The 2023 Gubernatorial and State Houses of Assembly elections kicked off on Saturday, March 18, 2023.
The Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) deployed 56 observers across 31 states as early as 7 am to observe election day activities. The observers are sending real-time field reports and will remain at their stations until the close of polls and the announcement of results.
CJID is keen on keeping citizens updated on the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) preparedness for the elections, voting patterns across the country, and election-related incidents as they unfold.
Here are some observations from the field as of 12:00 pm:
POLL OPENING TIMES AND LOGISTICS
From the data gathered across 18 states at the time of analysis, CJID observed that elections started late in most states, that is, after 10:00 am as against the 8.30 am opening time. From the data received, only 20 percent of the polling units observed started election processes before 8:30 am; about 59 percent started between 8:31 am to 9:59 am and about 20 percent started after 10:00 am. The earliest time recorded for accreditation was 8:22 am, and the latest time recorded was 11:24 am. The average opening poll time at 12 pm is 9:24 am.
About eight percent of the observed polling units (PUs) recorded delayed deployment of election materials. CJID observers reported that voting had not commenced in PU 05 Marina/Cowbell University of Calabar South LGA in Cross River State as of 11:20 am as a result of the delayed deployment of materials and late arrival of officials.
Based on the data gathered from field observation, 21 percent of observed polling units reported poor accessibility of polling units and provision of assistive voting devices for Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) in some polling units in Kwara, Niger, Osun, and Ogun States.
The Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machines malfunctioned in some polling units in five states. The states are Bauchi, Borno, Plateau, Akwa Ibom and Imo.
Some of the BVAS malfunctions were thumbprint and camera failures. This was observed particularly in Masau LGA’s Gundari Ward PU 27, MMC LGA’s Shuwari North, and Lamisula wards PU 63 and 30 respectively.
In Imo’s Okigwe LGA in Urban 2 ward PU Urban secondary school, issues with the BVAS were reported and alleged to have been caused by the poor network in the area.
CJID’s Press Attack Tracker (PAT), which monitors attacks on media actors and safety issues encountered by observers, recorded the denial of access to media coverage at PU 048 Ijaiye Lagos State by INEC staff. At the polling unit in Ijaiye, Ojokoro, INEC officials restricted journalists from recording the electoral process. It was confirmed that journalists from Independent Newspaper and Africa Independent Television (AIT) were prevented from taking photos and recording videos.
In Abeokuta, Ogun State, political thugs disrupted the electoral process in Ward 13 Polling Unit 22 of Itori Ado. According to reports, trouble began when a party agent challenged a journalist for snapping photos. It quickly escalated when journalists and some INEC officials were attacked by political thugs and took to their heels for safety.
Also, in Sokoto State, Abiodun Jamiu, a CJID election observer, was physically attacked by locals while covering the voting process at Polling Unit 11, Garba- Garba in Sokoto State.
As experienced during the presidential election, several false claims have been shared mostly on social media platforms. Although elections are being held in 28 states, most claims fact-checked so far originated from Lagos State. Claims about voter suppression, violence, false withdrawal, and fake endorsement of candidates have been circulated. It is worth noting that most claims of voter suppression and violence are from Lagos where electorates allege supporters of the All Progressives Congress (APC) are intimidating and consequently disenfranchising voters.
OVERVIEW OF TYPES OF INCIDENCES
So far, there have been about 70 incidents reported, with most of them coming from Ogun State. The most common incident type is vote buying, with 19 reported. In a polling unit in Osogbo LGA, Ward 09, Osun State, a party agent was spotted inducing voters to vote for his party. He spoke to some of them on the phone and wrote down the names of people who voted for his party.
A case of access denial to polling units was reported at Ibadan North LGA, Bodija Secretariat Area, Oyo.
CJID stands in solidarity with all actors, voters, and observers and calls on INEC and security officials to pay attention to the issues raised in this statement, and ensure peaceful conduct for the rest of the elections
We wish everyone a peaceful and fruitful election day.
Deputy Director, Accountability
Director of Programmes