WANEP presents preliminary report on Nigeria’s Presidential and National Assembly Elections

  1. Introduction:

This preliminary statement builds on the WANEP reports issued on the 15th, 16th and 23rd February 2019. A detailed report on WANEP’s engagement throughout the election process will be provided later.

WANEP, as the civil society implementing partner of ECOWAS in the operationalization of its regional early warning and response mechanism (ECOWARN), has been working to promote peaceful elections across West Africa. Over the years, WANEP has also developed expertise in election monitoring, and has implemented Election Situation Rooms (ESRs) in Burkina Faso (2015), Cote d’Ivoire (2015), Niger (2015) Ghana (2016), Sierra Leone (2018), Liberia (2017), Mali (2018), Nigeria (2019) and Senegal (2019) under its Election Monitoring, Analysis and Mitigation (EMAM) programme.

In the buildup to Nigeria’s 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections, WANEP continued monitoring and reporting on human security issues to inform the relevant stakeholders on the threats across the country that might impact the peaceful conduct of the elections. In this regard, WANEP launched the EMAM for Nigeria in October 2018 in preparation for the setting up the Election Risk Analysis and Response Centre (WANEP Election Situation Room).  This was followed by the training of 80 civil society members across Nigeria ahead of their deployment to monitor the electoral process from November 2018 till March 2019.

Ahead of the election day, WANEP published various election related human security reports including weekly highlights, a Policy Brief titled: Ahead of Nigeria’s 2019 General Elections: Dynamics, Vulnerabilities and Resilience; a situation report on the mitigation of threats to the peaceful conduct of Nigeria’s 2019 General Elections and an election related monthly report at the end of January 2019. As part of the ECOWARN outputs, ECOWAS also published a report on transhumance and its implications for Nigeria’s elections. On 15thFebruary 2019, the Situation Room was set up before the postponement of the elections. WANEP issued a quick update on the implications of the rescheduling of the elections.

In order to provide reliable information to relevant election stakeholders aimed at preventing election violence, WANEP developed specific indicators to monitor and report on the conduct of the elections. WANEP adopted the ARC GIS technology developed by the Early Warning Directorate of ECOWAS, which uses mobile phones to send reports to a web-based platform in the WANEP ESR. A total of 114 election observers were trained and deployed across the 36 States of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, including the use of the online mobile application (ArcGIS) that provides real-time information to the WANEP ESR.

Four rooms were set up in the ESR. The first section was made up of a team of data gatherers who received and compiled field-based data and sent same to the analysts who provided early warning reports. The third room comprised Eminent Persons who received information and alerts regarding the conduct of the elections and activated response where necessary, briefed the media on a regular basis on the major issues highlighted in the reports and engaged ECOWAS, the African Union and the United Nations for high-level interventions to prevent election violence. The fourth was the communication room responsible for disseminating information.

The WANEP Situation room was further linked up to the ECOWAS situation rooms on 22ndand 23rd February 2019 through video conferencing for joint briefings with the Early Warning and Political Affairs Directorates of the ECOWAS Commission.

Based on reports received in the ESR, the following constitute WANEP’s observations during the 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections:

  1. Pre-Election Dynamics
  2. INEC’s Preparedness: In accordance with the constitutional provisions and the 2011 Electoral Act, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) published the electoral calendar early in 2018, which indicated that the Presidential and National Assembly elections would be held on 16thFebruary 2019. The Gubernatorial and State Houses of Assembly elections were scheduled for 2nd March 2019. The calendar also enumerated timelines for voter and political party registration as well as other activities aimed at facilitating INEC’s successful organization of the polls.
  3. Amendment of the Electoral Act: WANEP observed that ahead of the polls, the National Assembly adopted an amended Electoral Act on 14thFebruary 2018, which was transmitted for Presidential assent. Some contents of the amendment included revision of the sequencing of the 2019 general elections, which proposed that the Gubernatorial and State Houses of Assembly elections should be conducted before the Presidential and National Assembly elections. These amendments were not signed into law.
  4. Voter Registration: WANEP noted that voter and civic education activities were conducted in various parts of the country with specific focus on marginalized groups including youths, women and persons with disabilities (PWDs). WANEP acknowledges that the sensitization effectively contributed to the registration of new voters and collection of permanent voter’s cards (PVCs). Engagement with the diverse stakeholders especially the PWDs also led to the acquisition of braille ballot papers to aid visually impaired voters for the first time in Nigeria’s history.
  5. Intra and Inter-Party Disputes: WANEP observed that the major political parties witnessed several intra and inter-party disputes especially ahead of the respective primaries which produced the Presidential, National Assembly, Gubernatorial and State Houses of Assembly candidates. Some of these disputes became subject matters for litigation. Weak internal party democracy in some cases was a major source of conflict.
  6. Campaigns: WANEP noted that political party campaigns were generally peaceful across the country. However, campaigns on both traditional and social media platforms were mostly based on candidates’ personalities rather than issues. The two major Presidential candidates did not engage in direct pre-election debate but had separate interviews. The campaigns were not devoid of sporadic incidents in few locations.
  7. The Peace Accord: The National Peace Committee, formed in 2015 was resuscitated before the 2019 elections and this facilitated the signing of the Peace Accord by the two major contenders and other Presidential candidates. The signatories pledged to accept the outcome of the elections and maintain peace and security.
  8. Election security:  Data generated from the WANEP National Early Warning System (NEWS) prior to the elections identified 51 incidents of election related threats in which there were 113 fatalities and 141 injuries. Several potential hotspots were also identified including in Borno, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo, Kaduna, Kogi, Kano, Lagos, Rivers, Zamfara and Yobe States.
  9. Postponement of polls: The Presidential and National Assembly elections were postponed from 16th to the 23rd February 2019. The Gubernatorial and State Houses of Assembly elections originally scheduled for 2nd March were adjusted to 9th March 2019. The political and socio-economic implications of this was humongous for INEC, the political parties, domestic and international observers, civil society, the electorate and other stakeholders.

III.            Election Day Dynamics:

  1. Election administration: WANEP noted that generally the elections were well conducted across the country in spite of late opening of polls in several centers due to the late arrival of officials and materials and the malfunction of card readers. The electorate were observed in many polling stations to have conducted themselves in an orderly manner although some security challenges were reported as well as attempts to influence voters through vote buying. Technical issues were experienced with the use of card readers in some locations.
  2. Security: While the security situation in many polling stations were conducive for the electorate to cast their ballots, WANEP received reports of ballot box snatching, armed violence and intimidation. A total of 38 violent incidents were recorded in the WANEP ESR between February 23rd and 24th 2019 resulting in 36 fatalities. We sympathize with the bereaved. WANEP notes that with the reports of violence and deaths, ballot box snatching and various forms of voter intimidation witnessed in several locations during the Presidential and National Assembly elections, there could be voter apathy in subsequent elections.
  3. Post-Election Dynamics
  4. Result Announcement: While collation and transmission of election results by INEC were ongoing, WANEP urged all stakeholders to desist from announcing unauthenticated results on social media and other platforms.
  5. Recommendations
  6. INEC is encouraged to continue providing regular updates on the remaining aspects of the electoral process in order to assure candidates, political parties and the public of the integrity of the process.
  7. The Security agencies should be deployed especially in flashpoints to prevent the eruption of violence after proclamation of results.

iii.                Election stakeholders should organize an after-action review on the conduct of the 2019 elections to distill lessons learned in view of improving elections with integrity in the country.

  1. The Federal Government and other relevant stakeholders should take note of identified conflict flashpoints in order to take proactive measures to prevent future election violence.
  2. Adequate measures need to be put in place to guard against the disenfranchisement of Nigerians based on religion and/or ethnic profiling.
  3. There is need to strengthen the institutional capacity of National and State Agencies (e.g. INEC, Security Agencies, Judiciary, etc.)  in charge of administering election affairs.

vii.               High-level preventive diplomacy should be conducted with the candidates to maintain peace during and after the counting, collation and proclamation of results.

viii.             Without prejudice to the right to use peaceful and legal means to address election disputes, candidates, political party supporters and Nigerians in general are encouraged to remain civil, keep faith with the rest of the electoral process, and accept the outcome of the results.

  1. Political parties and supporters should celebrate electoral victory in moderation taking into account sentiments associated with elections.
  2. Conclusion

WANEP congratulates the Government and people of Nigeria for successfully organizing the 23rd February elections despite the logistical and security challenges. WANEP will continue to support the electoral process to prevent post-election violence and call on all election stakeholders and the electorate to allow INEC to complete the final phase of the elections.

In the framework of the WANEP/ECOWAS Memorandum of Understanding to implement ECOWARN, its membership of the security cluster of the African Union’s Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC), WANEP remains committed to deploying the ARC GIS election monitoring tool in operationalizing ESRs in other countries organizing elections on the African continent.

Dated 24th February 2019, Abuja, Nigeria.