The Presidential and National Assembly Elections were conducted by
the Independent National Electoral Commission (“INEC”) on Saturday,
23rdFebruary, 2019 in all the thirty-six States of the Federation as well as
the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The Elections were initially slated for
February 16, 2019 but were postponed at the instance of INEC by one week. The
Gubernatorial and Houses of Assembly elections are now scheduled to hold on
Saturday, 9th March, 2019.

On February 12, 2019, the President of the Nigerian Bar
Association, Mr. Paul Usoro, SAN inaugurated the 2019 NBA-EWG with the core
mandate to, amongst others, observe the Presidential, Gubernatorial, National
and State Houses of Assembly Elections, 2019 and ascertain and be able to
comment on the extent of the conformity of the processes and procedures
for the conduct of the elections with the relevant laws, regional and international
standards and best practices.
The work of the 2019 NBA-EWG as stated by the NBA President was to
focus, amongst others, on observing the following:
i. The extent of compliance of all stakeholders with the governing
laws and regulations in the conduct of the elections;
ii. To what extent the elections are free, fair and credible and
that there is no voter intimidation and/or violence; and
iii. That every vote counts and to that extent, there is no
falsification or manipulation of the votes, howsoever, at any stage of the
election process, and that the announced results reflect the choice of the
Modus operandi
Having been duly accredited by the electoral umpire, INEC, the
2019 NBA-EWG not only mobilized its members but also deployed the membership of
the Association nationwide to observe and or monitor the elections in all the
States of the Federation and the FCT.
To ensure a seamless operation, the 2019 NBA-EWG set up a
Situation Room at the National Secretariat of the Association in Abuja where it
receives real-time reports and live feeds of events from its members who were
deployed on the field for the purpose of its mandate. Additionally, and in
order to achieve promptness, speed and coordination, the 2019 NBA-EWG procured
a toll-free telephone line where members called in with their reports and,
also, activated various social media platforms where it streams live reports
and events as contributed by members.
Nature of Report
This constitutes the 1st Interim Report of the 2019 NBA-EWG. The
Report makes no pretence at completeness but is submitted only as a precis of
the initial observations of its members in respect of or in relation to the
conduct of the national elections of Saturday, 23rd February, 2019. It is the
2019 NBA-EWG’s legitimate expectation that a comprehensive, composite and
all-encompassing report will be published at the completion each of the two
electoral tranches i.e.
(a) the Presidential and National Assembly Elections; and (b) the
Governorships and Houses of Assembly Elections. Meanwhile, as necessary and
required, additional Interim Reports may be issued by the 2019 NBA-EWG prior to
the publication of the final comprehensive report of the Group in respect of
the Presidential and National Assembly Elections.
Dramatis Personae
A total of Ninety-One (91) registered political parties
participated in the elections, although only Seventy-Three (73) of these
parties fielded candidates for the presidential elections in which the
incumbent President and candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC),
Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR and a former Vice President and candidate of the
Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, GCON, are said to be
the leading contenders.
In respect of the Presidential and National Assembly Elections
of Saturday, 23rd February, 2019, the 2019 NBA-EWG reports as follows:
INEC and the challenges of
The NBA-EWG notes that although the elections were originally scheduled
to hold on Saturday, 16th February, 2019, INEC caused same to be postponed by a
week, citing “logistical challenges”. The NBA-EWG notes with regret, however,
that despite the postponement, the elections recorded some noticeable but
avoidable lapses associated with the same ‘logistical challenges’.
For example, members reported that polls did not commence at the
scheduled time of 8am in most polling units nationwide. This drawback was,
however, more manifest in the States of the South-South, South-East, South-West
and North-Central regions of the country.
In a number of polling units across the country, election
materials, especially ballot papers, were either over-supplied (i.e. in excess
of the registered voters in the polling unit) or under-supplied. From reports
available to us at this time, this situation was prevalent in the South-South
and South-East sub-regions, particularly in Edo, Akwa Ibom, Imo and Enugu
States respectively.
The 2019 NBA-EWG notes as well that in isolated cases (Owerri in
Imo State for example), INEC officials conducted the elections using
photocopies of approved ballot papers. In polling units where voters complained
about this unwholesome practice, the INEC officials rebuffed them and proceeded
to conduct the elections in that manner, nevertheless.
We also observed that many electoral officers could not locate the
Polling Units where they were to conduct elections. In one example at Dutse
Alhaji, Abuja FCT, polling officers who could not locate their polling unit
returned to a wrong polling unit with the electoral materials. In another
example in Abuja the polling officers actually commenced the conduct of
elections in a different and wrong polling unit.
Many voters also had difficulties locating their polling units as
there were insufficient details on the PVCs and at INEC website on how to
locate one’s polling unit. This was very prevalent in Abuja.
The splitting of the Polling Units into sub-units based on
alphabetical order without informing the voters or putting in place some order
in executing same, initially caused disenchantment as voters had lined up
randomly or in a single straight line in accordance with their time of arrival
not knowing that such polling units had been subdivided.
INEC hotlines were almost always unreachable and when reached
there was nobody to address callers’ enquiries and in some instances the calls
terminated on their own.
Smart Card Readers
The major complaints of the voters, as aggregated by members,
revolve around the card reader. The 2019 NBA – EWG reports that the performance
of the card readers, although not generally unsatisfactory, raised concerns and
provided sufficient basis for anxiety among the voting populace.
Some of the acknowledged complaints about or concerning the card
reader device include but are not limited to: inability to authenticate
fingerprints or biometrics, inaccurate or false outputs for identified card
holders, non-recognition of certain alphabets associated with some surnames or
forenames. Illustrative locations where these incidents occurred include some
polling units in FCT, Kano and Akwa Ibom States.
The Working Group reports also that in most units and concerning
the malfunctioned card readers, presiding officers commendably resorted to
manual accreditation to enable registered voters to cast their ballots.
However, this was not devoid of the associated suspicion by the voters of
possible abuse of such discretion by the polling officials.
The NBA-EWG reports also that in some polling units in Abuja, smart
card readers recognized voters’ cards but produced unintended outputs,
particularly in cases where, for example, the facial features of the Permanent
Voter’s Card (PVC) holder were inexplicably different from those displayed on
the card reader device. In such cases, the discretion whether the affected
voter proceeds with the voting process or should be disenfranchised rested with
the presiding officer. It was reported that in most of such peculiar cases,
such discretion was exercised against the registered voters.
By and large, the preponderance of opinion from the NBA-EWG, 2019
is that the smart card device although it may not have totally failed the
integrity test, created appreciable anxiety among the voting populace
consequent upon the reported cases of malfunction and/or outright performance
failure of the device.
We also observed a nation-wide absence of technical assistance
needed to resolve issues associated card reader malfunction. There were also issues
of non- availability of back-up card readers in most of the polling units
Electoral Violence
There were several reports and live feeds of electoral violence
from all over the country. Party thugs and hoodlums had a field day invading
voting centers to harass, molest and intimidate voters and, in some instances,
INEC officials. Strangely, in places where these despicable acts were recorded
or registered, security agents were either complacent or complicit.
Rivers, Lagos and Kogi states were notorious in this regard.
There were also confirmed reports from different parts of Nigeria
where voters were prevented, hindered or inhibited from performing their civic
responsibilities on the suspicion that their votes had the potential to produce
outcomes that were undesirable to or unintended by the illegal “enforcers” and
“gatekeepers”. Thus, voters were chased away and forced to return to their
homes. Akwa Ibom, Niger, Lagos, Imo, Kogi and Benue States rank high as
examples of places where these unconscionable and loathsome acts of voter
intimidation and suppression took place.
In some places, such as Lagos, Kano and Edo States, amongst
others, voters who wanted to vote for certain candidates were threatened with
violence, suffered violence and/or were prevented from voting by the earlier
referenced illegal “enforcers” and “gatekeepers”. Cases of supervised or guided
voting were also reported in parts of Kano State.
Additionally, the NBA-EWG situation room was inundated with
widespread reports confirming the manipulation of election processes by INEC
officials aided by party thugs and security agents. Such reports included
incidents where the Electoral Officers deliberately voided votes cast, refused
to allow some persons to vote, refused to allow voters whose names were on the
voters register to vote by using Incidence Forms where there were card reader
issues, giving out ballot papers with 2015 dates, refusing to stamp or sign or
date ballot papers, refusing to allow some party agents to inspect and confirm
the sensitive materials brought to polling units, etc. 
Secrecy of the voting process
It was observed that all over the nation the INEC polling booths
did not offer sufficient privacy to voters. Party agents and some other persons
had widespread, easy and unrestrained access to voting areas to either
supervise voting by voters or to pry into how they were voting. Lagos, Kano,
Edo, Imo and parts of Rivers States illustratively recorded these incidents of
gross breach of voter privacy. Neither the electoral officers nor the police
officers around the voting areas made any effort to prevent and/or stop this
unwholesome practice.
Voters’ Turn-Out.
The NBA-EWG reports that despite the late arrival of INEC
officials and voting materials, the turn-out of voters and their enthusiasm for
the elections was largely impressive and satisfactory.
Voters in many places helped to organise themselves by writing
their names on sheets of paper so as to ensure orderly and seamless conduct of
the accreditation and voting processes.
In most of the polling units observed, there were significant
turnouts of senior citizens, women and even persons with disabilities.
Security Arrangements
It was observed that police personnel posted to voting centers
visited by the NBA-EWG members generally arrived on time apart from some
isolated instances where the absence of the police personnel were observed.
There were indeed cases where police personnel were completely absent or left
at some point and before the conclusion of the election processes at the
polling units.
In cases where there were infractions of electoral laws or threats
of violence or actual violence, it was observed that the police personnel at
those polling units stayed aloof and did nothing to prevent or stem those
infractions and/or acts of violence. It was also observed that in some voting
centers the number of police personnel posted there was not commensurate with
the large number of registered voters in the centers.
As earlier indicated, this is but the 1st interim report of the
2019 NBA-EWG which may be followed by other interim reports, as deemed
necessary and required by the NBA-EWG. A detailed and final Report of the
Presidential and National Assembly Elections will be published by the NBA in
the fullness of time, specifically, after the release of all the Presidential
and National Assembly Elections results which would be preceded by (a) the
complete collation of the results by INEC; and
(b) the conduct of the elections in places where INEC has now
cancelled and rescheduled polls, notably in Rivers, Lagos and Akwa Ibom States.
Mazi Afam Osigwe, FCIArb.
2019 NBA-EWG
23rd February, 2019