Ekiti Election: YIAGA Deploys 500 Stationary WTV Observers
…. Urges Posting of Result at Polling Units
This press briefing is the first in series of press conferences to be hosted by YIAGA AFRICA WTV during the 2018 Ekiti governorship election.
On July 14, 2018, the people of Ekiti state will go to the polls to elect a governor that will lead the state for the next four years. This is the sixth governorship election the electoral commission will conduct since the 2015 general elections. Thirty-five candidates from 35 political parties are in the race for the governorship seat. Over 667,000 registered voters who collected their Permanent Voter Card (PVC) will be expected to vote in Saturday’s election. The election promises to further test the country’s democratic credentials ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The WTV project is “Driven by Data – For All Nigerians – Beholden to None!” As such, WTV will employ the parallel vote tabulation (PVT) methodology on Election Day – the gold standard for citizen observation. On July 14, WTV will deploy 500 stationary observers to a representative statistical sample of 250 polling units and 25 mobile observers located in all 16 local government areas (LGAs) of Ekiti state. WTV will also deploy 16 collation centre observers to each of the LGA Collation Centres. This deployment strategy will enable YIAGA AFRICA to provide timely and accurate information on the conduct of accreditation, voting, and counting as well as to independently verify the official results for the Ekiti gubernatorial election as announced by INEC. If the announced results reflect the ballots cast at polling units, then we will confirm the outcome. However, if the announced results have been manipulated and do not match the results posted at polling units, then YIAGA AFRICA will expose it.
WTV Pre-election Observation
As part of our efforts to deepen electoral integrity, YIAGA AFRICA launched the Pre-Election Observation (PREO) component of the WTV project in May 2018. Under the PREO, YIAGA AFRICA collected pre-election environment data from citizen observers and shared reports on election day preparedness of key stakeholders and early warning signs for electoral violence.
The PREO initiative entailed deploying long-term observers (LTOs) to each of the 16 LGAs of Ekiti state to gather systematic information about the pre-election environment, including early warning signs of electoral violence. WTV LTOs were equipped with a checklist to observe and report on the electoral and political environment in the state. All WTV LTOs reside within the LGAs where they observe activities relating to voter education, political campaigns, marginalized groups (youth, women, and people with disabilities) and election-related violence in the pre-election period. The observers reported their observation findings on a bi-monthly basis via coded text messages to YIAGA AFRICA’s online database. YIAGA AFRICA also deployed a team of electoral experts and researchers to assess the political environment for the election. The team conducted interviews and consultations with relevant electoral stakeholders about the process.
YIAGA AFRICA WTV PREO observation findings provide an indication of emerging trends during the pre-election period. Key findings from the July 6 to 11, 2018 PREO report include:
1. Election preparatory activities are currently undertaken by INEC in all the 16 LGAs of Ekiti state. These preparatory activities conducted by INEC include the distribution of the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs), voter education and election observation kits by INEC.
2. Voter education activities undertaken by both INEC and CSOs as observed by WTV observers increased during the period from July 6 to 11. However, YIAGA observers were not exposed to any voter education activities during the period in Ekiti East, Gbonyin, Ido-Osi, Ijero, Ikere, Ilejemeje, Moba or Oye LGAs.
3. Voter education programming and messaging targeted at special interest and marginalized groups, such as youth, women and people with disabilities (PWDs) has been consistently observed by PREO observers since May 25 in the LGAs of Ekiti South West, Ikere, and Ilejemeje. Consistent voter education programming targeted at youth, women and PWDs was also noted in the LGAs of Efon, Ekiti West, Ido/Osi, Ikole and Ise/Orun. In all other LGAs, observers either did not observe or observed only limited campaigns targeting marginalized groups since May 25.
4. Youth and women groups are increasingly engaging the political space by campaigning and canvassing for votes for political parties and candidates. Fifty-four per cent of observers (13 of 24) witnessed or heard of women canvassing for votes during the reporting period and 63% (15 of 24) of observers witnessed or heard of youths canvassing for votes during the reporting period.
5. Political campaigns and politicking have heightened in the state few days to the elections. Based on our observation, only two parties have dominated the political space; APC and PDP. Campaign rallies for both APC and PDP were reported by observers in every LGA except Moba during the July 5-11 reporting period.
6. Voter inducement through the distribution of money and gift items by politicians and their supporters is on the increase; 29% of observers (7 of 24) reported seeing the distribution of money or gift items by candidates in the LGAs of Ekiti East, Ekiti West, Gbonyin, Ido/Osi, Ijero, Ilejemeje and Irepodun/Ifelodun. In addition, 50% of observers (12 of 24) heard additional reports of such acts taking place in the LGAs of Ado Ekiti, Efon, Ekiti South West, Emure, Ikole and Oye.
3. Emerging Concerns on the 2018 Governorship elections and recommendations
YIAGA AFRICA WTV is also concerned about the following issues, which are capable of undermining the credibility of the election if not addressed:
1. Compliance with Results Counting and Announcement Guidelines: Based on the INEC guidelines, polling unit results shall be posted at the polling unit using FORM EC 60 E. Judging from history, we are concerned polling officials will not adhere to INEC directive or comply with the guideline. We would like to reiterate that posting results at the polling unit will enhance the integrity of the elections, therefore Supervising Polling Officers (SPOs) and INEC monitors should ensure Presiding Officers post the polling unit results at the polling units using FORM EC 60 E. INEC should endeavour all polling staff who flout this directive are duly sanctioned. This responsibility should not fall to the wayside because of the introduction of electronic results transmission, which INEC will pilot in this election. The WTV Project will closely observe the newly piloted e-collation process and urges INEC to ensure transparency and openness in the result collation and transmission process. Voters are also encouraged to take pictures of the results posted at the polling unit using the FORM EC 60 E.
2. Access to Collation Centres: According to INEC, collation centres are accessible to accredited observers, party agents and media. Experience has shown that duly accredited observers and journalists are sometimes denied access to collation centres at the ward and local government level by security agencies; however, observers have expressed interest to observe the collation of results at all levels. YIAGA AFRICA WTV is concerned that duly accredited observers, including our very own Results Collation Centre observers, may be prevented from observing results collation in some centres particularly in centres with large numbers of registered voters and polling units, otherwise called ‘swing wards.’ INEC and the security agencies should ensure accredited party agents and observers are granted access to collation centres as their presence will enhance the integrity of the process.
3. Conduct of Deployed Security Officials: YIAGA AFRICA has observed instances of overzealous behaviour on the part of security officials deployed for the election. For instance two of YIAGA AFRICA’s observers were arrested and detained on July 11, 2018, in Ado-Ekiti for no justifiable reason. All security agents on election duty must uphold the principles of non-partisanship, transparency, civil policing and professionalism in the conduct of their affairs. YIAGA AFRICA calls on security agencies deployed for the election to respect the rights of citizens and observers, including the right to freedom of movement on election day for duly accredited observers.
4. Hate speech and inciting statements: YIAGA AFRICA is concerned with the increasing level of hate speech and inciting statements by key political actors in the state especially the dominant parties. These unguarded statements could lead to a breach of peace in the state. The key contenders in the governorship race should desist from making inciting statements and urge their supporters to refrain from any act that can potentially result in electoral violence. We urge the security agencies to sanction any individual or group propagating hate speech in this election.
5. Voter inducement and vote buying: YIAGA AFRICA is worried about the level of voter inducement in the state by politicians and their supporters. Cash and material inducements such as free Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) or fuel for petrol engines are doled out to voters in exchanges for their votes. This ugly trend of voter inducement or vote buying undermines the political legitimacy and makes a mockery of our democracy. We are concerned that this election may be determined by the highest bidder if INEC does not take intentional steps to protect the secrecy of the ballot. The voters must resist any attempt by politicians to subvert the process through material inducement or cash. We urge voters to cast their votes according to their preferences.
4. WTV Election Day Observation
YIAGA AFRICA’s WTV Election Day deployment is based on the Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) methodology – the gold standard for citizen observation. The PVT is an advanced observation methodology that employs well-established statistical principles and utilizes sophisticated information technologies. YIAGA AFRICA’s WTV provides timely and accurate information on the conduct of accreditation, voting, and counting as well as independently verifies the official governorship results as announced by the INEC. YIAGA AFRICA deployed the methodology in the 2017 governorship election in Anambra state, as well as in 2016 in Ondo State, and verified the official results.
For the 2018 Ekiti gubernatorial election, 500 stationary WTV observers are deployed to a representative statistical sample of 250 polling units located in all 16 LGAs. The sampled polling units were determined by established statistical principles to ensure the resulting information is representative of the state and unbiased. The PVT sample of polling units is truly representative of all of the polling units because the percentage of sampled polling units for each LGA is similar to the percentage of all polling unit for each LGA. For example, Efon LGA has 5.4% of all the polling units in Ekiti (119 of 2,195) and 5.2% (13 of 250) of the sampled polling units are in Efon LGA. While not identical, the percentages for every LGA are very close, clearly demonstrating that the PVT sample is representative of the entire state (Appendix I demonstrates the representativeness of sampled polling units).
YIAGA AFRICA’s WTV 500 stationary observers, 25 mobile observers and 16 collation centre observers were carefully recruited according to established criteria to ensure that they are non-partisan. All YIAGA AFRICA citizen observers had to sign a pledge of neutrality and were given a code of conduct to which they have to adhere when observing.
On Election Day, WTV observers will report to their assigned polling units at 7:00 am and remain there throughout setup, accreditation and voting, counting and the announcement and posting of the official results. Throughout the day, every citizen observer at sampled polling units will send in eleven coded text messages to the Ekiti data centre located here at Eleventh House, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti. Coded text messages sent by WTV citizen observers will provide detailed information on the conduct of the process as well as the official results for the polling unit as announced by the polling officials. Over the course of Election Day, YIAGA AFRICA’s data centre will receive 5,500 text messages containing approximately 56,000 individual pieces of information about the 2018 Ekiti governorship election. Once the text messages are received at YIAGA AFRICA’s data centre, they will be processed and reviewed to ensure the information is complete, authentic and accurate.
On Election Day, YIAGA AFRICA’s Ekiti data centre will open at 6:00 am and will remain open until counting has finished at all sampled polling units and all WTV citizen observers have sent all eleven of their observation reports. YIAGA AFRICA’s data centre is open to the public and media at all times.
Throughout Election Day, YIAGA AFRICA will provide – as appropriate – updates on the conduct of the election based on the near real-time reports from its observers. These will be released at the data centre and posted on social media at YIAGA AFRICA’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/yiaga.org) and YIAGA AFRICA’s Twitter page (@YIAGA).
On Saturday, July 14, 2018, at 7 pm, YIAGA AFRICA will release its estimated projections based on its preliminary data. On Sunday, July 15, 2018, at 10 am at Eleventh House, Ado-Ekiti, YIAGA AFRICA will share its preliminary WTV findings on the conduct of set-up, accreditation, voting and counting. Immediately after INEC announces the official results for the gubernatorial election, YIAGA AFRICA will hold its own press conference and issue its election results verification statement. Verification of the election results will be based on the INEC official results as announced by poll officials at the 250 sampled polling stations. WTV is NOT an exit poll. No voter is asked for whom he/she voted.
Since WTV is based on official results from a representative random sample of polling units, YIAGA AFRICA will be able to estimate the state-wide results for the governorship election within a narrow range based on well-established statistical principles. 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 at polling units; if the announced official results do not reflect the ballot cast, YIAGA AFRICA will expose it.
YIAGA AFRICA is ready to observe the 2018 Ekiti gubernatorial elections. To demonstrate our readiness, YIAGA AFRICA is conducting a full simulation exercise today Thursday, July 12 at Eleventh Avenue, Behind TOS Filling Station, Near Bawa Estate, Iworoko Road, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State. It will involve all 500 WTV citizen observers sending in practice coded text messages to YIAGA AFRICA’s computer database. This will test every aspect of WTV to ensure that all citizen observers are prepared and that all reporting systems function properly on Election Day.
YIAGA AFRICA calls on Ekiti voters to go to the polls confident that their votes will count. WTV will provide independent verification of the election results as announced by INEC. YIAGA AFRICA appeals to INEC permanent and ad hoc staff, all security agents, political party candidates and their supporters as well as all Ekiti people to work together to ensure that the Ekiti gubernatorial election is credible and peaceful. Election Day is expected to be long for voters who will spend hours at the polling unit queuing for accreditation and voting. It is likely to be hot and tempers may rise. We urge the electorate to remain calm even in the face of challenges that may arise as every Ekiti voter has the right to participate irrespective of party affiliation. In the interests of transparency and accountability, we recommend INEC to make polling unit results publicly available in a timely manner. This will enhance the confidence of political parties, contestants and the public in the accuracy of the official results. YIAGA AFRICA wishes to encourage all registered, PVC-holding voters of Ekiti to go out on Saturday, 14th July 2018 to vote their choice in the Governorship election.
Hussaini Abdu, PhD Samson Itodo
Chair Executive Director
YIAGA AFRICA WTV Working Group YIAGA AFRICA
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Report By: PRNigeria.com