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Friday, 15 February 2019

Nigerian voter data 'statistically impossible', analysis shows

The number of new voters registered in Nigeria since January 2018 has increased by almost exactly the same percentage in each of its states, according to documents seen and analysed by the Guardian, raising fears that the results of Saturday’s presidential election could be open to mass rigging.
Voters in Africa’s biggest country by population will choose between the incumbent Muhammadu Buhari, his main rival Atiku Abubakar, and more than 70 other candidates.
Since the last presidential election in 2015, many more people have become eligible to vote, and many others have registered to take part in the polls for the first time. About 10 million new voters signed up between January 2018 and early 2019 – according to data released by the electoral commission (INEC) – twice the number that signed up in the first nine months of registration, between April 2017 and January 2018.
But analysis of the data for each of the country’s 36 states and its capital shows that INEC has increased the number of new registered votersby almost exactly the same percentage across all states. The correlation is a statistical impossibility and does not reflect Nigeria’s demographic changes, according to data analysts working with the Guardian. Additional data seen by the Guardian also shows irregularities in registration for the 2015 election, until now considered to have been free and fair.
On average, voter registration in each state increased by 2.2% between April 2017 and January 2018, and by 7.7% for the whole registration period ahead of Saturday’s election.
Plotted on a scatter line graph, there is a 0.99 correlation across all the states, without a single outlier. According to three separate data analysts, the parity cannot be a coincidence. “Only God works that closely,” one analyst said. If some of the new voters registered are fake it would imply meddling at the electoral commission, though it is unclear whether it would be the ruling party or the opposition that would stand to benefit.
Saturday’s election is seen as a referendum on Buhari’s first term, which has been marred by his prolonged absence due to illness, a weak economy, and the government’s failure to effectively tackle corruption and insecurity.
A faction of Boko Haram attacked a state governor’s convoy on Tuesday, killing four people and stealing vehicles; on the same day, 15 people were crushed to death at a ruling party rally in eastern Port Harcourt. On Thursday, 14 sacks of ballot papers were intercepted in Kano state – though police said they were merely “specimen” papers to educate voters.
There have also been reports that the privacy of citizens may have been compromised after INEC and the Nigerian communications commission allegedly allowed the ruling party to access personal data.
The 2015 election in which Buhari came to power was widely held to be free and fair. However, an analysis of separate figures shows that manipulation may have happened in favour of Buhari’s party, which was running in opposition to Goodluck Jonathan’s People’s Democratic party.
A clue may have been dropped last July when the INEC, perhaps inadvertently, publicly referenced a different set of results to the one on which Buhari’s victory was based.
Both documents showed 29.4 million votes were cast. But according to the original results, 31.7 million accredited voters participated in the election, whereas in the second set of results that figure dropped to 23.6 million.

A supporter of Atiku Abubakar at an election rally in Yola, Nigeria.
The discrepancy suggests an additional 6 million accredited voters, far more than the APC’s winning margin - as per the original result set - of 2.6 million votes. Smart-card readers were used for the first time in 2015 and the second set of results was released in response to widespread criticism after the new technology malfunctioned, forcing millions of voters including Jonathan to use the manual process. The second result set appears to have disappeared from INEC’s website two months ago, along with all others relating to the 2015 poll.
There is frequently rigging in Nigerian elections, and it is not usually limited to whichever side happens to be in power at the time. Powerful politicians move fluidly between the two main parties, taking support and rigging mechanisms with them.
Buhari’s party chief may have revealed the truth with a slip of the tongue at a press conference in September.
“For democracy to flourish, only people who can accept the pain of rigging sorry, defeat – should participate in an election,” said Adams Oshiomhole.


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