Between the introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), the N305 billion approved for the 2023 general elections and INEC’s multiple assurances that it was prepared to conduct the 2023 polls, voting, compiling and collating election results have proven to be a tedious, anticlimactic affair fraught with delays.
This article will be updated as more information on vote collation becomes available.
Nigeria’s 2023 general elections kicked off on 25 February and at the time of press, Nigerians—and the world—are still waiting to know who the next president is, mainly due to the challenges faced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in processing votes.
The tightly contested 2023 poll for president has 18 candidates on the ballot. Of these 18, four are widely considered the major candidates. These include: the former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress; former vice president, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party; former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi of the Labour Party and former governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria’s Peoples Party.
While the 2023 elections mark the first time that elections have not been entirely postponed since 2011, INEC still faced the issue of logistics and electoral violence usually reported in every electoral cycle. In 2019, INEC postponed the presidential and legislative elections hours before Nigerians were set to vote. The electoral body cited ‘logistics and operational problems’ as the reason for its postponement with the national chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, attributing it to delays in the delivery of ballot papers and result sheets.
In 2015, under then-INEC chairman, Attahiru Jega, the commission postponed the presidential elections over security concerns. Similarly in 2011, the national assembly elections scheduled for 02 April had already started in states like Lagos, Kaduna, Kebbi, Delta, Zamfara and Enugu when Jega announced the postponement over the late deployment of electoral materials.
Saturday’s elections were no different: widespread delays in the commencement of polling units, technical difficulties in using BVAS, delays in uploading results to the results portal and attacks on some polling stations saw voting continue through the night in states like Bauchi and Kano and in others, INEC extended the elections into Sunday—and even Monday in states like Abia.
Between the introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), the N305 billion approved for the conduct of the 2023 general elections and INEC’s multiple assurances that it was prepared to conduct the polls, voting, compiling and collating election results have proven to be a tedious, anticlimactic affair riddled with delays.
Across Nigeria, polls were to open at 08:30 a.m. on Saturday 25 February and to remain open for voting until 02:30 p.m. the same day. However, civic hub, YIAGA Africa noted that as of 07:30 a.m. on Saturday, only 27 per cent of 1,488 polling units observed had opened. In Kano, Kwankwaso complained about polling unit delays when voting started at 11:00 a.m. in the northern state.
The insufficient supply of voting materials was one issue that caused a strain on the timing of the electoral process. In Imo State, voters in Owerri West and North local government areas mentioned the absence of INEC officials and voting materials at the different polling centres in the state. Similar delays were also reported in Taraba, the Federal Capital Territory, Bayelsa, Rivers, Cross River, Edo and Delta. Ballot paper shortages were reported in Enugu and in Bayelsa, voters staged a protest over the shortage of about 48,500 ballot papers meant for the Yenagoa/Kolokuma/Opokuma Federal Constituency polls.
Lagos State was a major hotbed for the Saturday elections, with Nigerians reporting multiple instances of electoral violence. The APC stronghold saw the burning of election materials in Oshodi, as well as attacks on INEC officials. There were also reports of disruptions in other areas on the mainland including Aguda and Ojo. Lagos State’s commissioner of police, Idowu Owohunwa, confirmed this to Channels Television. According to Owohunwa:
It was an admixture of very peaceful conduct in most parts but we also recorded isolated instances of thuggery. Like I said earlier, we anticipated them and we have multiple teams to respond in the fastest manner. ‘I can confirm that several arrests have been made but as at this moment it is still an ongoing process. So, I cannot conclusively say this is the number of polling units where violence was recorded but at the end of the day we will do a post-election evaluation and come up with specifics.
Ahead of the elections, the International Crisis Group had analyzed potential flashpoints for violence, highlighting Lagos, Rivers, Kano, Kaduna, Ebonyi, and Imo. Already, there had been over 50 recorded acts of political violence, since campaigns began in September 2022.
The voting process was also delayed by difficulties INEC staff reportedly faced in uploading the results from polling units to the viewing portal. On Sunday, INEC tried to explain the reason behind these difficulties. In a statement by the national commissioner and chairman, Festus Okoye, the electoral body said the challenges came as INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV) struggled to scale from a platform for managing off-season state elections to managing nationwide general elections.
According to Okoye:
The problem is totally due to technical hitches related to scaling up the IReV from a platform for managing off-season state elections, to one for managing nationwide general elections. It is indeed not unusual for glitches to occur and be corrected in such situations. Consequently, the Commission wishes to assure Nigerians that the challenges are not due to any intrusion or sabotage of our systems, and that the IReV remains well-secured.
As of writing, collation officers have started collating the votes at the state level from local governments. From each state, these officers are expected to then travel to Abuja, where the results will be announced state-by-state at the national collation centre. To win the election and become president, a candidate needs to have the most votes cast and 25 per cent of votes cast in two-thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states. Otherwise, A run-off election will be held within 21 days.
At the moment, INEC has officially announced results from just one of Nigeria’s 36 states and the collation exercise has been rescheduled. INEC national chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, said the commission expects to announce the results of the other 35 states and the Federal Capital Territory on Monday⎈
The views, thoughts, and opinions published in The Republic belong solely to the author and are not necessarily the views of The Republic or its editors. We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editors by writing to [email protected].