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Press Statement on the 2023 Presidential and National Assembly Elections.

On 25th February 2023, with a registered voting population of 93.4 million and 87.2 million
PVCs collected, Nigerians overwhelmingly turned out to exercise their civic responsibilities.
Early turnout on Election Day, demonstrated their commitment to having a voice in the next
leader of Nigeria.

In keeping with the spirit of accountability and transparency of the process, the Women’s
Situation Room Nigeria (WSRN) seeks to increase women’s substantive participation in the
political process and conflict prevention based on the pillars of UNSCR 1325. Hence, elections
are part of the political process that we are actively observing in our situation room’s observatory
both at the national and state levels cutting across the 6 geopolitical regions of Nigeria.

The Women’s Situation Room Nigeria (WSRN) deployed 350 observers in ten focal states
namely: Anambra, Kaduna, Kwara, Enugu, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Plateau, Borno, Benue, Cross Rivers,
and the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja, Nigeria. This deployment strategy enabled the
WSRN to provide timely and accurate information on the Election Day process commencing
from the set-up, voter accreditation, voting, counting, deployment of election monitors and to
independently assess the official results of the presidential election as announced by the
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). These observers continuously called into
the situation room via a toll-free line to report findings, which were transmitted to our team of
analysts. The analysts made up of renowned experts in media communications, conflict
management, and gender, analysts, critically assessed and evaluated the reports and escalated
incidents that required real-time resolutions.

It is noteworthy that we also received calls from other states across Nigeria outside the 10 focal
states and the FCT. The feedback we have received so far from our trained observers and
citizens’ reports includes the following:

There was a total of 93,469,008 eligible registered voters, an increase of 9.5 million compared to
2019, among which 76.6 percent are youth aged 18 to 34, and 50.82 percent are female. Voter
registration ran from June 2021 and ended July 2022, although the law foresees a continuous
process up to 90 days before elections

Before the general elections, stakeholders expressed confidence in INEC’s independence,
professionalism, and voter information efforts, but this deteriorated as Election Day approached
notably in Kano and Lagos. On Election Day morning 80% of the calls received were complaints
on the lateness in the arrival of sensitive materials, the arrival of INEC officials, and the
commencement of elections across most states notable are Enugu, FCT, Anambra, Ebonyi,
Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, and Imo among others. Additionally, the failure of INEC to upload
polling results via the BVAS to the IReV portal showed a lack of preparedness, transparency,
and inadequacy on the part of the INEC.

The late or non-arrival of INEC polling officials and materials across several polling units posed
a major challenge to the Election Day process. The varied and noted experiences include a
widespread late arrival of INEC officials and materials. 6 of our focal States and the FCT
reported 35 cases of the late arrival of INEC staff as of noon. Inadequate ballot papers were
reported in some LGAs in Benue, Enugu, and Cross River; the absence of both polling officials
and materials notably in some LGAs in Anambra, Bayelsa, Delta, and FCT. These led to late
voting and counting in these areas.

– Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) deployment: There were various reports of non-
availability, and where deployed, malfunctioning of the BVAS tool was noted. There were 9

cases of malfunction reported from 6 focal states and 8 cases of inadequate BVAS across the
Anambra, Benue, and Cross Rivers States.

– Gender Inequality/PWD: There were 3 cases reported from 2 States; Kaduna and Kwara States,
where men were given preference in the queues over women. Also, 2 cases were reported from
Enugu and Kwara States for non-support to Persons with Disabilities (PWDs).

Violence against Women: We recorded a total of 15 incidences of violence against women
during and one post-election violence. One of the violence was with our Observer in Cross River
state where the observer had to take to running to avoid being hit. Another incident we recorded
during the election was gotten from a caller in Lagos State who reported the lady who was
beaten by thugs by a political party but still went back to cast her vote after getting some
treatment. Other cases of violence and disruption of the voting and results collation process were
by thugs and hoodlums, especially the violence targeted at National Youth Service Corp (NYSC)
members and INEC staff. These cases of violence undermine Nigeria’s electoral reform project.

– Inadequate security personnel: There were reports of many polling units with only a single
security official while some complete absence was reported. This was a clear departure from the
pre-election assurances that the security agencies especially the lead agency for the elections, the
Nigerian Police Force, were adequately prepared to man all polling units.

– Voter intimidation and suppression. We received several reports notably in some key LGAs in
Lagos and Rivers State.

– Ballot snatching. This was observed in some LGAs in Kogi and Lagos states. Particularly in
Kogi where one of the ballot snatchers was gunned down by security agents.

– Vote buying and inducement. Electorates were openly influenced by party agents of APC and
PDP especially. There were notable instances of after-voting reconciliation to ensure that the
voter complied with the objective of the inducement. Vote buying and inducement were reported
at various polling units across Lagos and Ekiti states.

– Open campaign at polling units. While this is a violation of the Electoral Act, it was used as a
strategy to influence voters on Election Day without reprimand or caution by security agents or
polling officials. This was witnessed most notably in Ekiti state.

– Identity influence. This largely shaped the voting pattern and voter suppression in localities that
are strongholds of leading candidates.

Women accounted for less than 10 percent of candidates, a continuing decline since 2010,
underscoring a lack of affirmative action at odds with the Convention on the Elimination of all
Forms of Discrimination against Women and constitutional guarantees for equality.
For the 2023 General Elections, we saw a high turnout of women and persons with disabilities as
voters on Election Day. The late voting recorded in most of our focal states is highly condemned
as it impacted the effective participation of women. Some of the women we interviewed across
our focal states complained that they had to go back home to look after their children and
expressed disappointment at being disenfranchised. The late-night voting in highly insecure areas
also presented opportunities for violence and some women were discouraged to vote as a result
of that. Post-election, there have been several peaceful protests carried out by women such as in
Ekiti and Kogi states, calling for an accurate result by the INEC.

With palpable enthusiasm and early turnout of a large number of voters that greeted the voting
day, the issues highlighted above among others presented some key dynamics around the
elections including:

– Voter apprehension. With the late arrival of polling officials and materials, inadequate
materials in some instances, and the entire absence of INEC officials, voter apprehension and
tension were palpable with ensuing violence in some instances. This eroded voter confidence in

INEC and the electoral process especially in locations where voting had been rescheduled to
continue the next day.

– Potential for escalation of violence. There is an uneasy calmness post-election and announcing
of results though pockets of agitations have been reported from both party agents of the
opposition parties and some citizens who feel that the process is largely flawed. It is important to
take conflict de-escalation measures at this time to prevent bubbling over into violent situations.

– Risk of disputed election results. This may unfold especially where electorates have been
unarguably disenfranchised leading to increased threats to the transition process.

– Risk of low turnout. Following the key issues highlighted above, voter apathy may affect the
rescheduled elections and the upcoming state elections in Nigeria.

– Response time INEC to issues. It has been noticeably slow or vague in some instances and
nonexistent in others. Without timely response and sustained efforts to renew the confidence of
the electorates in the ongoing process, the lack of confidence in INEC to successfully deliver a
free and peaceful election are likely to increase.

In conclusion, WSRN reports from the field showed the exercise was marred by a lack of
preparedness on the part of INEC, violence, and voting inducement/voter suppression.

WSRN would be coming up with a full report and recommendations after the March 11th

Prof. Joy Onyesoh
National Coordinator
Women’s Situation Room Nigeria