Logistical Delays and Violence on Election Day in Nigeria

Three days after the citizens of Nigeria went to the polls to cast their votes for the next president, results are still filtering into the Independent National Election Commission (INEC). Results have been slower than expected because the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and INEC Election Result Viewing Portal (IReV) failed or was not used to record votes. BVAS and IReV were created to enhance the transparency of election results and instill public trust in the election outcome.

Graphic from Premium Times – www.premiumtimesng.com

But even before results were recorded, INEC struggled to start election day on time. Many polling units did not open on time, and the large number of voters at polling units overwhelmed INEC polling unit staff. According to Yiaga Africa, an NGO in Nigeria tracking the election process, only 41 percent of polling units in the country opened by 9:30 am, an hour after the scheduled opening of polls. A friend, who was broadcasting on Instagram from her polling unit in Abuja said that election staff and materials arrived after 10:30 am. The late start of her polling unit created significant delays in citizens trying to cast their votes. Voting went well past the 2:30 pm closing time due to the late openings of many polling units.

Unfortunately, there were numerous accounts of violence across the country. A photo that went viral on Twitter and other social media platforms was of a woman with bandages on her face exercising her right to vote. According to reporting from various sources, including the BBC, Bina Jennifer Efidi was attacked as she waited to vote in Lagos. A broken glass bottle hit her in the face. After she received medical attention, she returned to her polling unit to cast her vote. She said in an interview that she could still walk, so she wanted to cast her vote. She said, “I know my vote can make a difference; it can make a change. It’s important that I vote…I am not a politician, I am just a Nigerian performing my civic duty.”  

Political parties, Labour Party (LP) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are calling for the cancellation of the presidential elections, alleging manipulation of results, and demanding a new ballot. The two opposition parties say failures in the BVAS and IReV systems allowed for manipulation and disparities in the results. LP chairman Julius Abure told reporters, “The election is irretrievably compromised, and we have lost faith in the entire process. We demand that this sham of an election should be immediately canceled. We also call for a fresh election to be carried out.” He went on to call on the sitting president to intervene. “President Muhammadu Buhari, this is the time of a great test of your integrity. Use your office to save Nigerians from this electoral mismanagement,” Abure said.

The presidential race has become highly competitive between three candidates, Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Atiku Abubakar of the primary opposition PDP, and Peter Obi of LP. According to Premium Times, a news outlet in Nigeria, the APC candidate leads the PDP and LP candidates by narrow margins. According to the constitution, to be elected, a presidential candidate must receive a plurality of the votes and more than 25 percent of the votes in at least 24 states and the Federal Capital Territory. A run-off is organized if any of the candidates do not meet this threshold. The candidates with the greatest number of votes are eligible for runoff and the candidate with a majority of votes in the greatest number of states.

A discussion has started in Nigeria on whether the winning presidential candidate will need 25 percent of the votes in at least 24 states AND the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) or if a candidate needs 25 percent of the votes in at least 24 states, as the Nigerian constitution counts the FCT as a state when it comes to these matters.  Section 299 of the Nigerian Constitution says the FCT shall be treated like a state. This debate will probably make its way through the court system as there is a concern that neither the APC nor PDP candidates received 25 percent of the votes in the FCT.

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