By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
One of the election observers of the just concluded Edo Governorship Election held on Saturday, September 19, 2020, Yiaga Africa, Sunday, scored the outcome of the election.
In a statement with the subject, ‘Process and Results Verification Statement on the 2020 Edo Gubernatorial Election’ signed by Yiaga Africa WTV Working Group, Ezenwa Nwagwu, and Yiaga Africa WTV Working Group, Dr Aisha Abdullahi, also called on the winning candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Governor Godwin Obaseki, and his supporters to be magnanimous in victory, while those other party candidates who did not win to accept the results “because they reflect the votes cast. Yiaga Africa calls upon all candidates, all parties, and all Nigerians to show political maturity and to maintain the peace.”
However, pointed out what it described as a significant rate of procedural infractions around counting of spoilt and counterfoil ballot paper, which it recommended better training for Election Day INEC ad-hoc officials, and added that while these infractions do not undermine the integrity of the process, they are a sign that “Election Day officials’ training can be improved.”
The statement further asserted that the Edo governorship election is an improvement in Kogi and Bayelsa 2019 governorship elections and recommends INEC take all necessary steps to address challenges seen in the election before the Ondo state governorship election on October 10, 2020.
It also encouraged INEC to address logistical challenges observed relating to the late commencement of polls for the upcoming gubernatorial election in Ondo State. In addition, INEC should ensure it enforces adherence to the COVID-19 health protocols in the Ondo election.
“The National Assembly should accelerate reforms to the electoral act to legalize electronic transmission of results as the INEC results in viewing portal deployed for the election has demonstrated how citizens’ access to polling unit results increases the integrity of the electoral process and encourages acceptability of electoral outcomes”, the statement reads.
Meanwhile, the statement commended the Oba of Benin, His Royal Majesty Oba Ewuare II, and the National Peace Committee (NPC) for responding to the call by stakeholders on the threat of violence as indicated in Yiaga Africa’s Pre-election observation report, which the interventions contributed in no small measure to the peaceful conduct of the election.
The statement reads in part, “This is Yiaga Africa’s statement on the official results announced by INEC. On Election Day, Yiaga Africa WTV employed the PVT methodology and deployed 500 stationary observers in pairs to a representative statistical sample of 250 polling units, and 25 mobile observers located in all 18 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in the state.
“Yiaga Africa also deployed 19 collation centre observers to each of the 18 LGA Collation Centres and the state collation centre. This deployment strategy enabled Yiaga Africa to provide timely and accurate information on the conduct of accreditation and voting, as well as counting, and to independently verify the official results for the Edo gubernatorial election as announced by INEC. The process report on the conduct of accreditation and voting, and counting is based on reports from 245 of 250 (99%) sampled polling units.
“Yiaga Africa commends and congratulates the people of Edo state for maintaining peace through the voting and counting and result collation process across the state. Yiaga Africa observed intimidation and harassment of observers, voters and polling officials by party thugs, which led to violent disruption of the voting process in some polling units and likely disenfranchisement of voters in the affected locations. Yiaga Africa also condemns the shooting incident in Etsako Central LGA which led to the death of a citizen.
“In addition, Yiaga Africa observed state-wide disregard of COVID-19 protocols at polling units. Yiaga Africa notes, however, that this election was an improvement on the 2019 Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections. While the election experienced slow commencement of polls, INEC improved in its processes for the deployment and use of the Smart Card readers, posting of election results at the polling units, and upload of polling unit result sheets on the INEC Result Viewing Portal using Z-pad electronic tablets. Yiaga Africa also notes the opening of almost all polling units across the state, thereby providing almost all Edo citizens the opportunity to vote.
“Yiaga Africa undertook Watching The Vote to provide citizens, governorship candidates, political parties, and INEC with independent information on whether the official results truly reflect the ballots cast at polling units. If INEC’s official results fall within Yiaga Africa’s estimated range, then the public, political parties, and candidates should have confidence that the official results reflect the ballots cast in the polling units. However, if the announced results have been manipulated and do not match the polling unit results, Yiaga Africa will expose it.
Election Day Process Findings
“Yiaga Africa’s Watching The Vote observers witnessed accreditation and voting and counting at polling units in all 18 LGAs. Yiaga Africa provided set-up findings in a press statement on Election Day. These process findings are based on reports from 245 of 250 (99%) sampled polling units.
Accreditation and Voting: At 85% of polling units, the card reader functioned throughout the day and in 13% of the polling units, the card reader malfunctioned but was fixed; At 98% of polling units, every potential voter’s permanent voter card (PVC) was checked by the card reader and every potential voter’s PVC was checked against the register of voters. No one was accredited to vote at any polling unit without a PVC; At 96% of polling units, every potential voter’s fingerprints were checked by the card reader; At 99% of polling units, indelible ink was applied to the cuticle of a finger of every accredited voter; At 98% of polling units, voters’ fingers were cleaned with disinfectant (methylated spirit) before the card reader was used to check their fingerprints at the commencement of polls.
“96% of polling units were set up so no one could see how the voters marked their ballot papers. Nevertheless, at 16% of polling units it was possible to see how a voter’s ballot paper was marked when it was put in the ballot box at some point throughout the day; 100% of polling units had a hand sanitation point (hand sanitizer/soap and water); At 20% of polling units, voters crowded the polling officials; In 8% of polling units, there were incidents of intimidation, harassment or violence affecting voters. In 11% of polling units, women were particularly affected by incidents of intimidation, harassment or violence (this includes women as voters, polling officials, security, party agents or observers).
“39% of polling units completed accreditation and voting by the designated time of 2:30 pm, while by 4:30 pm, 94% of polling units had completed accreditation and voting; At 3% of polling units, ballots/ballot boxes were stuffed during accreditation and voting.
“Counting: At 99% of polling units, polling officials showed how every ballot paper was marked to everyone present; At 96% of polling units, an All Progressive Congress (APC) polling agent signed the official results form (EC.8A); At 98% of polling units, a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) polling agent signed the official results form (EC.8A); At 35% of polling units, Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNPP) polling agent signed the official results form (EC.8A); At 11% of polling units, polling officials recounted the ballot papers; At 95% of polling units, the official results were posted for the public to see.
“At 68% of polling units, presiding officers used the Smart Card Reader to transmit results from the polling units; At 74% of polling units, presiding officers used the electronic tablet to transmit the Result form EC8A; An average of 2 in 4 polling officials were women and in 33% of polling units, the presiding officers were women.
“Results Verification: Based on reports from 96% (241 of 250) of sampled polling units, Yiaga Africa’s statistical analysis shows that the APC should receive between 39.1% and 46.3% of the vote; the PDP should receive between 52.5% and 59.7% of the vote; while no other party will receive more than 1% of the vote share.”
Meanwhile, Yiaga Africa said, “The INEC official result for the 2020 Edo State gubernatorial election is consistent with the Yiaga Africa WTV estimate. Had the official results been changed at the ward, LGA or state collation centres, the official results would not have fallen within the Yiaga Africa WTV estimated ranges. Because the official results fall within the estimated ranges, governorship contestants, parties, and voters should have confidence that INEC’s official results for the 2020 Edo gubernatorial election reflect the ballots cast at polling units.
“It is important to highlight that the counting process at polling units was transparent and included representatives from the two political parties that received the most votes: At 94% of polling units, counting had concluded by 4:30 pm; Incidents of intimidation, harassment or violence were reported in only 4% of polling units during counting; Further, at 94% of polling units, APC party agents received a copy of the EC.8A results form and at 97% of polling units, PDP party agents received a copy of the EC.8A results form. At 81% of polling units, party agents from all parties present received a copy of the EC.8A results form.
“INEC’s official results for turnout and rejected ballots are also consistent with Yiaga Africa WTV estimates. Yiaga Africa is able to estimate that turnout is 27.4% with a margin of error of ±2.1% (between 25.3% and 29.5%) while INEC’s official turnout is 25%. Similarly, Yiaga Africa estimates rejected ballots are 1.8% with a margin of error of ± 0.6% (between 1.2% and 2.4%) while INEC’s official result for rejected ballots is 2.3%. These results are consistent.”
However, Yiaga Africa in the statement pointed out what it described as ‘Critical Incidents’ which 23 critical incident reports were confirmed from its WTV observers.
According to it the incident reports captured instances of infractions that could undermine the electoral process which include
Yiaga Africa received and confirmed 23 critical incident reports from its WTV observers. The incident reports capture instances of infractions that could undermine the electoral process. These included: Intimidation and Harassment of Election Observers: Yiaga Africa WTV observers were harassed and their observation materials were confiscated by party agents in Edogun Primary School Hall I, Polling Unit in Orhionmwon LGA and Ozolua Grammar School, Polling Unit 009 of Ward 10 in Ikpoba/Okha LGA.
Others are Violent Disruption of the Accreditation and Voting Process which sporadic shooting leading to the suspension of voting in Idumwongo Polling Unit 5, Ward 7 in Orhionmwon LGA. “The voting process was also disrupted in Obodeko Primary School, PU 003 in Ward 8 of Igueben LGA, where a political party supporter mobilized thugs to the PU to disrupt the process.
“Ballot Box Snatching: Observers reported incidents of ballot box snatching by party supporters in Ozolua Grammar School, Polling Unit 009 of Ward 10 in Ikpoba/Okha LGA and Obodeko Amahor Pri/Sch Unit 003 of Ward 8 in Igueben LGA. In Adesuwa Primary School, PU 001, Ward 08 in Oredo LGA the ballot box was snatched at 2:30 pm, just before the commencement of counting.
“Compromising the secrecy of the ballot: Yiaga Africa received a series of reports of voters displaying how they marked their ballots thereby compromising the secrecy of the ballot. These cases were recorded in Orhionmion II, Edogun Pri/Sch Hall; Obodeko Primary School, PU 003 Amaharo, Ward 08 in Igueben LGA; Uelen-Ujugb Uromi Open Space VI PU 013 and Ward 4 in Esan North-East LGA.
“Interference by Party Agents: Party agents interfered in the accreditation and voting process in PU 001 at Ugbo Wardin Orhionmwon LGA; Ukpato Ward, Evbuosa Pri/Sch Iguemokhua PU, Orhionmwon II. In Ihogbe Secondary School, Unit 006. Ward 5 of Oredo LGA, a political party agent gave a voter a PVC that does not belong to him to vote, the culprit was apprehended by the security.
“Yiaga Africa Observers stationed in Aden River Pri/Sch Aden, Polling Unit Code 010, Ward 08 in Ovia South West reported interference by party agents. A Gang of party supporters in large numbers invaded Eweka Primary School, PU 013 in Ward 03 in Egor LGA carrying their party banners.
“Incidence of Vote Buying: Yiaga Africa observers stationed at Asoro Grammar School, PU 002 in Ward 1 of Egor LGA, reported that party agents distributed cash to influence voters. Similar incidents were also reported in Omo Nursery/Primary School, PU 005, Ward 1 in Egor LGA, where party agents were seen giving cash to voters.
“A similar incident was reported in Adams Int. Sch. Evbareke 1 Polling Unit in Egor, voters openly showed how they marked their ballots. Vote buying was reported in Uromi-Open Space VI, 013, Uelen/Okugbe/ Uromi, party agents were seen distributing cash to voters.
“Vehicles Without Number Plates Seen Around the Vicinity of the Polling Unit: In Ilaba Primary School, polling unit 001 of Ward 008 in Ovia North East, 5 vehicles without plate numbers were seen in the convoy of the Chairman of the Community Youth Council.
“Not Conducting Election: Election didn’t hold in Ajamimogha T Hall I Polling Unit of Ologbo Ward in Ikpoba/Okha LGA. While these incidents are serious and must be addressed by INEC, they did not occur at levels and rates that would substantially undermine the integrity of the overall electoral process or the results due to the large margin between the contestants.”