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19 Feb
0

2019 Polls: Welcome to #WatchingTheVote Parallel Vote Tabulation National Data Center

In Nigeria, the largest citizen movement committed to credible elections has set-up a huge Parallel Vote Tabulation National data center for the 2019 Presidential election. The aim according to the Project Director, Cynthia Mbamalu is to provide accurate and timely elections data, verifying accuracy of elections result and building citizens’ confidence in the process.

The Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) methodology is a proven Election Day observation procedure that allows non-partisan citizen observers to observe the election process using Information Communication Technology and Statistics. The PVT enables citizen observers to provide accurate and timely information on arrival of polling officials, commencement of accreditation and voting, functionality of card reader, counting of ballots and announcement of results.

Watching The Vote Data Clerks

Citizen Observers send their observation reports to the WTV database via coded text messages, which only the database can read. This largest citizen movement has used this method to observe series of elections since 2016 and now the stage is set for a bigger one.

Located at the Rivers Hall of the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, in the Federal Capital Territory is the YIAGA AFRICA’s Watching The Vote Parallel Vote Tabulation National Data Center, which has been a beehive of activities on the 2019 election observation mission. Both local and international observers are on a visiting spree to see how these inspired set of Nigerians operate.


Data Clerks checking the Database for due diligence

This is really some great work”, Former President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said after a tour of the YIAGA AFRICA’s #WatchingTheVote Parallel Vote Tabulation National Data center ahead of #NigeriaDecides2019. Former President of Botswana, Festus Moghae along with other officials of the election observation mission of ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions, were also thrilled during their tour of the center ahead of the Presidential elections.


Members of ECONEC election observation mission for the 2019 elections

The WTV PVT Data Center is made up of various sections. The Media Center is where the team organizes Press conferences to share findings from the pre-election environment, election observation deployment plan and other timely information for the public. The lounge is treated with banners containing election statistics like the total number of registered voters and zonal distribution of registered voters.  The breakdown of polling units and voting points for the general elections with zonal distribution of polling units and voting points are also visibly crested on the wall for information.


Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf during tour of WTV data center


Visuals from the WTV Lounge shows visitors reading publications like the Pre-election Observation reports, Newsletters, Press statements, reports and samples of Polling Units. Just at the right angle of the lounge, quality voter education videos on how the PVT has been used to observe and verify accuracy of elections in the recent past are shown on a TV screen.

Having deployed 3906 observers across all Local Government Areas in Nigeria, the data center is made up of at least 82 professionally trained data clerks who call observers across Nigeria to make due diligence on information received. Thrice before the elections, a simulation was conducted where observers send in practice SMS using a scenario that could play out on elections day. The simulation according to Training Manager, Paul James enables the data clerks to update their knowledge of the observers and also enables the team to update the database ahead of elections day.

Welcome to WTV Data Center

On Election Day, data clerks will take shifts from as early as 6am, when the polling unit officials kick off the voting process across the 774 local government areas in Nigeria, till dawn, when the INEC official results are finally announced to the public. The data clerks, 3906 observers and the WTV team at the National Data Center in Transcorp will be responsible for the Parallel Voters’ Tabulation result estimate that will also be announced on elections day.

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17 Feb
0

Election Postponement, Implications and Need to Remain Patriotic – Moshood Isah

The flurry of reactions that trailed the sudden postponement of the Presidential and National Assembly elections is no doubt a huge sign that its implication on election stakeholders is immeasurable. While the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has craved the indulgence of Nigerians saying the rescheduling of the elections is to able the commission address some logistics challenges, stakeholders did not hide their displeasure as they continue to demand explanations.

The rescheduling has in no little way put the integrity of the commission under scrutiny as political parties and their supporters have continued to accuse the commission of plans to manipulate the process. Nigerians have also rightly argued that the commission had over 36 months to prepare for the election thus the excuses of logistic issues may not be acceptable.

Civil Societies and election observers were also left disappointed saying INEC has a responsibility to be more transparent and proactive in communicating with Nigerians and strategic partners on their logistics and operational challenges. For instance, the largest citizen observer group, YIAGA AFRICA in a statement by its Executive Director described the postponement as disappointing saying the commission might have overestimated its own capabilities and/or underrated the challenges associated with the management of election logistics.

There is no doubt that the Logistic Challenges that the commission is trying to fix within one week has created a lot of logistics challenge for both local and International observers ahead of February 23rd election. With high sense of patriotism and enthusiasm, election observers have all set up data centers, situation rooms and analysis rooms with observers all set to observe across the country. The postponement means these stakeholders are left to bear the cost of the maintaining the data center for another week which is why the postponement has been described as a test of citizen’s patriotism and resilience.  

Nigerian Citizens who have relocated to their respective location of registration to enable them participate in the process now have to return to work during the week before taking another decision to either go back or not. This in a way may lead to a certain level of apathy ahead of next week’s rescheduled process. While it is encouraging that the commission recorded over 84 million registered voters even though it is yet to release the number of Permanent Voters Card collected, it is left to be seen if next week’s general elections will be met with the same zest.

Also, the report that the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) members to be used as Ad-hoc staff are facing serious challenges of accommodation and hostile reception at the Local Government of deployment is another major call for concern ahead next week’s elections. After enduring the unpleasant situation in the name of patriotism and service to the nation, the rescheduling of elections may mean they have to do this all over again. Thus, it won’t be surprising if some of these corps members decide to pull out of the process and may affect the quality of the process.

Recall that the 2015 General elections which is adjudged the best elections since 1999 was postponed by 6 weeks with the preceding 2011 elections also called-off while citizens were already at the polls. While rescheduling of elections is not the best idea, Nigerians can get it right in 2019 by cooperating with the commission to ensure credible elections. This is no doubt trying times for Nigeria’s democracy yet again, the responsibility of ensuring credible elections does not lies with the commission alone. The security agencies, political parties, CSOs and most importantly Nigerian citizens should pick up the call of unfettered patriotism to ensure a successful poll. While it is understandable that citizens are disappointed, the best way to react is by coming out on 23rd February and 9th March 2019 to vote peacefully while ensuring that their votes count.

Moshood Isah is the media officer of YIAGA AFRICA

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16 Feb
0

YIAGA AFRICA STATEMENT ON THE RESCHEDULING OF THE 2019 GENERAL ELECTIONS

YIAGA AFRICA receives with a deep sense of disappointment the news of INEC’s postponement of the Presidential and National Assembly elections from Saturday, 16th of February to February 23rd 2019 and Governorship/State Assembly elections from Saturday, 2nd March 2019 to March 9, 2019. This postponement is without doubt an indication that the Commission may have overestimated its own capabilities and/or underrated the challenges associated with the management of election logistics. While the anxiety and anger over the postponement is understandable and expected, we understand that the decision is in the interest of the country. INEC should without any further delay provide detailed information on the nature and degree of the logistical challenges that occasioned the postponement. This in addition to an elaborate logistical plan for the rescheduled elections and security of the exposed election materials. INEC needs to improve its communication and public engagement to give assurances to Nigerians. The citizenry deserves to be properly informed and reassured that such postponements will not remain a permanent feature of our electoral process.

We urge all Nigerian citizens and registered voters in particular to remain calm and exercise restraint as INEC works towards the new dates. This development is a test of our patriotism and resilience, we therefore urge citizens to keep faith with the process and remain hopeful that the rescheduled elections will meet all standards of credible elections. We also urge all registered voters to come out massively and vote for the candidates of their choice on the new dates. We encourage all stakeholders to take advantage of this window to provide additional voter education and mobilize the electorate to exercise their franchise.

We also seize this opportunity to ask all political party actors to show understanding and exercise patience. We urge them to stay away from making allegations, spreading rumors and hate speech to avert overheating the polity. We implore our friends and partners from the international community, foreign and fellow domestic observers to show understanding and empathy as Nigeria moves towards the proposed dates for the 2019 elections. The role of the media in maintaining calm, dowsing suspicion and preventing the spread of fake news cannot be over emphasized. We plead with the press to continue to disseminate messages and information that will bring greater stability to Nigeria. The security agencies should remain vigilant and proactive to diffuse any crises that may emanate as a result of this postponement.

The YIAGA Africa Watching The Vote will continue to provide the most timely and accurate information on the conduct of the 23rd of February, 2019 elections and will give an independent estimate of the officially announced presidential election results. YIAGA Africa reiterates its readiness to deploy its 3,906 observers to all the 774 local government areas in the country, and will continue to ensure that Nigerian elections are conducted in a transparent, credible and peaceful manner.

Dr. Hussaini Abdu                                                    Samson Itodo
Chair, Watching The Vote Working Group               Executive Director, YIAGA AFRICA

For media inquiries please contact:

Moshood Isah, Communication Officer
Tel. +234 (0) 703 666 9339, Email: misah@yiaga.org

Learn more about #WatchingTheVote at www.watchingthevote.org or on social media on Facebook at facebook.com/yiaga.org or on Twitter @YIAGA.

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14 Feb
0

YIAGA AFRICA Watching The Vote PVT Pre-election Statement for 2019 Presidential Election

Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished guests – welcome to the YIAGA AFRICA Watching The Vote (WTV)’s Preliminary Press Conference on observation plans for the presidential election on 16 February 2019 and the pre-election environment leading up to the 2019 elections. This briefing is the first in a series of four planned press conferences to be hosted by YIAGA AFRICA. We equally invite you to join us at the same location on Saturday 16 February 2019 when YIAGA AFRICA will share its mid-day situational statement on the opening of polls and on Sunday 17 February 2019 at 10:00 am when YIAGA AFRICA will share its preliminary statement on the conduct of the 16 February election process. This preliminary statement will contain detailed statistics covering all aspects of the 16 February polls including accreditation, voting, counting and posting of results. As soon as INEC announces the official results, YIAGA AFRICA will follow up with a fourth and final press conference to share its own statement on the accuracy of the election results and will publicize these projections.

YIAGA AFRICA and Watching The Vote Observation of the 2019 Presidential Election

YIAGA AFRICA is a strictly nonpartisan and independent civil society organization without affiliation to any political party, candidate or state agency. YIAGA AFRICA’s Watching The Vote effort includes volunteers representing Nigeria’s diversity: women and men, youth and the elderly, persons with disability, Muslims and Christians from the six geo-political zones. YIAGA AFRICA’s observers have all been carefully selected and extensively trained in accordance with strict criteria to ensure their independence and neutrality, are properly accredited with INEC and have signed a project Code of Conduct to uphold standards of impartiality, objectivity and professionalism. YIAGA AFRICA observes on behalf of all Nigerian people and speaks in their name on the basis of verified data. YIAGA AFRICA will deploy a parallel vote tabulation or PVT. Findings are from a statistical sample of polling units located in all 774 LGAs that is truly representative of the entire country and therefore provide unbiased information on the overall conduct of the presidential election and the accuracy of the results.

YIAGA AFRICA conducts comprehensive observation of elections. In the pre-election period, YIAGA AFRICA deployed 822 Long Term Observers (LTOs) in all 774 Local Government Areas (LGA) of Nigeria. These citizen observers monitored political developments and preparations for the general elections over a four months period. For the Presidential election, YIAGA AFRICA will deploy a total of 3,906 observers throughout the country. This is comprised of 3,076 stationary PVT observers deployed to a random representative statistical sample of 1,515 polling units and 23 voting points; 877 roving observers; and 8 Working Group members who run real time election analysis. YIAGA AFRICA will also deploy observers to the State Collation Centres in every state. Our observers will observe the entire election day process from setup of the polling units through the announcement and posting of the official results and will send in periodic reports to the Watching the Vote National Data Centre located in the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja where they will be processed and analysed.

This deployment will enable YIAGA AFRICA to provide the most timely and accurate information on the opening of polls; the conduct of accreditation and voting; and the counting, announcement and posting of results throughout the country. Based on reports from its observers in the sampled polling units YIAGA AFRICA will also provide an independent projection of voter turnout and will be able to project the vote shares that each party should receive within a narrow range. If the official results fall within YIAGA AFRICA’s estimated ranges, then the public, political parties and candidates should have confidence in the ballots cast at the polling units. Only INEC, however, has the legal mandate to announce the election results. As soon as INEC announces the official results, YIAGA AFRICA will follow up with a fourth and final press conference to share its own statement on the accuracy of the election results and will publicize these projections.

Utilizing information communications technology and statistical principles, PVT is the gold standard for citizen election observation, and has been utilized throughout Africa and the world. In recent elections in Africa, the conduct of parallel vote tabulations by nonpartisan citizen organizations has bolstered citizen confidence and provided credible, independent estimates of presidential election results in Zimbabwe (2018), Kenya (2017), Ghana (2016), Zambia (2016 and 2015), Côte d’Ivoire (2015) and Burkina Faso (2015). YIAGA AFRICA has also deployed this methodology for recent off-cycle gubernatorial elections in Nigeria, including: Osun (2018), Ekiti (2018), Anambra (2017) and Ondo (2016).

On election day YIAGA AFRICA expects to receive more than 30,000 observer reports containing over 500,000 unique pieces of information on the process and results of the election. Over 94 data clerks as well as a team of data analysts will work tirelessly throughout February 16 and 17 to process, analyse and verify these reports at the Watching the Vote National Data Center located on Floor 02 of the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja. On 16 February, the Watching The Vote National Data Center will open promptly at 6:30 am and will remain open until counting has finished at all sampled polling units and all YIAGA AFRICA citizen observers have sent in their observation reports. The WTV National Data Center is open to the public and media at all times. Throughout election day, YIAGA AFRICA will provide timely updates on the conduct of the election based on the near real-time reports from its observers. These will include press conferences at the WTV National Data Center to share a mid-day situational statement on 16 February 2019 and a press conference on the morning after (Sunday February 17) to share preliminary data on the process. YIAGA AFRICA will share regular post on social media including YIAGA AFRICA’s Facebook page – facebook.com/yiaga.org and through YIAGA AFRICA’s Twitter handle @YIAGA.

YIAGA AFRICA undertook the Watching The Vote project to provide Nigerian voters, presidential candidates, political parties, civil society and INEC with independent information about whether the official results for the 16 February 2019 presidential election truly reflect the ballots cast at polling units. The Watching The Vote project is “Driven by Data – For All Nigerians – Beholden to None!

YIAGA AFRICA’s Pre-Election Observation Main Findings

On 9 November 2019, YIAGA AFRICA Watching The Vote launched a nation-wide observation effort to promote electoral integrity through the collection of structured information about the pre-election environment. The effort aggregates reports from a trained network of 822 citizen observers locally recruited from the 774 LGAs of the country. Every two weeks, observers report on pre-election developments in their Local Government Area using a structured checklist. The reports provide nation-wide information about trends around: preparatory activities undertaken by INEC; voter education by INEC, the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and civil society organizations; political party campaign activities; and early warning signs of electoral violence. YIAGA AFRICA has already released four reports on the pre-election environment, which are available online at https://watchingthevote.org/  The following findings and recommendations are grounded in reporting from 11 to 24 January 2019:

  1. Voter Education: WTV findings show that INEC, National Orientation Agency (NOA) and civil society organizations (CSOs) have expanded voter education efforts to more LGAs as election day draws closer. Watching The Vote observers directly/indirectly witnessed voter education activities conducted by: INEC in 74% of LGAs, NOA in 48% of LGAs and CSOs in 63% of LGAs; an increase over previous reporting periods. YIAGA AFRICA congratulates concerned actors on increased efforts made to raise voter awareness to date and urges them to continue efforts to provide credible, accurate information about the electoral process in the days remaining before the election – particularly in the South East and South West geopolitical zones where such efforts have not been as widely reported by Watching the Vote observers.
  • Electoral campaigns: WTV observers witnessed intense campaigning by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with observers in 90% of LGAs reporting the presence of a PDP party rally and observers in 87% of LGAs reporting the presence of an APC party rally. Observers in 36% of LGAs reported the presence of an African Democratic Congress (ADC) party rally during the reporting period while observers in 47% of LGAs reported the presence of a Social Democratic Party (SDP) party rally. YIAGA AFRICA commends political parties for their active engagement in the process and encourages them to continue to urge peaceful engagement on the part of their supporters.
  • Voter Inducement: WTV continued to track instances of voter inducement, with reporting rates remaining comparable to those obtained during previous reporting periods. From 11 to 24 January, Watching The Vote long-term observers in 18% of LGAs directly or indirectly witnessed acts of voter inducement. YIAGA AFRICA remains concerned that voter inducement may create an unequal playing field for candidates and parties as well as undermine the integrity of the vote.  YIAGA AFRICA calls on all Nigerian citizens to resist efforts to purchase their votes. Political party leadership at the highest levels should sanction any party members found to be engaging in such conduct and we urge security agencies to apprehended any individual involved in the act of voter inducement or vote buying.

Finally, YIAGA AFRICA received reports from its long-term observers in Anambra State regarding a fire in the INEC Headquarters in Awka. The fire reportedly destroyed upwards of 4,000 Smart Card Readers and is the third fire reported in an INEC facility over the previous two-week period — fires were also recently reported at the INEC Headquarters in Abia and Plateau States. YIAGA AFRICA registers concern regarding this trend, and calls on state security forces to remain vigilant in providing adequate security for sensitive election materials and personnel.

Conclusion

YIAGA AFRICA is fully prepared to observe the 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections. To that end, we invite the assembled guests to accompany us now on a tour of the WTV National Data Center where a live simulation exercise is currently underway to test the readiness of our observer network to observe and the functionality of our data management systems. At present, all 3,076 PVT observers are sending in practice reports based on an election day scenario, which will be duly processed by the data clerks and data analysis teams. YIAGA AFRICA stands ready to observe the presidential elections on behalf of all Nigerians and to ensure that the people’s votes are accurately counted. YIAGA AFRICA calls on the citizens of Nigeria, the parties and candidates, INEC and the forces of law and order to also play their parts to ensure a peaceful, credible and inclusive process.

Thank you and God Bless the people of Nigeria!

Dr. Hussaini Abdu
Chair, Watching The Vote Working Group

Samson Itodo
Executive Director, YIAGA AFRICA

For media inquiries please contact:

Moshood Isah
Communication Officer
YIAGA AFRICA
Tel. +234 (0) 703 666 9339
Email: misah@yiaga.org

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14 Feb
0

YIAGA AFRICA Pre-election Press Release on the 2019 Presidential Election

YIAGA AFRICA today briefed the public on its plans to deploy 3,906 observers on 16 February 2019 to observe the presidential and National Assembly elections. YIAGA AFRICA will have mobile and stationary observers in every geopolitical zone and state as well is in every single one of Nigeria’s 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs). YIAGA AFRICA will also deploy observers to the State Collation Centres in every state.

YIAGA AFRICA today briefed the public on its plans to deploy 3,906 observers on 16 February 2019 to observe the presidential and National Assembly elections. YIAGA AFRICA will have mobile and stationary observers in every geopolitical zone and state as well is in every single one of Nigeria’s 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs). YIAGA AFRICA will also deploy observers to the State Collation Centres in every state.

YIAGA AFRICA will conduct a parallel vote tabulation or PVT – the gold standard observation methodology that has been utilized throughout Africa and the world. This deployment will enable YIAGA AFRICA to provide the most timely and accurate information on the opening of polls; the conduct of accreditation and voting; and the counting, announcement and posting of results throughout the country. Based on reports from its observers in 1,515 sampled polling units YIAGA AFRICA will also provide an independent projection of voter turnout and will be able to project the vote shares that each party should receive within a narrow range. If the official results fall within YIAGA AFRICA’s estimated ranges, then the public, political parties and candidates should have confidence in the ballots cast at the polling units. Only INEC, however, has the legal mandate to announce the election results.

Dr. Hussaini Abdu, Chair of the YIAGA AFRICA Watching the Vote explains that, “YIAGA AFRICA’s Watching The Vote effort includes volunteers from all walks of life: women and men, youth and the elderly, persons with disability, Northerners and Southerners, Muslims and Christians. YIAGA AFRICA’s observers have all been carefully selected and extensively trained in accordance with strict criteria to ensure their independence and neutrality, are properly accredited with INEC and have signed a project Code of Conduct to uphold standards of impartiality, objectivity and professionalism. YIAGA AFRICA observes on behalf of all Nigerian people and speaks in their name on the basis of verified data.”

YIAGA AFRICA will hold a press conference Saturday 16 February 2019 at the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja in the Borno Room to share its mid-day situational statement on the opening of polls. YIAGA AFRICA will also organize a briefing on Sunday 17 February 2019 at 10:00 am to share its preliminary statement on the conduct of the 16 February election process. This preliminary statement will contain detailed statistics covering all aspects of the 16 February polls including accreditation, voting, counting and posting of results. As soon as INEC announces the official results, YIAGA AFRICA will follow up with a fourth and final press conference to share its own statement on the accuracy of the election results and will publicize these projections.

YIAGA AFRICA PVT findings are from a statistical sample of polling units located in all 774 LGAs that is truly representative of the entire country and therefore provide unbiased information on the overall conduct of the presidential election and the accuracy of the results. YIAGA AFRICA is a strictly nonpartisan and independent civil society organization without affiliation to any political party, candidate or state agency. YIAGA AFRICA carries out research, capacity development and policy advocacy. YIAGA AFRICA has been involved in election observation since 2007 and it is one of the leading organizations working on elections in Nigeria.

For media inquiries please contact:

Moshood Isah

Communication Officer

YIAGA AFRICA

Tel. +234 (0) 703 666 9339

Email: misah@yiaga.org Learn more about #WatchingTheVote at www.watchingthevote.org or on social media on Facebook at facebook.com/yiaga.org or on Twitter @YIAGA

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11 Feb
0

Youth Candidacy in the 2019 General Elections Report

Nigeria has conducted five general elections since the return to civil rule; 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015. The five elections were noted for the low levels of youth participation as candidates. This situation was in part due to the 1999 Constitution which placed minimum age limits for those wishing to contest the following elective positions and seats; President 40 years, Senate, 35 years, House of Representatives, 30 years, Governors, 35 years and State Houses of Assembly, 30 years. The constitutional age requirements shut the door on Nigerian youth who constitute a majority of the population and registered voters.

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06 Feb
0

2019 Elections: Need to Leverage on Credible Data For Election Reportage – Moshood Isah 

The 2019 general election is less than a fortnight away with election stakeholders getting set for another all-important general election in Nigeria. There have been questions on the rise concerning the accuracy of election results: “Will it reflect the voting reality or if it will be altered?” In recent times, citizen observers have played a crucial role in the electoral process especially in the area of observation, providing accurate data and verifying accuracy of elections result. The days of anecdotal reporting of election should go away with the previous elections, as data-driven reportage is consistently proving to be the best way to analyze quality of elections. While journalists cannot be at all polling units at the same time, it has become pertinent to leverage on citizen observer information to galvanise reports for quality control.

Although, traditional election observers may also not have the wherewithal to be at all polling units at the same time, this may leave the audience with anecdotal report. In this vein, a systematic election observation methodology which provides accurate and real time information on the election process remains the best possible way to access quality of elections and remain the only independent way to verify the accuracy of the elections result.

During a roundtable with journalists and editors on the 2019 General elections and the deployment of Parallel Vote Tabulation organized by YIAGA AFRICA through a project called Watching The Vote, the Executive Director, Samson Itodo revealed the vital role of citizens and the media in the course of the election. He reiterated that while citizen observers play a massive role in providing election data, journalists should leverage on credible election data rather than anecdotal reportage of the election.

The good news however is that, organisations like YIAGA ARICA through its Watching The Vote (WTV)  project, have consistently deployed a systematic methodology called the Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) to observe elections in recent times. The PVT is a proven Election Day observation methodology that allows non-partisan citizen observers to observe and provide accurate information on the Election Day process using Information Technology and Statistics thereby verifying the accuracy of elections results released by the electoral commission.

The PVT which originated from the Philippines by a group called the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) successfully provided a reliable third party projection of the results . During the Presidential elections in 1986, NAMFREL mobilized 500,000 volunteers nationwide to observe the process. The then President, Ferdinand Marcos declared himself the winner of the election; the NAMFREL count, however, showed otherwise. This led to People Power revolt which ultimately ousted Marcos.

A similar scenario happened in Zambia during the 1992 Presidential elections where citizen observers prevented election malpractice using the PVT. While PVT has also been used in Nigeria during general elections and off-circle elections from 2011, Nigerian media may not have maximized available data from citizen observers to assess quality of elections. But the 2019 elections is another window of opportunity for the media to utilize the data output provided by independent and non-partisan citizens observers nationwide to verify and corroborate with facts of the elections for their news reports. For instance, the PVT provides information such as the time in which voting commenced at polling units and the functionality of the card reader, and eventually an estimate of elections results.

There has also been a debate surrounding the usage of smart card readers and incident forms, however citizen observers using the PVT methodology can provide accurate data on the percentage of polling units that made use of smart readers for accreditation and authentication of voters throughout the election period. This will then give an insight on the possibility of multiple voting, voting by proxy or election malpractice.

Back to the question of whether the election result will reflect the voting reality or it will be altered. Only the citizen observers using the Parallel Vote Tabulation observation methodology can verify the accuracy of the results or expose any form of malpractice in the process. Thus, there is need to sound a note of warning to any individuals or any group who may be planning to manipulate the 2019 general elections, because the citizen observers will expose it.

Finally, Nigerians are making a clarion call to journalists to leverage on credible elections data in a bid to give an accurate analysis of the elections. In this vein, electoral stakeholders can assess quality of elections and work on recommendations to better improve the process.

Moshood Isah is the Media Officer of YIAGA AFRICA

He tweets @Moshoodpm

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06 Feb
0

YOUTH CANDIDACY IN THE 2019 GENERAL ELECTIONS

Press Statement by YIAGA AFRICA

The 2019 general elections remain one of the most contested elections since the transition to democracy in 1999 with 91 registered political parties, 73 Presidential candidates, 1,904 candidates for the Senate, 4,680 for the House of Representatives, 1,066 for the Governorship 14, 583 for the State Assemblies. The elections, beyond the high number of candidate’s highlights a more competitive political environment with the increase in the political debates and more importantly the number of young people registered as voters and contesting the elections.

Nigeria has conducted five general elections since the return to civil rule; 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015. The five elections were noted for the low levels of youth participation as candidates, this is regardless of the determining role of young people as voters and election administrators. This situation was in part due to the 1999 Constitution which placed minimum age limits for those wishing to contest the following elective positions and seats; President 40 years, Senate, 35 years, House of Representatives, 30 years, Governors, 35 years and State Houses of Assembly, 30 years. The constitutional age requirements shut the door on Nigerian youth who constitute a majority of the population and registered voters.

The circumstances of the 2019 general elections scheduled for February 16, 2019 for Presidential and National Assembly and March 2, 2019 for the Gubernatorial and State Houses of Assembly polls, are however significantly different, thanks to the passage of the Not Too Young To Run bill into law in 2018. The campaign to lower the constitutional age limit to increase the involvement of the youth, defined as Nigerians in the age bracket of 18–35 years in the electoral process, was spearheaded by YIAGA AFRICA and the Not Too Young To Run Movement. The coming into effect of the age reduction legislation has witnessed the emergence of a new wave of competent and credible young women and men, who are running for political offices in 2019, with a fresh agenda that is committed to providing innovative, transformative and responsive leadership in the public domain. Young people’s right to run for public office cannot be overemphasised because it deepens and sustains democracy. Considering that regular elections are an indispensable feature of modern democracy, creating awareness on the importance of youth candidacy in elections, has become more relevant and urgent especially owing to Nigeria’s youthful population.

The release of the list of candidates by the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for elections into the National Assembly (House of Representatives and Senate), Office of the President, Governors and State Houses of Assembly, provides invaluable data and opportunity to carry out comprehensive analysis of youth candidacy in the 2019 general elections in Nigeria. The participation of the youth in the electoral process will enable them to effectively enforce their civic rights only when their political aspirations are firmly protected in the constitution. The Not Too Young To Run initiative and legislation is truly a landmark development in that regard. Its gains must be consolidated and sustained in 2019 and in subsequent elections in Nigeria.

The observable trends in the participation of youth candidates in the 2019 general elections are in two broad segments. The first one is on youth participation in the National Assembly, and Presidential elections, while the second is on the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections.

With respect to National Assembly and Presidential elections, the following are among the most significant observations and trends:

  • The list of all candidates in 2019 indicates that the passage of the Not Too Young To Run law opened up the political space for increased youth participation in the House of Representatives and Presidential elections, because it reduced the age for the  President from 40 to 35 years and House of Representatives from 30 to 25 years.
  • In total, 1,515 youth candidates, representing 23% of all the candidates, contested for seats in the National Assembly.
  • Ten candidates or 14% of the Presidential candidates were aged between 35–40 years.
  • Eleven or 15% of political parties fielded candidates for the Vice-Presidential position that were aged between 35–40 years.
  • Youth candidacy increased from 18% in the 2015 House of Representatives election to 27.4% in the 2019 House of Representatives elections.
  • The North West has the highest number of youth candidates for the House of Representatives and Senate elections.
  • There is a strong and positive relationship between the number of registered young voters and the number of youth candidates contesting for election in the National Assembly.
  • The candidate of the Restoration Party of Nigeria (RP) aged 33 years did not meet one of the electoral requirements for running for the Presidency.
  • Four (4) political parties; Alliance for a United Nigeria (AUN), Peoples Coalition Party (PCP), Reform and Advancement Party (RAP) and We the People Nigeria (WTPN) have no candidates vying for positions in the National Assembly.
  • Political parties with seemingly less national prominence have more youth candidates than the leading ones across all the elections; and finally,
  • The number of young female candidates in the 2015 general elections was below 20%, is even lower in the 2019 general elections.

For the governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections, the defining trends are:      

  • Less than one tenth (9.8%) of the candidates vying for the position of the Governor in 29 states of the Federation are youth candidates compared to 22.9% contesting for Deputing Governor.
  • Majority of the youth candidates contesting for the positions of the Governor Deputy and the Governor are in the North West at 33.7%and 29.7% respectively of the total number of youth candidates contesting for these offices.
  • Eighty-nine (89%) of the youth candidates for the positions of Governor are male, (11%) are female, compared to (72%) male and (28%) female, for the positions of Deputy Governor.
  • Fifty-three (53) political parties fielded youth candidates for the Governorship election with JMPP having the highest number with 8 candidates, while 74 political parties fielded youth candidates for the Deputy Governorship positions with MPN having the highest number with 13 candidates. The APC and PDP have no youth candidates for the positions of Governor and Deputy Governor in all 29 states.
  • There are 41.8% youth candidates vying for seats in State Houses of Assembly in all the 36 states with the majority (23.5%) from the North West.
  •  Only 13.9% of the youth candidates for State Houses of Assembly elections are female while 86.1% are male.
  • Four political parties (ADC, APC, PDP, SDP) accounted for 16.2% of the total number of youth candidates in the State Houses of Assembly election.
  • Among the states, Kano with (435) has the highest number of youth candidates for the State Houses of Assembly election.
  • Among the political parties, the ADC with (434) has the highest number of youth candidates for the State Houses of Assembly election.

While the Not Too Young to Run inspired a new wave of youth political participation as aspirants and finally as candidates, there are still major challenges beyond the legal framework for elections that must be addressed to increase youth political inclusion. The beauty of democracy is in its ability to ensure inclusion and representation of different sections of the society.

For the 2019 General Elections, political parties still have a role to play by providing support to their youth candidates as they promote competent and capable youth leadership.

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04 Feb
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2019: YIAGA AFRICA TRAINS OVER 3000 CITIZEN OBSERVERS NATIONWIDE

Ahead of the February 16 Presidential election, YIAGA AFRICA’s under its Watching The Vote (WTV) project has concluded plans to train at least 3030 citizen observers who will be deployed to randomly selected polling units to observe Nigeria’s Presidential election. Speaking during the refresher training of Trainers during the week, WTV project Director, Cynthia Mbamalu said the training of citizen observers will commence 5th February and run through 9th of February 2019 in 149 centres across all 36 states in Nigeria.

She said, the team have a total number of 42 Master Trainers who were with the team during the Governorship elections in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun, 48 State Focal Points and 15 team members who will be deployed to training centers across Nigeria. She reiterated that, the aim of the WTV project is to promote electoral integrity and boost confidence of citizens in the electoral process.

According to Mbamalu, “as the largest citizen movement committed to credible elections in Nigeria, we will be deploying the largest number of observers for the 2019 Presidential election and we will provide accurate and real time information on the election day process”. The information YIAGA AFRICA will be providing to citizens according to Mbamalu include, time of arrival and set up by polling officials, commencement of accreditation and voting, functionality of the smart card reader and deployment of security officials.

“we will also be observing the process of voting, sorting and counting while also verifying the accuracy of the official elections result released by the electoral commission”, she said.

Training Manager, Paul James also emphasized the importance of training and retraining of observers because the election observation methodology used by YIAGA AFRICA’s WTV lays emphasis on accuracy and precision. According to James, “we will be deploying the Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) methodology which is a proven election day observation methodology that allows non-partisan citizens to observe the entire election day process using Information Communication Technology and Statistics”.  According to him, the PVT enables YIAGA AFRICA to provide accurate and real time information on the election day process and verifying the accuracy of the elections result.

 He said “What determines the quality of the PVT is not the numbers, it’s the response rate by the observers”. Therefore, the observer’s response is of paramount importance.

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04 Feb
0

Shaping the Narrative of Nigeria’s 2019 elections with big data – Itodo Samson

The newly released figures by Nigeria’s electoral commission indicates that 84,004,084 million persons registered to vote across the 176,996 voting points during the February 16 and March 2nd elections. A total of 23, 316 candidates are jostling for 1,558 vacant elective seats and offices. For the Presidential elections, official data suggest that 91.7% are males and females 8.3%.  The Female vice-presidential candidates stand at 30.6% and men 69.4%. This trend of low female candidacy permeates the list of candidates for the National Assembly elections. For the Senate, the male candidates dominate with 87.7%, females 12.3%. 88.4% of candidates for the House of Representatives elections are males while 11.6% are females. Youth candidacy in the National Assembly election is 23%. As at January 11, 2019, 79% of Permanent Voter Card (PVC) have been collected.

As Nigeria gears up for the 2019 general elections, big data is expected to play a crucial role depending on its credibility and usage. Without any iota of doubt, the election will be determined by quantitative and qualitative data generated and disseminated through credible platforms.  In a politically charged climate like Nigeria, political analysis and decisions must be informed by evidence and data. INEC is leveraging data collected by the Albino Foundation, Inclusive Friends and Centre for Citizens with Disability (CCD) to locate polling units with persons with disability, so the commission can deploy magnify glasses for albinos and tactile ballots to ensure visually impaired voters exercise their franchise. Using data generated from election risk assessment, INEC has mapped hotspots and develop strategies to neutralize potentials risks. Politicians are also leveraging data to influence voting choices at the polls. Election observers are also involved in systematic observation of elections using big data. For example, the YIAGA AFRICA Watching The Vote leverages official polling unit data for its Parallel Vote Tabulation. Hotspot and violence-prone states have been identified based on data collected by civil society groups through security threats assessments or pre-election observation. These efforts should be recognized as progressive interventions aimed at bridging Nigeria’s huge data gap.

The big issue for the 2019 elections is acceptability of electoral outcomes. This is why the electoral integrity quotient needs to be high.  Unfortunately, the average Nigerian politician is more invested in undermining the process. The desperation level reached unimaginable heights in the pre-election period with widespread cases of buying of the Permanent Voter Card (PVC) from voters  and new techniques of vote buying. Again, public trust in democratic institutions is declining owing to several questionable incidence and missteps by electoral stakeholders. For instance, the decline of assent to the electoral amendment bill, intimidation and clampdown of opposition figures by state authorities, the controversy surrounding the suspension of the Chief Justice of the Federation and alleged partisanship of security agencies casts doubt on the commitment to free and fair elections.

INEC will be confronted with difficult choices to make on election day. In addition to collation and declaration of results, INEC will take decisions on cancellation or postponement of elections where violence occurs or logistical challenges are experienced. To make informed decisions, the commission must rely on facts and evidence. The non-availability of credible facts and data will stifle the commission’s ability to make informed decisions that will stand the force of law. This explains why building big data knowledge, and digital intelligence is valuable for elections. It evident that those armed with data will determine the 2019 elections. For emphasis, electoral engagement and analysis fueled by data will be useful for three broad reasons;

Enhancing the Integrity of the process

For the first time since 2015, political parties called for a bifurcation of accreditation and voting on election day. This demand is signals lack of trust in the current voter accreditation process. They based their rejection of simultaneous accreditation and voting on limited and delayed access to voter accreditation data on election day. In the estimation of the political parties, the procedure adopted in 2015 where accreditation was completed before voting increased the integrity of the process because the data on accredited voters was announced before the commencement of voting. They argued that the proposed Continuous Accreditation and Voting System (CAVS) for the 2019 elections does not guarantee timely access to accreditation data, therefore, it impedes effective monitoring of elections. Similarly, stakeholders have demanded for disaggregated data on PVC collection. Questions have also been raised on the availability of data on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and the extent to which the data is shaping INEC’s plans to ensure IDPs vote and their votes count. The most appropriate response to these demands and legitimate concerns ensure proactive disclosure of data. Proactively communicating accreditation figures generated by the Smart card reader and PVC collation data will not only facilitate effective monitoring but it will boost the confidence of stakeholders and mitigate conflict. Stakeholders should not be subjected to the bureaucracy of applying for what should ordinarily be public information. Good a thing, INEC has promised to release the PVC collection once the collection exercise terminates on February 8, 2019.

Delegitimising fake news

The propagation of fake news in the 2019 elections is rising and it portends great danger for the integrity of the process. One of the effects of the fake news boom is the trust deficit and suspicion in the public domain. Voters have become skeptical of every information they receive even when it comes from a trusted source. With a keenly contested election and declining public trust in democratic institutions, countering fake news will require timely, accurate and quality data. Data contains evidence capable of exposing falsehood and propaganda hence the need all stakeholders to leverage data to delegitimize fake news in the 2019 elections.

Verifying accuracy of election results

In every election, there must be a winner. It is trite that the electoral umpire must be guided by the principles of impartiality, transparency, professionalism and accountability in this critical component of elections. Pathologically, results collation is the weakest link in elections in Africa. This is evident in the controversies plaguing results tallying in recent elections in Kenya, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Zimbabwe and DRC experienced an orgy of violence due to allegations of fraud in the results tallying process.

The credibility and legitimacy of election results can be enhanced with independent verification of election results by non-partisan election observers group using quantitative tools and technology. Data generated from independent observation of elections can verify the accuracy of election results. This builds trust in electoral outcomes. A proven methodology that allows nonpartisan citizen election observers to systematically assess the quality of voting and counting and make accurate projections and verify election results with a high degree of precision is the Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT). The PVT provides the most accurate and timely information on the conduct of an election and it is the only methodology that can independently verify the accuracy of official results. Using this advanced election observation methodology called PVT, YIAGA AFRICA through the Watching The Vote will generate granular and untainted process and results in data from a representative sample of polling units in all the 774 local government of Nigeria for her independent evaluation of the process and verification of the official results announced by INEC.

Undoubtedly, data will shape the narrative of the 2019 general elections. With this in mind, suppliers of data like INEC or security agencies should uphold the Open Election Data Principles in performing their roles in elections. Election data such as PVC collection data, voter accreditation figures, voter turnout rates, election results, contact information of election officials/security officials must be released in a timely, granular and readable format if the commission is committed to electoral integrity and transparency. Since data do not speak for themselves, political parties, civil society, media and the general public must invest in conducting objective analysis of election data for policy and public engagement. The depth of our interpretation and analysis of election data will potentially improve the quality of our electoral process. Therefore, relying on propaganda and fake news in assessing elections is not only disingenuous but counter-productive.

Samson Itodo is an elections and constitution building enthusiast. He is the Executive Director of YIAGA AFRICA and Convener of the Not Too Young To run Movement. Send comments and feedback to sitodo@yiaga.org He tweets @DSamsonItodo

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