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On Saturday the 6th of November 2021, Anambra state had its gubernatorial election. WILPF Nigeria had 17 women observers deployed in 8 LGAs of the state observing the election. The WSRN collaborated with the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, the Women in Politics Forum and the 100 women lobby group to ensure that women play a vital role in promoting peace and security and to ensure equal participation from both genders in exercising their electoral rights.
Contrary to speculations, the Saturday election was largely peaceful, with only a few reports of skirmishes caused by miscreants in some areas. Security agents were deployed to most of the polling units observed while few polling units had no security personnel and in some cases the security personnel arrived late to the polling units. Women Situation Room Nigeria notes that security agents on election duty were not reported to have harassed or intimidated voters or election observers.
Additionally, majority of the polling units where the election exercise was carried out experienced poor turn outs of voters which could be largely attributed to the security tensions in the state.
While the election went smoothly in most LGAs of the state, in Ihiala LGA Amamu 1 ward polling unit 003, the elections was said to not hold as the INEC officials, security official and voters left the unit due to the warnings of some supposed unknown men with bikes who came to the unit stating that the elections will not hold in the unit.
During the supplementary election in Ihiala LGA, there were several reports of violence perpetrated by thugs around the polling units.
The challenge of vote buying was experienced in several polling units and LGAs where the election exercise was conducted. In some polling units observed, a structured process of buying vote and verifying votes were in place within the full view the security personnel. From the reports we received, party officials were said to be influencing the votes of citizens with funds ranging from 2000- 5000 Naira. In Ebenebe a community in Awka North LGA, we got reports of women who stood their grounds by putting up extraordinary courage in the face of inducement and took their moral high ground by refusing to accept money given to them to sell their votes.
In conclusion, the WSRN observed a low level of violence across the 21 LGAs. The high level of malfunctioning of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the knowledge gap in the INEC adhoc staff showed that INEC wasn’t fully prepared for the election exercise. If there was a huge turnout of voters this would have created serious challenges in the accreditation, voting and collation of results at the units.