PRESS STATEMENT BY THE TRANSITION MONITORING GROUP (TMG) ON THE 2023 PRESIDENTIAL AND NATIONAL ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA
TMG OBSERVATION EXERCISE
The February 25, 2023 Presidential and National Assembly elections was keenly observed by The Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) who deployed 774 observers across the 774 Local Government Areas in the country. . This was complemented with the election situation room responsible for data collation and analysis.
As a foremost election observation group in Nigeria, TMG’s approach was compliant to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) guidelines as well as sister domestic and international observers.
The outcome of the election was not surprising to the TMG as it earlier observed undemocratic tendencies play out during the pre-election phase. The lack of internal democracy in the political party processes that produced the candidates of major parties has had a direct bearing on the conduct of the general election. For instance, the procurement of party candidacy at the primaries through vote-buying resurfaced in the general election. Secondly, the violence that accompanied the campaign periods in some parts of the country transcended into electoral violence in a number of places during the presidential election.
Furthermore, political mobilization around religious and ethnic identities have also had a significant impact on the outcome of the election, especially with regards to citizens’ participation and voters’ turnout. For instance, the lopsidedness in voters’ turnout in Northern Nigeria could be attributed to citizen’s dissatisfaction with the performance of the incumbent government to improve their economic, social and psychological well-being. Conversely, unlike in the North where emotive attachment to candidates were minimal, the South-West and South-East recorded huge voter turnout as electorates developed strong attachments to specific candidates along ethnic identities.
Based on the foregoing, TMG’s observation analysis was centered on the following thematic areas which shaped the conduct and outcome of the Presidential and National Assembly elections.
(1) PEACE AND SECURITY
TMG notes that the general conduct of the election across the country was peaceful in most parts, as voting occurred without recourse to violence. Notably, this was also largely occasioned by the deployment of security personnel across the country. Despite these gains, TMG in some cases observed incidences of voter intimidation and suppression, particularly in Lagos and Rivers States. In Lagos for instance, voters were threatened by thugs to vote for a certain party and candidate or stay away from voting completely. Voter intimidation and suppression were also evident in the violent conduct and disruption of polls as recorded in these two states where political thugs carted away, burnt, and destroyed election materials.
(2) VOTING PROCESS, BVAs and IReV
While the voting process was reported to be smooth in some polling units, there were reports of widespread polling irregularities bordering around malfunction of the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) device, poor deployment of sensitive materials, late commencement of the proceeding and outright absence of INEC staff in a number of polling units across the country. Delayed commencement of voting as a result of the late arrival of INEC officials and incomplete set up of polling units were also widely observed. In some polling units, the officials arrived without either stamps or ballot papers leading to prolonged waiting by voters and late commencement of proceedings.
TMG observed compliance with the electoral act provision for voter accreditation using the BVAS device, however, widespread reports of failure I to transmit polling unit results to the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal was reported. 5 . TMG monitored the IREV portal late into the night of Election Day before legislative results started to trickle in. This contravenes Section 50 of the Electoral Act 2022, which aims to minimize human interference and manipulation of polling unit results.
TMG also observed the open and scandalous disregard for the secrecy of the ballot as demonstrated by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Attorney General of the Federation who are expected to be seen to display the highest political decorum. This singular act emboldened other party faithful including the Senate Majority Leader, Orji Uzor Kalu to openly display his thumb-printed ballot paper in contravention to the Electoral Act, 2022.
At the National Results Collation Centre, the INEC Chairman insisted on proceeding with result collation against the request by party agents to confirm electronically transmitted results. The brazen disregard for the Electoral Act provision for the transmission of results electronically undermined the process. . Hence, the credibility question on the outcome of the presidential election is not a product of failure of technology to usher in the needed transparency, but a product of non-application of the technology.
(3) DISPARITY IN NATIONAL ASSEMBLY AND PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION OUTCOMES
The disparity in the credibility level of the National Assembly elections where incumbent governors and serving members of parliament contested and lost across political parties and across the country from that of the presidential election points further to the efficacy of the system when applied as it should be. TMG believes this to be a direct manipulation of outcome of the presidential election than that of the legislative election.
TMG wishes to emphasize its belief in the digitization of the electoral process in Nigeria and calls for sustenance and advancement of the process. For instance, the BVAS was seen to minimize the scale of rigging that could have occasioned the election by curtailing issues of over voting. TMG strongly support continuous use and further introduction of technology to improve the electoral system in Nigeria.
(4) CITIZENS’ AND SECURITY AGENTS ENGAGEMENT
The Transition Monitoring Group observed the enthusiasm demonstrated by the Nigerian citizens and commend the good conduct and orderly behaviour even in situations where elections commenced late. TMG noted the support provided by citizens in places where network and other technical challenges were experienced. In some other places, citizens defied the rain and remained put at their poling units to cast their votes.
TMG commends the professionalism displayed by the security agencies in most of the polling units across the country as in most cases they responded swiftly in areas where disruptions were reported. This notwithstanding, TMG raises concerns where politically exposed individuals used security personnel attached to them to commit electoral infractions. TMG also notes and commends the arrests that were made and urge for prosecution of electoral offenders no matter who is involved.
TMG also commends the commitment of domestic and international observers as well as the media for conducting their work in the most professional manner without interfering with election procedures.
- Strict adherence to the Electoral Act 2022 must be observed to ensure electoral credibility in Nigeria.
- Electoral offenders of any kind must be punished under the laws of the country to dissuade other from perpetrating electoral offences in Nigeria
- Those caught in the act of openly intimidating and suppressing voters at polling units must be brought to book no matter how highly placed they are.
- The impunity of the state governors during elections must be addressed through legal means to reduce their overbearing interference in elections.
- INEC must review all evidence of electoral malpractices presented before it
- Political party and party processes must be reformed to tackle issues of money bags and godfatherism in Nigeria’s politics. Where the political parties fail to get it right, it is absolutely impossible for Nigeria to get its general election right.
- Issue-based campaigns must take root in the political process in Nigeria rather than rely on identity mobilization of voters. The place of debates must take legal place in the system to create room for healthy discussion and citizens’ accountability.
(8) EFCC And ICPC should continue with their good work to reduce the commercialization of vote buying and arrest both the enablers, middlemen, and receivers during the upcoming elections.
In conclusion, TMG states unambiguously that the conduct of the 2023 Presidential and National Assembly elections were poor, especially the insistence of the commission to jettison immediate result transmission from polling units across the country. This singular act has given room for suspicion of human interference and manipulation of results and could truncate the will of the people as freely expressed at the poll.
The 2023 general elections were expected to usher in a much more improved and digitized electoral process in Nigeria. It is in this regard that INEC received an unprecedented whooping sum of 355 billion Naira to conduct a credible election. Despite this humongous financial commitment, and the incredible support received from the international community and civil society organisations, INEC failed to deliver on a straightforward mandate of meeting the expectations of Nigerians.
As we approach the gubernatorial and state assembly elections, TMG is urging citizens to not let their spirits be dampened, and to turn out in large numbers to elect their governors and lawmakers peacefully. TMG is also urging INEC to redeem itself by conducting a much more credible election on March 11, 2023 across the country.
Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani)