Collation Centres; The Undoing Of The Nigerian Democracy – By Akintayo Balogun Esq.

Akintayo Balogun

“The people who cast the votes don’t decide an election, the people who count the votes do”.

The above statement was credited to the Russian dictator, Joseph Stalin (born Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili), who was born on the 18th day of December 1878 and died on the 5th day of March 1953 at the age of 75. He was known as a revolutionary in the Russian Empire and a political leader who led the Soviet Union from 1924 until he died in 1953.  He held power as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union.

Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza, (Guardian (London), 17 June 1977), also stated thus, “Indeed, you won the elections, but I won the count.”

70 years after the life and death of Joseph Stalin, many democracies around the world and particularly the Nigerian political space seem to still grapple with the reality of the above statement credited to Joseph Stalin.

As the election season in Nigeria winds down, the characteristic manipulation that has characterized Nigeria’s election over the years, particularly with the results that emanate from the Collation Centres against the will of the people was again on the front burner during the election. Without saying that the results presented by independent persons, party agents, and observers are perfect, their reports are strongly a reflection of what transpires at the polling booths.  The collation of results done outside Collation Centres is not official, but we must assert that people don’t just manufacture figures and collate them. The results are collated from documents that are handy or results declared openly at the polling booths. However, when these same results enter the ALMIGHTY Collation Centre, the mystery that follows becomes unexplainable, unimaginable, and shocking.

I am now more convinced than ever before that our Collation Centres are the undoing of Nigerian electioneering process and democracy. In the heat of the series of manipulations emanating from the various Collation Centres, a Nigerian wrote on his social media handle “What cannot happen at a Collation Centre does not exist”. Results counted at a polling unit once moved out of the polling unit to the Collation Centres lose their originality and genuineness. This has been the case with the elections in Nigeria over the years. Unfortunately, the nation is yet to get it right in this aspect.

To reduce the casualties and manipulations that happen at the Collation Centres in Nigeria, the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) through the National Assembly, made amendments to the Electoral Act and released Election Regulations and Guidelines that would have made Collation Centres a secondary venue or at most, a back-up for the collating of results. However, the conduct of the election by the same officers of the commission, right from the Presidential/National Assembly to the Gubernatorial/State Assembly elections showed that INEC still depended heavily and SOLELY on the results that came in through the Collation Centres with no recourse whatsoever to the results that were being transmitted electronically.

The Electoral Act 2022 and the Election Regulations and Guidelines had made specific provisions for transmitting results. Section 60 (5) of the Act states that “the presiding officer shall transfer the results including total number of accredited voters and the results of the ballot in a manner as prescribed by the commission”. The prescribed manner here is the BVAS, which INEC introduced to ensure that the electoral process is credible. The BVAS was introduced by INEC in line with Section 148 of the Electoral Act, which gives INEC power to make guidelines and regulations to ensure the full effect of the law. Section 64 (4) of the Electoral Act states that “a collation officer or returning officer at an election shall collate and announce the result of an election, subject to his or her verification and confirmation that the number of accredited voters stated on the collated result are correct and consistent with the number of accredited voters recorded and transmitted directly from polling units and that the votes stated on the collated result are correct and consistent with the votes or results recorded and transmitted directly from polling units”.

Furthermore, paragraph 38 of the Regulations and Guidelines, 2023 makes electronic transmission of Results and upload of results to IReV mandatory. The paragraph requires that when voting and announcement of results have been completed at a polling unit, the Presiding Officer “(1) must Electronically transmit the result of the polling unit to INEC’s collation system; (2) Must use the BVAs to upload a scanned copy of the EC8A result sheet to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV); and (3) [must thereafter] Take the BVAS and the original copies of all forms in a tamper evident envelope to the RA/Ward Collation officer in the company of security agents. Polling Agents may accompany the PO to the RA/Ward Collation Centre”

In contrast to the succinct provisions, INEC conducted manual collation ONLY, announced the results and declared various persons as winners and even issued certificates of return in some cases to declared winners while the results from the various polling units were still being uploaded electronically. The best INEC would have done in this circumstance, was to ensure that what was being uploaded vide the BVAS machines, reasonably tallied with what had been collated manually at the various Collation Centres. However and unfortunately, that was not the case. The manually collated results had been announced long before the results were uploaded to the IREV. These actions by INEC rendered the amendments made to the Electoral Act meaningless and of no effect as the same manipulations and doctoring of figures at the Collation Centres characterized the entire Presidential/National Assembly and Gubernatorial/State Assembly elections in February/March 2023.

There were visible incidences in several States across Nigeria where results that emanated from the various Collation Centres were completely different from what the party agents and observers had collated even though not official nor as transmitted.

  1. In Adamawa State, the city of Yola was already in jubilation and the social media was agog with congratulatory messages as the All Progressive Congress in Adamawa State was set to produce the first elected female governor in Nigeria. However, the story changed when the results arrived at the Collation Centre. In circumstances that are yet unexplainable, the by-product from the Collation Centre declared another person the winner of the election. We wait to see the court confirm this position or restore the congratulatory messages that followed the election.
  2. In Plateau State, several independently collated results in the Presidential election showed that Labour Party was cruising to victory with a leading vote of over a million as the results from the various polling units in the State found their way to the Collation Centres. However, the story changed when the results arrived at the Collation Centre. In circumstances that are yet unexplainable, the by-product from the Collation Centre showed he scored much less than a million votes.
  3. In Kaduna State, there were already jubilations on the street and the media was already agog with congratulatory messages to the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the gubernatorial election. It was believed that the candidate of the PDP had won the election based on the results collated from different polling units by party agents and independent observers. The story changed when the results arrived at the Collation Centre. In circumstances that are yet unexplainable, the by-product from the Collation Centre proved otherwise. The court again is being called upon to either confirm this position or restore the congratulatory messages that followed the election.
  4. The case of Lagos state also comes to mind, when a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party came on air and stated that from their party’s situation room, Labour party had over 900,000 votes, however, the results that emanated from the Lagos Collation Centre ascribed less than 600,000 votes to Labour Party.
  5. With respect to Presidential election results from Rivers and Imo States, YIAGA Africa stated thus: “The state-level presidential results for Imo and Rivers are inconsistent with the Yiaga Africa WTV projections for both states. For Rivers, INEC announced 231,591 votes for APC or 44.2 percent; 175,071 for LP or 33.4 percent; and 88,468 for PDP or 16.9 percent. This is in sharp contrast to the Yiaga Africa WTV estimates for Rivers which are: APC 21.7 percent ±5.0 percent; for LP 50.8 percent ±10.6 percent; and PDP 22.2 percent ±6.5 percent. “For Imo, INEC announced 66,406 for APC or 14.2 percent; 360,495 for LP or 77.1 percent; and 30,234; for PDP or 6.5 percent. Again, this is at variance with the Yiaga Africa WTV estimates for Imo which are: APC 5.1 ±2.3 percent; LP 88.1 percent ±3.8 percent; and PDP 5.7 percent ±2.3 percent.”
  6. The Returning Officer for Abia State governorship election, Professor Nnenna Oti according to statements refused to compromise the Abia governorship election despite being offered money and threatened. These kinds of offers and threats could have only happened at the point of collation and not concerning results that have been transmitted electronically.

These are just to mention but a few of the havoc being perpetuated at the various Collation Centres across Nigeria. What then is the essence of amending the Electoral Act when the umpire is bent on doing things the old way despite repeated assurances that results will be transmitted electronically? Nigeria elections have degenerated to the point that the target is not to win the election at the polling unit but to be declared the winner at the Collation Centre. The remaining should be battled out between the lawyers, INEC, and the Judges/Justices. This is absolutely incorrect.

In conclusion, Nigeria needs to abolish the Collation Centres from its electioneering process and allow for collation that cannot be easily manipulated. As long as results go to a certain place, away from the visible eyes of supporters and party agents, and independent observers, that result is already tainted and the credibility cannot be verified. Moving forward, the amendment made to the Electoral Act, which provided for results to be electronically transmitted directly from polling units in real-time should be adhered strictly. Manual Collation Centres should only exist to corroborate the results that have been electronically transmitted and are not a primary source of collation.

Akintayo Balogun Esq., LL.B (Hons), BL, LL.M, is a legal practitioner in private practice, based in Abuja, FCT. A prolific writer, public affairs analyst, and commentator on national issues.



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