By Sodiq Omolaoye, Abuja
‘Amotekun, Ebubeagu Threat To Guber Polls’
About 109 deaths recorded across the country from January 1 to March 10, 2023, have been linked to the conduct of the 2023 general election, a pro-democracy organisation, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), has said.
The organisation, therefore, warned that if appropriate measures were not taken, today’s governorship and State Assembly elections would be fraught with violence.
The group listed ways violence could manifest to include voter intimidation, ballot box snatching and the destruction of election materials.
The Chair of the CDD Election Analysis Centre (EAC), Prof. Adele Jinadu and CDD Director, Idayat Hassan, stated this at a briefing during the opening of the EAC in Abuja yesterday.
While noting that there would be new governors in 17 states, regardless of the outcome of the polls due to term-limited incumbents who are ineligible to stand, the think-tank however stressed that such keen contests would likely be sites for election-violence.
It said: “States that will hold gubernatorial polls with the most incidents of political violence since January 1, 2023, according to the Nigeria Election Violence Tracker, are Lagos, Rivers, Kano, Delta and Anambra, with Kano the state with the most recorded deaths as a consequence at 20.
“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 March 10, 2023, according to the tracker.”
Based on its mapping, CDD predicted that violence linked to the state elections could worsen due to the activities of armed groups and quasi-security outfits.
“Groups such as Yan Sakai, the Civilian Joint Task Force, Neighbourhood Watch, Amotekun and Ebubeagu have been, and can be armed and deployed by state governors and their allies to perpetrate electoral violence or suppress voter turnout, particularly in areas of strong opposition support,” it added.
Apart from these outfits, CDD noted the presence of the more conventional political thugs paid to disrupt polls or intimidate political opponents as a threat to these elections.
“The insecurity they create itself portends dangers for the ability to conduct credible elections, increases the likelihood of inconclusive results and, ultimately, the need for supplementary elections. Bauchi, Kano, Rivers and Sokoto all faced this scenario in 2019, with a high risk of repeat in 2023,” it added.
The organisation tasked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to learn key lessons from its conduct of the presidential poll of February 25 to improve the conduct of the state elections.
It stated that given that the polls had been delayed a week to give INEC time to reconfigure the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) devices, the Commission now has sufficient time to conduct better elections, which would be devoid of the earlier noticed flaws.
CDD expressed hope that the extra time INEC has had would translate into improved opening of polling units across the country, with those polling units fully equipped with the necessary voting materials to avoid scenarios observed in the presidential polls where voting continued well beyond the scheduled closing time.
The group said that the functionality of the BVAS machines and improved use of the INEC results viewing platform (IReV) would also be critical for the credibility of the polls.
“Improved functionality will contribute to greater election results transparency, but this can still be undermined by compromised INEC officials and ad-hoc staff. The suspension of the RECs for Abia and Sokoto states for ‘endangering the electoral process’ is welcome but points to the prevailing challenge that INEC officials and ad-hoc staff can be subject to the whims and caprices of state governments in ways that negatively impact voter confidence and the election’s credibility,” it said.
To ensure the breaches, which occurred during the presidential polls do not happen again, CDD also tasked INEC to reprimand and suspend those found to be colluding with political actors in their states, and support polling unit cancellations in such instances.
“We encourage all ad-hoc INEC staff to abide by the Commission’s code of conduct when carrying out their duties on election day and when announcing results. The prompt submission of polling unit results to IReV is critical and will support an improved perception of INEC’s performance. We also urge the Commission to be both proactive and responsive in its communication with voters,” CDD said.
It urged INEC to avoid elongated periods of silence as this provides fuel for misinformation and disinformation to flourish.
On the outcome of the elections, CDD observed that most political parties and online commentaries had erroneously projected similar results to the presidential results of February 25 in the distribution of governorship seats.
It said: “But these projections fail to adequately consider the Senate and House of Representatives’ results, which did not always go along the same line as the presidential outcome.”
Given the split voting, which characterised the presidential election, the group stressed the need for political actors to ensure they do not depend on outsised expectations with respect to the outcomes.
The group alluded to the results from the recent presidential elections, which have also thrown up what it described as new but important dynamics of split voting, saying: “After the February 25 elections, 11 states elected a majority of their National Assembly delegations from an opposite party to the candidate they voted for president. Nine of those 11 states will be electing governors tomorrow and nuanced analysis will provide better understanding of how the results might go.”