FactChecking Festus Keyamo’s Claims at the National Press Center, Washington DC, United States

Oluwaseye Ogunsanya 

A parley with the international media was held by some of the representatives of Nigeria’s president-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu at the National Press Center, Washington DC, United States on Wednesday, April 12th 2023.

The team comprises of the Minister of State for Labour and the Spokesperson of Tinubu’s campaign, Mr Festus Kayamo SAN; the Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Mr Sunday Dare and a presidential aide who also doubles as Assistant Principal Spokesperson of Tinubu’s campaign, Ajuri Ngelale.

According to the text seen by FactCheckElections, the team met with the international media to “clear some of the fallacies that have been peddled around the world by the sore losers at the said election.” 

In this report FactCheckElections seek to verify some of the claims made by Festus Kayamo on behalf of the team at the parley.

Claim 1 

Keyamo claimed in part 6 of the text that the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) did not fail on the election day.

He said: “Contrary to the false outcry by the opposition, the main technological device, Bi-modal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) did not fail on the election day.” 

Verification 

In brief, the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) is an electronic device designed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to read Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) and authenticate voters – using the voters’ fingerprints – in order to prove that they are eligible to vote at a particular polling unit.

Prior to the 2023 presidential election, the device was deployed in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun gubernatorial elections, going by its performance in the states and the assurance of the electoral umpire that the machines “have never failed and will not fail Nigerians at the 2023 general elections.”, the expectations of Nigerians were on the rise and they dubbed it a game changer. 

But did the BVAS machines work perfectly on (presidential) election day as claimed by Kayamo?

While it is true that YIAGA Africa and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) scored the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) high in the conduct of the presidential and national assembly elections as claimed by Keyamo same was not the case for other observers who refuted the initial claim that the BVAS did not fail on election day. 

To verify this claim FactCheckElections relied mostly on the reports of various observer groups and media reports such as one by PUNCH which stated that “in some polling units, the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System machine malfunctioned while there was late arrival of election materials and ad hoc staff in some other places.”

A report by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) electoral observation mission to Nigeria stated that the delay in providing logistics and failure of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) affected the efficiency of the election process in Nigeria. 

According to Ernest Koroma, head of the mission and the former president of the Republic of Sierra Leone, there were other challenges such as violence and snatching of BVAS devices and ballot boxes which caused the postponement of the elections in some states.

Speaking specifically about the BVAS he said: “There were cases of BVAS failure to accredit voters due mainly to technical issues relating to login details, configuration or internet connectivity.” 

In the same vein, the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) in its report on the presidential election observed that election day was marked by late deployment and opening while polling procedures were not always followed. Polling staff struggled to complete result forms, which were not posted publicly in most polling units observed.

On the BVAS, the mission said: “the introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV) were perceived as an important step to ensure the integrity and credibility of the elections. However, uploading of the results using the BVAS did not work as expected and presidential election result forms started to appear on the portal very late on election day, raising concerns.” 

It is also worthy of note to mention that the electoral commission admitted that BVAS experienced glitches during the presidential election. 

INEC boss, Mahmood Yakubu said: “The deployment of BVAS has gone a long way to sanitise voter accreditation as can be seen from the result of recent elections.

“Since last week, the Commission has intensified the review of the technology to ensure that glitches experienced, particularly with the upload of results are rectified. We are confident that going forward the system will run optimally.”

Verdict

Going by our findings, FactCheckElections can conclude that Keyamo’s claim on the BVAS machines is misleading. YIAGA Africa and NBA’s views on the presidential election does not reflect the views of other election observation groups. 

Claim 2

Kayamo also claimed in part 13 that 2023 polls recorded the lowest casualty rates ever. 

“The reports of some irregularities and violence in some polling units could not have affected the overall outcome of the elections too.” It said, adding that infractions and violence were recorded in less than one percent of Nigeria’s 176,974 polling units.

“Whilst we look forward to an era when there would be no single casualty during elections in Nigeria, however, the statistics show that 2023 recorded the lowest casualty rates ever.” The report declared. 

“During the 1964/65 elections about 200 deaths were recorded as a result of election violence; 1993 election recorded 100 deaths; 1999 election recorded 80 deaths; 2003 polls recorded 100 deaths and 2007 polls recorded 300 deaths. The 2011 polls recorded 800 deaths, the 2015 polls recorded 100 deaths and the 2019 polls recorded 150 deaths. However, the 2023 polls recorded no more than 28 deaths as a result of election violence. So, the claim that this is the “worst” election so far is totally unfounded.”

Undoubtedly, violence, conflict, instability, and insecurity has been a major characteristic of Nigeria’s general elections since independence. 

While the aforementioned statistics on casualties recorded due to election violence in Nigeria since independence is true, we find that of 2023 elections to be questionable. 

Verification 

To verify the claim that 2023 polls recorded the lowest casualty rates (28) ever, FactCheckElections came across a report on Premium Times quoting the Center for Democracy and Development (CDD), a pro-democracy think-tank, that a total of 109 election-related deaths were recorded across Nigeria in the build-up to the 2023 general election. 

According to the organisation, its tracker recorded the deaths between 1 January and 10 March. 

“Osun, Imo and Ebonyi have also seen a number of incidents in the past three months that could disrupt state house of assembly polls taking place in the state. In total, 109 deaths linked to political violence have been recorded from the start of the year to 10 March 2023 according to the tracker,” it said in a statement by its director, Idayat Hassan

As for the March 18 governorship and House of Assembly elections, a report by a leading intelligence organization, SB Intelligence, published by PUNCH stated that no fewer than 27 persons were killed during the polls. 

According to the report, the deaths were recorded in 10 states out of the 28 where governorship elections were conducted. It also added that at least six persons were killed on election day in Rivers and Benue states; while five died in Delta, three in Lagos,  two in Akwa-Ibom, and one each in Cross River, Ebonyi,  Niger,  Kebbi and Katsina states.

The organisation said the casualty figure might be more as it was still working to confirm more incidents.

The report reads in part: “Our research shows that logistical issues and violence resurfaced and Nigeria’s elections risk normalising ethnic-based voter suppression.

“Thugs hijacked and burnt election materials in Ogbia, Bayelsa, making the Independent National Electoral Commission officials flee to Yenagoa for safety. ‘Iceland’ members were accused of threatening non-PDP voters in Rivers, while some thugs forcefully demanded access to election materials in Akwa Ibom.

“The most striking examples of violence are from Lagos and other states where a long-standing ruling party wants to stay in power forcefully.”

Similarly, another report was also sighted on LEADERSHIP with the headline ‘Nigeria Counts Over 39 Deaths In 2023 Elections’

The extensive report which relied on other media reports as well as cases confirmed by the police in the states that recorded the worst cases of election related violence, stated that families of no fewer than 39 Nigerians are mourning at least one member killed during the 2023 general elections just as a few politicians are celebrating victories at the polls.

It added that the casualties affected in the presidential and governorship elections held on February 25 and March 18 respectively include “policemen, politicians, hired thugs, members of the electorate and even a yet to be identified ad hoc staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission who was reportedly struck by a stray bullet.”

In another report by HumAngle quoting data gathered by the Council on Foreign Relations, 38 people were reported killed across Nigeria last month owing to election-related violence.

“On the day of the national elections, Feb. 25, at least eight people lost their lives during the process. This shows an improvement compared to the death toll of 18 recorded during the presidential election four years earlier on Feb. 23, 2019. However, in 2015, only two lives were lost to election violence during the presidential and federal legislative polls.

“There were 48 incidents across 21 states of the country, including the federal capital city. Lagos recorded the highest number of election violence incidents, followed by Rivers and Imo states.” It reported. 

Verdict

Although there is no official report that combines the casualty recorded due to election violence in both the presidential and governorship polls, all that is in the public domain are separate figures for both polls making it difficult to reach a conclusive verdict. To this end, FactCheckElections cannot independently confirm that Keyamo’s claim is true or false. 

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