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:
- 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.
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
Executive Director, YIAGA AFRICA
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