FIDA Nigeria Preliminary Statement on the 2023 Bayelsa State Governorship Election
FIDA Nigeria, through her situation room situated at Candelux Imperial Hotel in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, is observing the participation of women and women with disabilities across the eight local government areas of Bayelsa State.
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 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. We leveraged partnerships with other civil society actors in documenting election incidences, promoting the participation of women and women with disabilities at the polls.
The following issues were highlighted as part of our preliminary report:
2.1 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 was 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.
2.2 Existence of Separate Queues for Women
In 17.6% of the polling units visited, we observed that INEC ensured that separate queues were created for women to exercise their franchise. However, such was nonexistent in 82.4% of the polling units visited as INEC made no such provisions, and there was no form of enforcement by security agencies. In polling units 25 & 32, Ward 1, Yenagoa LGA, and Polling unit 04 Ward 10 Southern Ijaw LGA, separate queues were observed, creating an enabling platform for women to exercise their franchise.
2.3 Functionality of the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System:
FIDA Nigeria observed that across most polling units within our purview, the bimodal voter’s accreditation system was largely functional, aiding accreditation and the voting process. In 82.4% of the polling units visited the BVAS Machine was highly functional. However, in 17.6% of the polling units observed, technical difficulties were experienced, limiting women’s participation. For example, at polling unit 8, Ward 3, Ekeremor LGA, BVAs were reported to have rejected some women’s fingerprints and facial recognition. However, such women were observed to have continued waiting to ascertain if they would be considered to vote eventually. From our observations at about 1.50 pm, 5 women who were unable to undergo accreditation were not allowed to vote. Similarly, in polling unit 3, Ward: 11, Kolokuma/Opokuma LGA, reported incidences of BVAs malfunctioning were recorded as they could not capture female voters.
2.4 Vote Trading:
FIDA Nigeria observed a few disturbing incidences of vote trading across 52.9% of the polling units. However, 47.1% witnessed no incidences of vote trading in the polling units. 41.2% of female party agents and politicians were found to perpetuate vote buying across polling units observed. At polling unit 3, Ward 11, Southern Ijaw LGA, women were observed to be induced by party agents towards swaying their votes for a particular party with the sum of N10,000. At Polling Unit 4, Ward 10, Eneware Secondary School, Southern Ijaw LGA, votes were traded between the sum of N10,000 – N12,000 between leading political parties and electorates. In polling unit 25, Ward 1, Yenagoa LGA, electorates were swayed with food items and money. At polling unit 15, Ward 3, Nembe LGA, and polling unit 2, Ward 10, Sagbama LGA, leading parties offered between N10,000 – N15,000 to willing electorates. Similarly, at polling unit 15, ward11, Southern Ijaw LGA, female voters were persuaded to vote for a particular party with a plate of jollof rice and N1,000 only, while other female voters were offered a bucket of rice and persuaded to vote for another party with the promise of a bank transfer after voting. At Polling Unit 25, ward1, female voters were swayed with a promise of N30,000 to vote for a particular party by party agents.
2.5 Turnout of Female Voters:
FIDA Nigeria observed the turnout of female voters who identified their names in about 88.3% of the polling units observed. For instance, more women were seen exercising their franchise at Polling Unit 15, Ward 3, Nembe LGA, Polling Unit 002, Ward 10, Sagbama LGA, and Polling 4, Ward 10, Southern Ijaw LGA, and Polling Unit 59, Ward 05, Yenagoa LGA.
2.6 Under-Aged Female Voters
In 97.1% of the polling units visited, we observed no incidence of underage voting by females, while the same percentage were able to find their names on the voters’ register. However, in PU 008, Ward 003, Ekeremor LGA, an incident of underage voting was reported as a female minor was seen casting her vote.
2.7 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 9.30 am even as the election had earlier commenced by 9.00 am.
2.8 Partiality of Electoral & Security Personnel
In 71.4% of our polling units, electoral and security personnel were observed to demonstrate some level of impartiality; however, there were some concerns about the level of partiality in about 27.6% of the polling units visited.
2.9 Intimidation of Election Observers
FIDA Nigeria recorded incidences of intimidation of her female observers at polling unit .003, Ogboloma Town Square, Ward 11 Kolokuma LGA where the phone of one of the female observers 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 not to report anything she saw or heard at the polling unit, which limited her observation.
We call on security agencies to investigate and arrest the culprits to forestall reoccurrence in subsequent elections.
2.9.1 Close of Polls
We observed that elections were concluded before 2.30 pm 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.
FIDA Nigeria will continue to observe the elections and update the media on her findings, which will be reflected through her post-election statement detailing more on the overall participation of women and women with disabilities. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria. God bless FIDA Nigeria.
Amina Suzanah Agbaje (Mrs)
Country Vice President/National President