigeria observed that the ballot process was transparent and fair in 96.1% of polling units covered by our observers and women voters in more than 59.7% of the covered polling units were observed to have voted in secrecy. Furthermore, women voters were observed to have exercised their franchise in about 97.4% of polling units visited.
FIDA Nigeria observed few disturbing incidents of vote trading across 1.4% of the polling units visited while 98.6% of polling units witnessed no incidences of vote trading. Noticeably in polling unit, 025 Jibga LEA, Zaria LGA, Kaduna State, a leading political party was observed providing women with food items towards swaying their votes. Similarly, at polling unit 011, Kafanchan, Jama’a Local Government, Kaduna State, Security personnel were observed to have colluded with party agents to covertly sway female voters with non-disclosed cash amounts which will be availed upon voting.
In view of our pre-election, preliminary, and post-election observations/findings during the election, FIDA Nigeria recommends the following to the below-mentioned actors towards deepening the democratic process in Nigeria ahead of the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly Elections scheduled to hold on the 11th March 2023:
6.1. Independent National Electoral Commission
- 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.
- Train and retrain electoral officers and ad-hoc staff on current electoral technologies and realities to enable them to meet with the changing needs of the Nigerian electoral process.
- Given the below-average voter turnout in the just concluded elections, we urge INEC to embark on high-level dialogues with key stakeholders including traditional and religious leaders to encourage 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.
- Issues relating to the timeframe for conducting elections needed to be extended from 8:30 am to about 5 pm to encourage more women participation.
6.2. Security Agencies
i). We call on the security agencies deployed for election duty to arrest and investigate all those involved in electoral crimes and in contravention of the electoral act for prosecution;
ii). Security agents 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.
6.3. Politicians and Political Parties
i). Should maintain peace and be magnanimous in victory.
ii). Should work with all Nigerian citizens including those in the opposition parties to improve the governance and well-being of citizens.
i). Should desist from the production of sensational headlines and hate speeches that contribute to increased tension before, during, and after elections.
ii). Should verify and fact-check all information received before releasing it to the public.
iii). 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