The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), on Friday, released a detailed new report on one of the most vulnerable parts of Nigeria’s election process: the collation of election results at the ward level.
According to CDD Director, Idayat Hassan, the postmortem report tagged: “Counting the votes and ward-level collation during Nigeria’s 2019 presidential election: A Post-mortem”, provides independent and objective assessment of the process by which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) aggregates and tabulates polling unit level results.
The organization noted that INEC was less transparent in 2019 than in previous elections held in 2015 and 2011.
The CDD report identified collation process at the ward level as one of the most vulnerable parts of the election process.
“The integrity of this collation process is critical to the overall success and credibility of Nigerian elections. If conducted in a transparent, organised and well-regulated way, collation can help produce credible election results and boost voter confidence in the process. In the 2019 elections, however, civil society observers across Nigeria saw a collation process that was chaotic, open to manipulation and, in some locations, badly disrupted and opaque.
“Although ward-level collation is just one of the many challenges to Nigeria’s electoral process it is an important vulnerability that receives little domestic scrutiny or international attention. Left unresolved, Nigeria’s widespread ward-level collation problems will continue to embolden election spoilers, weaken public trust in INEC and undermine the credibility of election results.
“Ward-level collation disruptions and manipulations give opportunistic political parties and individual candidates opportunities to dispute the outcome and legitimacy of elections, especially in Nigeria’s most politically contentious wards. Such disputes frequently exacerbate local political tensions, empower local political thugs and even help fuel long-running communal conflicts.”
CDD listed the five major challenges identified by its observers to include: “Missteps and misconduct of INEC staff, deliberate denial of access to observers and media, logistical shortfalls, intentional disruption by politicians, political thugs and party agents, intimidation of collation staff and other malfeasance by security agents.”
Key Takeaway 3: INEC Less Transparent in 2019 than in 2015 and 2011
CDD added that the electoral umpire was less transparent in 2019 than in 2015 and 2011.
The noted that one of the most noticeable, and avoidable, missteps INEC has made following the 2019 election is its refusal to publish detailed election results to its website.
“INEC has only published national-level totals for the 2019 presidential election, choosing to keep sub-national results data hidden from public view. This opaque approach reverses the tangible—albeit incomplete—progress on results transparency that accompanied the 2011 and 2015 elections.
“Furthermore, in its rush to certify state-level results, INEC has yet to publish a verifiable and credible paper trail for their ward-and local-level results that demonstrates to Nigerians and the world how they arrived at their official results. Without evidence voters are asked to trust that INEC’s final results have been calculated accurately and free from outside manipulation despite numerous reports of disruptions to ward-level collation.”
With the aim of improving ward-level collation in forthcoming elections, CDD recommended that INEC should improve processes for conducting collation in line with international best practices. These can be trialled in off-cycle elections, ahead of the next national ballot in 2023.
CDD also recommended that INEC should transparently and proactively publish, via the INEC website and through civil society organisations, official results for all election contests, showing a full and accurate breakdown of figures down to polling unit level. It should work towards developing a way of transparently making ward-level results easily accessible to, and searchable by, the general public.
The organization called on INEC to discipline or, if necessary, investigate and then prosecute its personnel alleged to have been involved in misconduct during the collation process.
Also, Nigeria’s security agencies should hold its personnel, and their commanding officers, accountable for unprofessional or illegal conduct while deployed on election duty.
CDD called for further amendment of the Electoral Act (2010) to allow for the introduction of electronic vote transmission which will reduce error in the calculation process and improve the pace of collation.