Post falsely claims video shows Nigerian election staffer rigging ballots for 2023 winning party

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Social media users have alleged that a Nigerian election commission official was caught on film rigging ballots for the ruling All-Progressives Congress (APC) during presidential polls in February 2023. Since the APC’s Bola Tinubu was declared the winner, rival parties have vowed to challenge the results over alleged voting irregularities. But the claims are false: the video shared in the misleading posts has been circulating online since at least 2015 and resurfaced again during the 2019 elections.

“See INEC staff thumbprinting for APC. Reason why INEC can’t upload or transmit results electronically. Dino Melaye,” reads a Facebook post from February 28, 2023.

A screenshot of the false post, taken on March 6, 2023

The post features a video of a woman putting her thumbprint on several ballots as a male voiceover describes her as an “INEC official”.

He adds that the woman is marking cards to “enable a particular party to win”.

The video was shared by Dino Melaye from the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP). He recently staged a walkout at the national collation centre in Abuja over election tallying.

The Nigerian government previously charged Melaye with spreading false information. AFP has also fact-checked him for posting misinformation about the elections.

Technical glitches

Nigerians vote by placing their fingerprint next to their candidate and party of choice. Thumbprinting has been used to verify voters’ identities at polling stations since 2015.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) further introduced the Bimodal Voter Accreditation system (BVAS) in 2021 to verify voters by fingerprints and facial recognition in the hopes of reducing any electoral fraud.

Tinubu of the APC won with 8.8 million votes against 6.9 million for PDP candidate Atiku Abubakar. Labour Party’s Peter Obi secured third with 6.1 million votes, according to results.

The largely peaceful vote was marred by lengthy delays at many polling stations while technical glitches disrupted the uploading of results to a central website, fuelling concerns over vote rigging.

PDP and Labour Party have already called for the results to be scrapped and demanded a fresh election because of what they claim was massive manipulation of ballot counts.

Doubts about the electoral commission’s capacity to carry out Nigeria’s general elections loomed large as voters prepared to head to the polls on February 25, 2023.

Only 23 percent of Nigerians trusted the organisation “somewhat” or “a lot” according to a poll and several INEC sites were attacked throughout the country in the lead-up to the ballot.

But the claim that the video shows an INEC election official thumbprinting ballots for the APC during the 2023 elections is false.

Old video from 2015

Using a keyword search for “INEC official thumbprinting”, AFP Fact Check found a YouTube account called “Alex Reports TV” where the same video was posted in 2015.

Both videos show the same woman wearing black-rimmed glasses and a sleeveless blouse.

A screenshot of the false post, left, and the 2015 video, taken on March 6, 2023

The clip also surfaced in 2019, right after the presidential election, alongside claims that the woman was rigging the ballots in favour of the APC. AFP Fact Check has contacted INEC for a comment about the video and will update this report should they respond.

Disinformation has marred the 2023 ballot, with INEC a key target of false claims.

Read AFP Fact Check’s election-related coverage here.

Nigeria elections 2023