Thursday, 17 January 2019

WHY SIMULTANEOUS ACCREDITATION AND VOTING IS CRITICAL FOR THE 2019 NIGERIAN GENERAL ELECTIONS


On Monday 14th January 2019, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released its Guidelines for the conduct of the 2019 Nigerian Elections. However there have been some controversies surrounding the ‘Guidelines’ with some political parties insisting that certain adjustments need to be made to the document to permit the document to be used for the conduct of the forthcoming elections. It should be noted that INEC has taken into consideration most of the observations made by the various stakeholders (including the political parties). However one of the major areas of concern for the aggrieved political parties is INEC’s insistence to continue with Simultaneous Accreditation and Voting system (SAVs) for Election Day conduct.
Election Monitor has prepared this article to shed more light on why it is germane that INEC apply the Simultaneous Accreditation and Voting system for the 2019 Nigerian General Elections.

To begin with the Simultaneous Accreditation and Voting system was first used (with the smart card reader) in the Bayelsa State Governorship Rerun Election of 9th January 2016. This was done as a result of the violence which occurred in the 5th December 2015 Bayelsa Governorship Election. There were 157,490 registered voters who were affected by cancellations and Southern Ijaw LGA was unable to hold elections in its entirety.


The rerun was slated for the 9th January 2016. However, the date of expiration of the serving governor’s first term was 14th February 2016 meaning that the last date that INEC could conduct elections in Bayelsa was 14th January 2016. Since the rerun was on the 9th January 2016, it left INEC with very little room if violence repeated itself again during the rerun (since the last date for election conduct was on the 14th January 2016). It therefore became very necessary to devise a more efficient way to conduct the election to ensure that activities were conducted more efficiently and during the day because of the security implications and the riverine nature of most of the 4 LGAs, 16 RAs/Wards and 160 polling units (with 120 polling units in Southern Ijaw LGA alone) which were cancelled and lead to the rerun.  INEC in its wisdom and with recommendations from stakeholders decided to pilot the Simultaneous Accreditation and Voting system in the Bayelsa Governorship Re-run Election 2016. The pilot was a huge success and this lead to INEC formally making the Simultaneous Accreditation and Voting system a part of its guidelines for the conduct of elections. This was made known to the public via many media engagements as well as in the Commission’s regular meetings with political parties, civil society, the media and other stakeholders. The INEC bulletin dated 26th April 2016 Volume 1, No. 840 clearly shows the Commission’s intention to deploy Simultaneous Accreditation and Voting system in subsequent elections.  


INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION

DAILY
BULLETIN
 VOLUME:     1         N0.:      840                          DATE: 27 / 04 / 2016

INEC RELEASES SUPPLEMENTARY GUIDELINES AND REGULATIONS FOR CONDUCT OF ELECTIONS

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has released additional guidelines to the existing 2015 Guidelines and Regulations for the conduct of elections in the country.  

Having approved the pilot of the Continuous Accreditation and Voting Procedure at elections, for the time being, the Commission has decided that the following shall constitute a supplement to the existing guidelines and regulations at elections.

The Commission stressed that: “all procedures specified in the Guidelines and Regulations for the Conduct of the 2015 General Elections remain in effect with the following exceptions:

a)   Voting shall be by the Continuous Accreditation and Voting System;
b)   The accreditation process shall comprise authentication and verification of voters using the Smart Card Reader (SCR), checking of the Register of Voters, and inking of the cuticle of the specified finger;
c)   The ballot paper shall be issued in the prescribed manner by the Presiding Officer of a Polling Unit/Voting Point (Settlement) of the FCT, and the Assistant Presiding Officer, APO (VP), in the case of a Voting Point (VP).
d)   Accreditation and Voting shall commence at 8.00 am and close at 2.00 p.m. provided that any voters already in the queue shall be granted access to Accreditation and Voting in the prescribed manner.
e)   The Polling Unit layout shall require the Presiding Officer to sit next to the APO II;
f)     The Presiding Officer shall act as the Overseer.


It is important to ask why a procedure which has been in place since 2016 is just been challenged in 2019 just under a month to the first set of elections. It is also instructive to note that this procedure has been used to conduct elections in 6 off-cycle governorship elections as well as over 180 constituency elections since 2015. A plethora of political parties have been involved in these elections and at no time was there any suggestion that this procedure was in any way adverse to the conduct of free, fair and credible elections. Therefore INEC cannot be blamed for going ahead with this procedure going into the 2019 Nigerian General Elections.

However there are some pertinent reasons why Election Monitor is of the opinion that the Simultaneous Accreditation and Voting procedure as provided by INEC in its 2019 General Elections Guidelines is in order. It should be noted that all these points were obtained as a result of Election Monitor’s observation of a plethora of elections in which this procedure was used. The remainder of this article will focus on the improvements that the Simultaneous Accreditation and Voting system has brought to the Nigerian electoral process. 

To start with, it’s important to note that since the introduction of Simultaneous Accreditation and Voting, elections have experienced much faster closing times. The table below shows the observed (by Election Monitor Accredited Election Observer Group) closing times in some recent governorship elections in Nigeria where this procedure was utilized. 

State Governorship Elections
Percentage of polling units which closed by the stated times
Ondo 2016
98.5% polling units by 3pm
Anambra 2017
91.8% polling units by 3pm
Ekiti 2018
81.3% polling units by 3pm
Osun 2018
89.7% polling units by 4pm





Clearly it can be seen that since the adoption of the Simultaneous Accreditation and Voting system that elections are closing much earlier. This is certainly a far cry from elections in 2015 and earlier where sometimes voting gets concluded in the early evening or in some cases even at night.

The second major issue relates to the difference between the total number of accredited voters and total votes cast in elections. The chart below shows that on average 93% of voters returned to vote after accreditation during the 2015 Nigerian General Elections. This is not encouraging in any way because it means 7% of accredited voters (i.e. 2,222,254 people) did not come back to vote after they were accredited. Considering that the difference between the runner up and winner of the presidential election was 2,571,759, this number of people if they had voted could have had a significant effect on the election. There was clearly apathy amongst voters in some locations who may have not bothered to return back to vote especially in places where voting went on into the night. It is therefore very important that this gap is reduced as much as possible going forward. A simultaneous accreditation and voting procedure would certainly significantly contribute towards ensuring more voter inclusive elections since many more citizens would actually vote.  

Chart showing voters who returned to vote after accreditation during the 2015 Nigerian General Elections



Thirdly, it is also important to state that the INEC Smart Card Reader shows the number of accreditations at any point in time. The implication of this is that political parties via their agents could confirm the number of voters accredited from the smart card reader display. As a result party agents could track the accreditation themselves and raise alarm when there are any observed discrepancies. Having this understanding would clearly show that there is no need to separate accreditation and voting. As a result of this, the political parties do not need to entertain any fear about total number of accredited voters, as long as they have functional and competent party agents in each polling unit.


INEC Smart Card Reader display (this snapshot was taken during the 2016 Edo State Governorship Election)




Another important issue is the citizen perception of the Simultaneous Accreditation and Voting system which should be considered above every other stakeholder. It is important to note that democracy is first to serve the people and for this reason the will of the people is paramount. If voters are saying that a procedure is more convenient for them then it behooves all stakeholders to consider the will of the people above that of any other stakeholder. Below are charts showing the results of surveys conducted by Election Monitor observers in recently concluded governorship elections (Ondo 2016, Anambra 2017, Ekiti 2018 and Osun 2018). The focus of the surveys was to discover whether the citizens prefer the Simultaneous Accreditation and Voting system or the old system where there was a dichotomy of both activities. Clearly from these charts Nigerian citizens are in significant support of this procedure and it is only appropriate that INEC deploy this system in the 2019 General elections in line with the will of the voters.


Ondo 2016



Anambra 2017


Ekiti 2018


Osun 2017


The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has also recently begun the deployment of the enhanced smart card reader. The most significant impact of this is the drastic reduction of finger print rejection rates seen in elections where these card readers have been used. For example Election Monitor accredited election observation group observed some polling units with a very high finger print rejection rate during the 2016 Edo State Governorship Election (some over 30%). However fast-forward to Ekiti and Osun Governorship elections of 2018, EM observers didn’t find any polling unit with a finger rejection rate of upto 3%. Clearly the enhanced smart card readers are contributing to voter inclusion and more effective and transparent conduct of elections.


There have also been some claims that overvoting would be more difficult to track using the Simultaneous Accreditation and Voting system. However the facts don’t support this. In fact overvoting has become very easy to identify which has lead to many election riggers abandoning the idea. For example looking at the 2017 Anambra Governorship Election there were 113,682 voters who were affected by cancellations. Because the elections were very peaceful most of these cancellations related to overvoting and other non-violent election malpractices. This clearly shows that every attempt at overvoting would be nullified and have no effect on the election. Consequently no political party would need to entertain any fear about overvoting being more pervasive using the Simultaneous Accreditation and Voting system because this system actually ensures that overvoting is always detected and therefore has no way of influencing the election outcome. Perhaps this may have also contributed to the significantly reduced number of cancellations in the Ekiti and Osun 2018 governorship elections. In fact the Osun 2018 Governorship election was reported to have only one case of overvoting out of 3010 polling units where elections were conducted. From all of these it is clear that incidences of overvoting would not increase as a result of the implementation of Simultaneous Accreditation and Voting system in the 2019 Nigerian General Elections.



It’s also important to state that the views of all political parties need to be considered not just a large number of the political parties. This is because there may be coalitions within the political parties which have a particular political leaning. While these may be numerically large they may not represent the spread of other political parties which have smaller coalitions or even no coalition at all. So INEC would be expected to have taken into consideration the spread of opinion and not just the number of political parties who have an opinion. Clearly INEC’s final released guidelines for the 2019 General Elections has taken into consideration the broad opinions of most of the political parties while considering other stakeholders and the ultimate impact on the entire electoral process.  

In summary it is Election Monitor’s considered opinion that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has not erred by maintaining Simultaneous Accreditation and Voting system in its Guidelines for the 2019 General Elections in Nigeria. Election Monitor actually expects this procedure to actually make the upcoming elections much more credible and efficient.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

RE: SHOCKER: ‘13.5m Nigerians’ voted manually in 2015 presidential poll — and APC got most of those votes – Why this conclusion is misleading


Original article available at: 


The above written article makes a bold case that 13.5m Nigerians voted manually in 2015 and that this largely favoured the APC. The main argument put forward is that the states which were won by the APC had the highest number of PVC only accreditations which it refers to as manual accreditations. The following paragraphs is lifted directly from the said article. “Out of this number, 10,184,720 votes are from states won by Buhari and 3,351,591 votes came from states won by Jonathan, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, representing 75 percent and 25 percent of accredited voters respectively.” This simplistic approach gives an impression that one party overwhelmingly benefitted from manual accreditation over others. However we have taken a look at the data and made assessments to see if this assertion is factual, accurate and representative of the actual situation.

Firstly it is important to note that manual accreditation is wrongly defined in the said article therefore creating chasms into the very foundation of the entire article. The article refers to manual accreditation as being equal to 13.5m which looking at the data from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) this figure (exact is 13,377,340) actually refers to the total number of voters accredited using PVC only accreditation. It’s important to state that this is still biometric accreditation meaning that permanent voter cards were presented and authenticated before voters were allowed to vote. While this is not full biometric voter accreditation it is definitely not manual accreditation because the PVCs were authenticated by the smart card reader. What this means is that the voters were actually at the polling units in person. Therefore characterizing these as manual accreditations is not only factually incorrect, it is misleading and should be corrected immediately.



Secondly taking a look at the actual number of manual accreditations reveals exactly the opposite of what this article is suggesting. As seen from the INEC 2015 Presidential Election March 28, 2015 Declaration of Results the total number of voters accredited were 31,746,490. The total number of full-biometric and PVC only biometric accreditation were 23,643,479. The meaning of this is that there were 8,103,011 voters who were accredited without any form of biometric method at all (i.e. had no contact with the smart card reader). These are the actual manual accreditations because they just involved using a pen to tick a voter register. There is no way to actually prove if this 8,103,011 actually came to the polling unit or not. This figure should have been the focus of the above mentioned article since they sought to shed light on manual accreditation.



Looking at this data further it is clear that following the argument of the mentioned article the six of the top ten states that were involved in manual accreditation were won by the PDP. In addition there were a total of 5,389,648 accredited by voters in states won by the PDP is equivalent to 66.5% while a total of 2,713,363 voters were accredited in states won by the APC which translates to 33.5% of the total manual accreditations. It can be seen that this is clearly opposite to what the article in question intended to pass across.


Table showing break down of voter accreditation figures from the 2015 Nigerian Presidential Election



S/No.
STATE
Total Accredited Voters
FULL BIOMETRIC ACCRD
CARD-ONLY ACCRD
Full Manual Accreditation
1
ABIA
            442,538
             218,599
              102,401
              121,538
2
ADAMAWA
            709,993
             309,513
             296,733
             103,747
3
AKWA IBOM
         1,074,070
              234,141
             288,775
              551,154
4
ANAMBRA
            774,430
               67,578
              89,982
             616,870
5
BAUCHI
         1,094,069
            396,435
            627,048
              70,586
6
BAYELSA
            384,789
               42,814
             143,296
             198,679
7
BENUE
            754,634
            368,627
            347,673
               38,334
8
BORNO
            544,759
             138,629
             317,933
               88,197
9
CROSS RIVER
            500,577
             154,687
              129,381
             216,509
10
DELTA
          1,350,914
             342,507
             226,266
              782,141
11
EBONYI
             425,301
             145,985
              213,543
               65,773
12
EDO
             599,166
            306,547
             237,958
               54,661
13
EKITI
             323,739
             160,870
             165,000
                 (2,131)
14
ENUGU
               616,112
              130,814
             146,730
            338,568
15
FCT
            344,056
              113,377
                65,102
             165,577
16
GOMBE
             515,828
            267,609
              237,139
                11,080
17
IMO
              801,712
              84,780
              151,234
            565,698
18
JIGAWA
           1,153,428
            382,900
            744,457
                26,071
19
KADUNA
          1,746,031
             681,748
              800,112
              264,171
20
KANO
         2,364,434
            288,644
          1,358,537
              717,253
21
KATSINA
         1,578,646
            398,843
         1,045,994
             133,809
22
KEBBI
             792,817
            246,240
            496,565
                50,012
23
KOGI
            476,839
              223,189
             162,763
              90,887
24
KWARA
            489,360
             109,592
            302,904
              76,864
25
LAGOS
         1,678,754
         1,047,338
               341,151
             290,265
26
NASARAWA
            562,959
               97,933
            360,596
             104,430
27
NIGER
            933,607
             369,157
            492,870
               71,580
28
OGUN
            594,975
             299,138
            239,050
               56,787
29
ONDO
            618,040
              305,512
             263,453
              49,075
30
OSUN
             683,169
           400,809
            255,460
              26,900
31
OYO
         1,073,849
            548,007
             384,316
              141,526
32
PLATEAU
         1,076,833
            434,695
            482,788
             159,350
33
RIVERS
         1,643,409
              152,975
             158,844
          1,331,590
34
SOKOTO
           988,899
              175,317
            588,730
             224,852
35
TARABA
            638,578
              129,641
            389,696
               119,241
36
YOBE
              520,127
             138,692
            302,965
              78,470
37
ZAMFARA
            875,049
             193,286
            578,866
             102,897
       31,746,490
         10,107,168
          13,536,311
           8,103,011

What has been explained clearly shows that this article is not factual. However the clarifications made above are not to say that one party benefited from manual accreditation over another but to correct the errors in the said publication. The following paragraphs shed more light into why it is very difficult to accurately ascertain in the truest sense which party benefited from manual accreditation the most. This is important because sentiments in the public that one party benefitted more than another is precarious for the forthcoming 2019 General elections.

At this point, it is first important to note that there is no way to tell if those who did not use biometric card reader voted for either APC or PDP since voting is anonymous. The implication is that no one knows whether a person who voted for APC or PDP was manually or biometrically accredited. Not even the Independent National Electoral Commission has this sort of information because voting is done by secret ballot. This is critical because it lays the primary foundation that there is no quantitative method to determine those who actually ended up voting for which party.

In addition there were gaps between those who were accredited (either manually or biometrically) and those who actually voted. It is not possible to know the percentage of those who were accredited manually who eventually voted for a particular party neither is it possible to know the same for those who were biometrically accredited. This further makes it impossible to accurately say which party if any benefited more from manual accreditation country wide.

Going further, the fact that a candidate won a state cannot accurately infer that that means that more manual accreditations favoured him or her. The problem is that winning a state is a broad term which could be very misleading. For example there are states where a candidate won by over 90% of votes while other states with less than 5% of the vote in the state. So while a candidate may have won in both states it definitely could not be inferred that he/she benefited more from manual accreditation since there is no accurate way of distributing the votes cast amongst those who were accredited manually.

For example PDP won the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with 157,195 votes as compared to APC's 146,399 votes.  165,577 voters were accredited manually. It is impossible to know (except perhaps by forensics) how this 165,577 voters were distributed amongst the votes received by both parties as this information is not available. While former President Jonathan won the FCT it would be misleading to suggest that he benefited more from the manual accreditations than the voters who voted for President Buhari and there is no way to prove this.

Another example is Adamawa state which was won by President Buhari with 374,701 as compared to President Goodluck Jonathan's 251,664. There were 103,747 manual accreditations and it would not be possible to apportion these accurately to the APC, PDP or any other party. As such it cannot be inferred that these manual registrations benefited one candidate or party over another.

In a state like Kano 717,253 were accredited manually. APC scored 1,903,999 votes while PDP garnered 215,779 votes. A total of 2,364,434 were accredited in Kano altogether. There are 244,656 citizens who did not vote but were accredited in Kano. How many of these were accredited manually is not known. While it is clear that in a state like Kano a greater percentage of citizens who were accredited manually also voted for the APC because of the sheer magnitude of the difference in the votes received by the APC and the PDP, it is still not possible to say exactly by what extent. This same scenario goes for Rivers State where there were 1,331,590 voters who were accredited manually. PDP won this state by receiving 1,487,075 while APC garnered 69,238 votes. Clearly even if it is assumed that all the APC votes were by manual accreditation (which is not possible to prove), there would still be over 1.4 million votes received by the PDP. While the cases of Kano and Rivers could permit one to make general deductions that a particular party benefited more in those particular states, the extent is still not known and cannot be known. Because the majority of states do not have such massive voter disparity for the APC and PDP it would be inaccurate to make conclusions on these states and therefore the entire nation.

The summary is that while both the APC and PDP benefited from manual accreditations it is not possible to prove the extent of this conclusively and quantitatively because there is no data available anywhere to achieve this. Since all voting is anonymous there is no way of knowing if a manually accredited voter voted for APC, PDP or any other party. Deducing this with broad comparisons is not scientific, representative or accurate. This sort of loose and wide scale generalisations should be avoided as much as possible because Nigeria is in a tense political climate and every effort should be made not to inflame the situation especially with inconclusive data.





Table showing accreditation and votes received by APC and PDP during the 2015 Nigerian Presidential Election



S/No.
STATE
Total Accredited Voters
FULL BIOMETRIC ACCRD
CARD-ONLY ACCRD
TOTAL
Total Votes Cast
Votes received by APC
Votes received by PDP
1
ABIA
            442,538
             218,599
              102,401
         321,000
        401,049
               13,394
            368,303
2
ADAMAWA
            709,993
             309,513
             296,733
        606,246
          661,210
             374,701
             251,664
3
AKWA IBOM
         1,074,070
              234,141
             288,775
          522,916
      1,028,551
                58,411
            953,304
4
ANAMBRA
            774,430
               67,578
              89,982
         157,560
        703,409
                17,926
            660,762
5
BAUCHI
         1,094,069
            396,435
            627,048
      1,023,483
     1,039,775
             931,598
              86,085
6
BAYELSA
            384,789
               42,814
             143,296
          186,110
         371,739
                  5,194
             361,209
7
BENUE
            754,634
            368,627
            347,673
         716,300
          703,131
             373,961
             303,737
8
BORNO
            544,759
             138,629
             317,933
        456,562
         515,008
            473,543
               25,640
9
CROSS RIVER
            500,577
             154,687
              129,381
        284,068
       465,906
               28,368
             414,863
10
DELTA
          1,350,914
             342,507
             226,266
        568,773
     1,284,848
               48,910
           1,211,405
11
EBONYI
             425,301
             145,985
              213,543
         359,528
        393,337
                19,518
             323,653
12
EDO
             599,166
            306,547
             237,958
        544,505
         522,785
            208,469
            286,869
13
EKITI
             323,739
             160,870
             165,000
         325,870
        309,445
              120,331
             176,466
14
ENUGU
               616,112
              130,814
             146,730
         277,544
        585,632
                14,157
            553,003
15
FCT
            344,056
              113,377
                65,102
         178,479
          316,015
             146,399
              157,195
16
GOMBE
             515,828
            267,609
              237,139
        504,748
        473,444
             361,245
              96,873
17
IMO
              801,712
              84,780
              151,234
         236,014
          731,921
              133,253
             559,185
18
JIGAWA
           1,153,428
            382,900
            744,457
       1,127,357
      1,071,889
            885,988
             142,904
19
KADUNA
          1,746,031
             681,748
              800,112
      1,481,860
      1,650,201
           1,127,760
            484,085
20
KANO
         2,364,434
            288,644
          1,358,537
       1,647,181
      2,172,447
         1,903,999
              215,779
21
KATSINA
         1,578,646
            398,843
         1,045,994
     1,444,837
       1,481,714
          1,345,441
              98,937
22
KEBBI
             792,817
            246,240
            496,565
        742,805
           715,122
            567,883
             100,972
23
KOGI
            476,839
              223,189
             162,763
         385,952
        439,287
             264,851
             149,987
24
KWARA
            489,360
             109,592
            302,904
         412,496
         461,401
             302,146
              132,602
25
LAGOS
         1,678,754
         1,047,338
               341,151
     1,388,489
     1,485,975
            792,460
             632,327
26
NASARAWA
            562,959
               97,933
            360,596
        458,529
          521,641
            236,838
            273,460
27
NIGER
            933,607
             369,157
            492,870
         862,027
       844,683
            657,678
              149,222
28
OGUN
            594,975
             299,138
            239,050
         538,188
         559,613
            308,290
            207,950
29
ONDO
            618,040
              305,512
             263,453
        568,965
        582,435
            299,889
             251,368
30
OSUN
             683,169
           400,809
            255,460
        656,269
        663,373
            383,603
            249,929
31
OYO
         1,073,849
            548,007
             384,316
         932,323
        928,606
             528,620
            303,376
32
PLATEAU
         1,076,833
            434,695
            482,788
         917,483
     1,000,692
             429,140
             549,615
33
RIVERS
         1,643,409
              152,975
             158,844
           311,819
     1,584,768
               69,238
         1,487,075
34
SOKOTO
           988,899
              175,317
            588,730
        764,047
        876,369
             671,926
              152,199
35
TARABA
            638,578
              129,641
            389,696
         519,337
         602,716
              261,326
             310,800
36
YOBE
              520,127
             138,692
            302,965
         441,657
         491,767
            446,265
               25,526
37
ZAMFARA
            875,049
             193,286
            578,866
          772,152
         780,179
              612,202
             144,833
       31,746,490
         10,107,168
          13,536,311
   23,643,479
  29,422,083
        15,424,921
        12,853,162