The League of Women Voters of Nigeria, a network of Nigerian women in all 36 states of Nigeria and FCT, deployed 120 Observers for observation for the Governorship elections in both Kogi and Bayelsa stares on November 16, 2019. Our network of observers in both states observed closely the electoral process from the opening of polls through the accreditation and voting process till the collation and announcement of results.
In Bayelsa State, there was a massive turn-out of voters across the 8 LGA Areas of the state. The election also witnessed an unprecedented turnout of women, including the aged, pregnant and nursing mothers and women living with disabilities. Our observers reported a fair treatment of women by Polling Officials, Security Operatives and other stakeholders.
For the first time in the history of Bayelsa State, the elections were generally peaceful except in Ekeremor LGA, where it was observed that there were shootings between two prominent political parties but no casualty was recorded. In Nembe, though there were little challenges from party faithful, through the intervention of security personnel they were able to conduct the election peacefully.
INEC logistics was impressive as materials for the election were distributed on time to most of the polling units with slight hitches in reaching the riverine areas due to the inability of transporters to fulfill their own part of the agreement.
The security operatives conducted themselves in a professional manner as they treated observers with respect while they helped to maintain peace and orderliness in the polling units.
Elections in Bayelsa State this time can be adjudged to be more peaceful compared to previous elections conducted in the state.
Our network of observers deployed across the 21 LGA in Kogi State started reportedly early opening of poll units in almost all the polling units.
The average time of opening is 8:00 am with few others opening before 8:30 am.
The INEC officials in most of the polling units observed throughout the state, demonstrated adequate knowledge of the electoral process through their conduct of the opening formalities.
The turn-out of women and participation in the elections was observed to be very impressive. A good number of women were also seen in the election administration such as presiding officers, assistant presiding officers and security operatives in most of the polling units. Women were given separate queues while pregnant women, nursing mothers, women living with disabilities and the elderly were allowed to cast their votes first. However, in Polling unit 002 in Ugwolawo ward 1 Ofu LGA both men and women were seen on the same queue, though priority was given to the aged, pregnant and nursing mothers. It was also reported in PO 002, Ugwolawo ward 1 in Ofu LGA that more women security agents were deployed to the polling units. Same was reported for Onyukoko ward, polling Unit 015 and 016 in Okene LGA.
There was widespread violence in Kogi East and Kogi West Senatorial districts, where women were driven out of the polling units. Lokoja LGA recorded the highest number of incidents of violence in Kogi West with four persons reportedly killed in Adankolo. Violence was also recorded in Ganaja and phase 2 with ballot boxes snatched amidst sporadic shootings with some security operatives giving cover for the thugs to operate. Same was reported in Kogi East Senatorial Districts with incidents of violence recorded in Dekina, Ofu, Ankpa, Igalamela, Omala and Ibaji LGAs.
Generally, the election in Kogi State was poorly secured as the process was taken over by armed thugs and hoodlums after the opening of polls. Armed security operatives were openly seen firing gunshots at polling units to disperse voters while hoodlums had a filled day carting away ballot boxes and destroying some.
Our observers reported that in Ugwolawo in Ofu LGA, an elderly woman was beaten up together with her daughter who stood in her defense of voting for a candidate of her choice.
The League of Women Voters of Nigeria therefore notes the following about the two governorship elections:
- Turn-out of women was impressive in both Bayelsa and Kogi states.
- INEC logistics was commendable in both states, as there were timely deployment of election officials and materials notwithstanding the difficult terrain obtainable in both states.
- Though most of the security operatives conducted themselves in professional manner in controlling the crowd during the elections, some however, failed to protect the elections as hoodlums and thugs were allowed to take over the process with the security operatives watching helplessly as the carnage went on.
- There was vote trading during the elections through a sophisticated network of party merchants, with party agents watching voters closely to interfere in the voting patterns and influence votes for their parties and candidates.
The League of Women Voters of Nigeria therefore, calls on INEC, the Security Agencies and other key stakeholders to hold those responsible for undermining the integrity of the electoral process and prosecute them in accordance with the Electoral Act, 2010 and other extant laws, to serve as a deterrent to others in future elections
The league urges Nigerian women not to be deterred by the violence that took the shine off the elections, but be more resolute to continue to participate in future elections and lending their voices to advocate for peaceful elections in Nigeria.
For League of Women Voters of Nigeria (NILOWV)
November 21, 2019.