The Pan African Women Project, (PAWP) one of the accredited foreign observer groups in the just concluded gubernatorial and House of Assembly election in Abia State has commended the brevity and integrity of Prof (Mrs) Nnenna N. Oti, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Returning Officer for Abia State.

PAWP lauds the role Prof. Nenna played in ensuring that “peoples votes and mandate counts.”
PAWP gave the commendation in a press statement read out by Ms Bontle Matjila the Spokesperson the group. Others also present are Dr Mrs Eno Ben Udensi, head of mission (PAWP), Mrs Candice Sobmons and other members.

The press conference was held in Umuahia, Abia State on Thursday.

PAWP is a non-governmental organisation of African women from the fifty four (54) nations of Africa and the diaspora. PAWP head office is situated in Johannesburg,South Africa and regional offices in the five (5) regions including Nigeria as the hub for West Africa.

PAWP also recommends that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should engage more women of proven integrity such as Prof Mrs Nnenna Oti as Returning Officers for further elections.

Also in the statement of PAWP, they are keenly interested in ensuring a credible successful 2023 Nigeria general election more especially because of the good relevance and the place of Nigeria in the leadership of Africa and its people.

Durimg the election, PAWP monitored the arrival of voting materials, tourn out of voters, security, logistics, INEC adhoc staff, technology, vote buying, lobbying, violence/intimidation.

As part of PAWP recommendations, the group said “INEC should increase the duration of Adhoc staff training before every election to enable them gather adequate knowledge especially in the use of the new technology”.

PAWP also added that, “It is important also that the electoral body redress the gray areas that have questioned the credibility of the electoral body and 2023 General Elections urgently and return back to the Commission the immediate past Director ICT whose brain child is the BVAS TECHNOLOGY to effect necessary upgrades and protocols that will enhance the performance of the BIVAS in subsequent elections making the electoral process more transparent.”

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See full press statement below 👇

AN INTERIM REPORT
PRESS BRIEFING

Good afternoon fellow members of PAWP team and other INEC ACCREDITED OBSERVER GROUPS here ,
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press.

Preamble

The 2023 general elections will have regional implications for West Africa, as successful elections within Nigeria can provide a positive electoral templ okate in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region. Since 2020, the West African region has faced democratic backsliding, with the ECOWAS governments of Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso toppled by military juntas. A successful election in Nigeria could counter negative perceptions of governance within the region. Successful elections in Nigeria will also set a positive example for the continent, given they will be the first and largest African elections in 2023.

The Nigerian General Elections is very important to the entire continent of Africa as the outcome of every election held in Nigeria contribute positively and negatively to the sociol economic development in the continent .
The lessons learnt in this election will translate to the peace of the nations in Africa.

ORGANIZATION
Pan African Women Projects is an international non governmental organisation of African women from the fifty four (54) nations of Africa and the diaspora.Our headoffice is situated in Johannesburg,South Africa and regional offices in the five (5) regions including Nigeria as the hub for West Africa. Our primary mission amongst others is to promote good governance and sustainable democracy in Africa through our developmental projects for women,youths and persons with disabilities in Africa.

INTRODUCTION

Pan African Women Projects is one of the foreign Observer missions accredited by Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) for the 2023 Nigeria General elections.
We have observed several elections in about seventeen (17) countries of Africa including Nigeria in the past.

We have a mission team comprising many women from various African nations that are already deployed to various states of Nigeria including the federal capital territory for election and observations. Regrettably, many are not here for this briefing as at this moment for logistic reasons since they have been deployed already to their various areas of assignments .

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PREPARATION

As African Women, we are keenly interested in ensuring a credible successful 2023 Nigeria general election more especially because of the good relevance and the place of Nigeria in the leadership of Africa and its people.

It is a common knowledge that a good leadership and strong sustainable democracy in Nigeria will ensure good leadership for Africa as a whole. Hence, our observation mission.

1- In 2021, we carried out voters’ registration drive throughout the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria with one state each in every of the geopolitical zones of Nigeria. This from our studies yielded incredible good results as we used the opportunity to assuage voters’ apathy which was more of the cases among the citizens in various zones.

2-Also, in 2022, we carried out PVC COLLECTION DRIVE in two states each of the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria with Akwa Ibom and Rivers states respectively for the South-South zone, Ebonyi and Owerri states respectively for the South-East zone, Kano and Sokoto states respectively for the North -West zone, Adamawa and Bauchi states respectively for the North East and also Oyo and Lagos states respectively for the South West.
This also was a huge success as we observed great zeal and desire of Nigerians to participate in the 2023 general elections.

All these we did in partnership with the Independent national electoral commission(INEC) of Nigeria especially the gender and inclusivity department.
At this point, we want to sincerely and greatly appreciate the leadership of the
Independent national electoral commission of Nigeria(INEC),

Professor Mahmud Yakubu and the entire department of the commission especially the gender and inclusivity for the unwavering supports that made our work very easy.

We also appreciate the various security agencies that worked tirelessly to ensure our safety by providing all the intelligence and protection needed to carry out our onerous duties.

We are most grateful to the gentleman and ladies of the press for their immeasurable contributions too.

DEPLOYMENT OF PERSONEL

We had recruited about three hundred and eighty (380) non partisan Nigerians as short term observers and Twenty (20) long term observes across the thirty-six states of Nigeria and the federal capital territory.

In Asia State we have four (4) long term observers who have been working tirelessly for four weeks now and 170 short term observers trained and deployed to the 17 LGAs.

Arrival of materials:
Materials arrived many polling units across the Local Government Areas early between the hours of 730am and 9.00am .This exercise was smooth and highly professional by the electoral body as compared to our experience in the Presidential Elections .

Turnout of Voters

Generally across the State the voter Turnout was very poor. Outside polling units were candidates voted the other polling units we visited had a low voter participation as compared to previous election. Low voter turnout has been witnessed across Nigeria as 28 states conduct their 2023 governorship and state house of assembly elections .

Exactly three weeks ago, Nigerians went to the polls to elect their presidents, senators and House of Representatives members. Out of the total 93.47 million registered voters, only 24.9 million persons, representing 26.72 percent, voted in the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections.
Several reasons have been cited for the poor voter turnout being experienced. We observed through our several interactions with voters thar the postponement of the election by a week dampened the spirits of the electorate. “It would have been a different case if the elections followed the presidential elections straight up,” .

Also,INEC’s performance at the Presidential elections espiacially as results were seen not to be transmitted to the IREV across the State had altered people’s trust in the electoral system, noting that with a poor perception of INEC’s credibility citizens now doubted that their votes would not count.

Security:

Many polling units we observed in this election had no security personnel on duty which was very unprofessional of the security agencies despite the assurances that the security agencies repeatedly gave to the electoral body and the government and citizens regarding the safety and peace during the election .

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Logistics:
The Electoral Commission would have to look for an alternative to Road Transport Workers in the movement of election materials and personnel. Continuous reliance on the old method of deploying personnel and materials to polling units is no longer effective and causes a serious delay in the process. I suggest that it would be great if in future if INEC could consider using ‘drones’ to deploy some key materials to centres and allow Presiding Officers/Assistant Presiding Officers to head straight to their respective centres ahead of time to commence accreditation on time. INEC should look beyond Road Transport Workers for transport services as they are usually and often manipulated by corrupt politicians to sabotage the effort of INEC. The fact that most of them are not well-lettered also underlines why they are easily influenced and bought over.

INEC Ad-hoc Staff:
The Commission should look into the quality of the personnel they sent out to the field for election duty as young and hungry NYSC members are easily induced by corrupt politicians and party people. We suggest that disciplined religious bodies and organisations with a pedigree like priests, reverend sisters, pastors, Islamic scholars, lawyers, and Directors of Federal and State Ministries as well as NGOs, who would not be able to compromise their position and retirement benefits should be considered over young fragile corps members.

Technology

The BVAS is one of the landmark introductions by INEC into the election process in Nigeria. But it is without its own shortfalls. The BVAS should be upgraded to include electronic voting where accreditation and voting are processed from the same device. This will greatly cut down on paper production and eliminate ballot papers and significantly reduce the huge budget line of INEC during elections.

At this election we observed improvement in the functionality of the BIVAS. About 79 percent of result were transmitted to the IREV at this election.

Vote Buying and Lobbying: There was serious vote buying and influencing of voters’ choice during the governorship election by party members at some of the polling units. They cohesively cause people to vote for their party at the voting booth.

Violence / Intimidation
The Governorship / State House of Assembly Elections had pockets of violence and intimidation observed in the three Senatorial zones of Asia State perpetuated across party lines.

SUMMARY
We use this medium to appreciate the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the opportunity to serve in this election as one of the accredited FOREIGN OBSERVER GROUP.

The 18th March,2023 Governorship and State House of Assembly Elections in Abia State meets International commendations of a free ,transparent and peaceful conduct of electoral process .

We commend the brevity and integrity of the INEC Returning Officer in the State Prof (Mrs) Nnenna N. Oti ,Vice Chancellor Federal University of Technology(FUTO), Owerri for her role in ensuring that the peoples votes and mandate counted.
We recommend to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to engage more women of proven integrity such as Prof Mrs Nnenna Oti as Returning Officers for further elections.

We recomend to the electoral body to increase the duration of the training of his Adhoc staff before every election to enable them gather adequate knowledge especially in the use of the new technology. It is important also that the electoral body redress the gray areas that have questioned the credibility of the electoral body and 2023 General Elections urgently and return back to the Commission the immediate past Director ICT whose brain child is the BVAS TECHNOLOGY to effect necessary upgrades and protocols that will enhance the performance of the BIVAS in subsequent elections making the electoral process more transparent.

We recommend that the Security agencies address all security lapses in the 2023 election and employ more personnel into the system to improve on a more effective security network during elections in Nigeria.

Thank you
MS BONTLE MATJILA
SPOKESPERSON
PAN AFRICAN WOMEN PROJECTS

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