FIDA Nigeria Post–Post-Election Statement on the 2023 Bayelsa State Governorship Election
The Bayelsa State Governorship Elections has been concluded as the Electoral Umpire (Independent National Electoral Commission) declared Senator Duoye Diri of the People’s Democratic Party having secured the total number of votes cast at the polls as the winner of the elections. From INEC records already in public domain, Senator Duoye Diri with 175,196 votes defeated the other fifteen contestants to emerge as the winner with Chief .Timipre Sylva from the All Progressive Congress (APC) coming up second with 110,108 votes.
It is important to note that democracy thrives when security of life and property as well as safety of the electorate, electoral officials, materials and critical infrastructures are guaranteed before, during and after elections. The outcomes of this election aligns with our preliminary statements / findings which indicated that the elections were generally peaceful with adequate security and logistical arrangements provided by the security agencies and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Observations demonstrated that, while the election was an improvement from the Presidential & National Assembly Elections in terms of effective transmission of results from the polling units to the INEC result viewing portal (IREV) and improved deployment of security personnel to hotspot areas, the election was marred with vote trading and voters apathy which affected women participation at the polls.
Our observation further indicates that the election was marred with late arrival of electoral officials and materials as only 28.6% of polling units had sensitive and non-sensitive materials as at 8.30am. However, despite this challenge, FIDA Nigeria commends eligible voters and all citizens of the state that participated actively in the process for their commitment and dedication and the security agencies especially officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force for their dedication and commitment to free and fair elections.
FIDA Nigeria through her election data analytical centre situated in Abuja observed the participation of women and persons with disabilities at the Bayelsa State Governorship Election which held on Saturday 11 November 2023 through trained accredited observers deployed across the eight Local Government Areas of Bayelsa State. Our Observations culminated in the dissemination of our pre-election statements on Friday 10th and preliminary statements on Saturday 11th of November 2023.
FIDA Nigeria with support from the Canada Fund For Local Initiatives (CFLI) under the “Enhancing Women and Women with Disabilities Participation & Representation in the Political Process & Governance project” observed the participation of women and women with disabilities at the polls through 20 trained accredited stationary and roving election observers who were deployed across the 8 Local Government Areas of Bayelsa State. An election observation tool was developed and our approach in observation was both qualitative and quantitative as we leveraged on partnerships with other civil society actors in documenting election incidences promoting participation of women and women with disabilities at the polls.
3.0 Election Statistics
FIDA Nigeria through her observations provides a further updates on our findings as follows
3.1. Low Turnout of Voters:
FIDA Nigeria observed from INEC official results that 291,212 persons exercised their franchise at the polls from a total of 1,056,862 million registered voters in the state. This indicates that about 27.55% of registered voters actually participated in the polls with about 72.45% abstaining from the voting process, the lowest since 2011.the turnout is lower than 2019, 2015, and 2011 Governorship Elections where about 54.83%, 35.15%, and 78.90% of the total voting population respectively exercised their franchise accordingly. The implication of this outcome means that more female voters who constituted about 46% of female registered voters in this election did not exercise their franchise.
We believe that threats and perpetration of physical violence pre-election militated against women participation in the polls Consequently, there needs to be an improved voter’s awareness strategy by all stakeholders towards ensuring an increase in the voting population in subsequent elections.
3.2. Close of Polls
FIDA Nigeria observers reported that as at 2:30pm, 80% of polling units under our observatory had concluded voting, while counting of votes had either commenced or ended accordingly. However , elections were concluded before 2.30pm with counting of votes and results announced in polling unit 4 , ward 10, Eneware secondary school, Southern Ijaw LGA and Polling unit 10, ward 04, Agboiri primary school, Yenagoa LGA which casts credibility on the voting process.
3.3. Accessibility to Polling Units by Women With Disabilities
FIDA Nigeria observers reported that 88.2% of her polling units were accessible by women with disabilities as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were observed providing basic equipments to aid voting. However, the turnout of women with disabilities in the elections were abysmally low.
3.4.. Secrecy of the Ballot.
FIDA Nigeria observed that the ballot process was transparent and fair in 82% of polling units covered by our observers, while female voters in 41.2% of the covering polling units voted in secrecy. Our observers reasonably noted the election was free and fair in polling units except with the incidents of vote buying occurring in 52.9% of the polling units by leading political parties between the sum of N5, 000 to N30,000 respectively.
3.5. Reported Incidences of Violence Perpetrated Against Women:
FIDA Nigeria observed little incidence of patriarchal, physical confrontation and other forms of violence perpetrated against women in 23.5% polling units within our observation in focal states and across the country. Intimidation and threats to female voters and observers occurred in about 17.6% of polling units, verbal assaults and physical assaults occurred in 5.9% of observed polling units. For example in polling unit 003, Ogboloma Town Square. Ward 11, Kolokuma LGA, the phone of one of our female observer was confiscated by the representative of one of the leading parties at the polling center.
In PU No 015, Ward No:11, Southern Ijaw LGA, a female observer also reported intimidation by party agents warning her to not report anything she saw or heard at the polling unit which limited her observation.
At polling unit 10, ward 04, Agboiri primary school, Yenagoa LGA, gunshots were shot sporadically during the voting process to scare women and vulnerable groups from participating at the polls
We call on security agencies to investigate and arrest the culprits to forestall re occurrence in subsequent elections.
3.6. Security-Related Observations
We observed that only 42.9% of the polling units visited had more than 4 security personnel, 19% had 3 security personnel, 19% had 2 security personnel, and 19% had either one or no security presence at the polling units. Females were observed being mainstreamed by relevant security agencies in the polling units visited. Statistics from the field indicate that 47.6 of the polling units observed had two female security officials, while 23.8% of the polling unit had less than two female security personnel,. Furthermore, security personnel were found armed at polling units in about 4.8% of the polling units observed, however, in 95.2%, security personnel were not armed. In 94.1% of the polling units observed, women were seen to be secure and safe , with 4.8% having relative insecurity issues.
For example at polling unit 10, ward 04, Agboiri primary school, Yenagoa LGA, we witnessed the presence of four female security personnel manning the polling unit. A similar occurrence was witnessed at Polling unit 32, ward 01, Yenagoa LGA, where two security personnel were observed securing the polls. At polling unit 005, ward6, Yenagoa LGA , three security personnel were observed securing the polls. At Polling unit 3, Ward 06, Yenagoa LGA, unarmed security personnel (6 female and 2 male) were observed.
However there was no presence of security personnel at Polling unit 021, ward 11, Ogbia LGA as at 9.30am even as election had earlier commenced by 9.00am.
3.7. 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 76.25% of the polling units, priority voting occurred and were enforced by Adhoc Officials. In polling unit 8, ward 3, Ekeremor LGA, Polling Unit 4 , ward 10, Eneware Secondary School, Southern Ijaw LGA, Polling unit 10, ward 04, Agboiri Primary School, Yenagoa LGA and polling units 21, ward 11, Ogbia LGA, pregnant women , nursing mothers and the elderly were prioritized and exercised their franchise accordingly.
In view of our pre-election, preliminary and post-election observations/findings during the election, FIDA Nigeria recommends the following to deepen the democratic process in Nigeria ahead of subsequent off-cycle Governorship elections in Edo and Ondo State in 2024 and the general elections in 2027:
4.1. Independent National Electoral Commission
- Establishment of the Electoral Offences Commission to facilitate in the prosecution of electoral offenders observed to have committed any form of electoral offence in contravention of the Electoral Act 2022 (as amended) which will serve as deterrent to other intending offenders.
- For future elections in Bayelsa state and given the below average voter turnout in the concluded Governorship Election, 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 nation have an accurate number of truly registered voters.
4.2. Security Agencies
- We call on the security agencies deployed for election duty to arrest and investigate all those involved in vote buying, and perpetuating violence in different parts of the state for prosecution;
- Should continually adhere to the principles of impartiality and neutrality toward securing the polls which will help in mitigating violence perpetuated especially against women in elections.
4.3. Politicians and Political Parties
i) Should maintain peace and be magnanimous in victory.
ii) They should work with all Bayelsa State citizens including those in the opposition parties to improve the governance of the state.
- They should desist from the production of sensational headlines and hate speeches that contribute to increased tension before, during and after elections;
- They should verify and fact-check all information received before releasing to the public
- They should remain professional, neutral and non-partisan in the discharge of duties
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
God bless FIDA Nigeria
Amina Agbaje (Mrs)
Country Vice President/National President