The stakes are indeed high for all election stakeholders ahead of Nigeria’s seventh consecutive general elections as Nigeria battles multidimensional challenges with barely four months until the largest and most expensive elections in West Africa. Beyond the economic inflation in relation to a robust election logistics expectation for over 176,000 polling units across 774 Local Government Areas of Nigeria’s 36 states and Federal Capital Territory, election security and ravaging floods remain serious emerging concerns.
While the successful enactment of a new electoral law that promotes transparency is expected to boost confidence and enhance improved participation, security remains a crucial component of the electoral process and an essential element of any election. For Citizens to remain confident and committed to an election, there must be an assurance of security throughout the election process. With the 2023 General elections fast approaching, Nigeria continues to face numerous security challenges, especially the unrest in the northern and southern regions of the nation which is worsening with no end in sight.
The secessionist groups have continued to cause chaos in the South East, while a protracted Islamist insurgency in the North East, continuous militia activities from abductions, mounting of illegal checkpoints and attacks on military checkpoints, and planting of explosives on rural roads connecting to the state’s capital, frequent attack by terrorist referred to as “banditry,” continue to affect the North- West regions. Also of concern are attacks by herders in the South West. Abductions and forced disappearances have become very rampant even in the nation’s capital, Abuja. While the North Central geopolitical zone continues to battle with banditry and kidnapping in Jos and Niger states, the situation became heightened with the
recent rise in the water level in river banks across communities in Benue, Niger, and Kogi which displaced residents living close to the river banks. This incident has led to the loss of lives and properties and exposed displaced victims to possible attacks as the country continues to witness security challenges.
Similarly, reports of flood submerging at least 14 Local Government Offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and residences of many Nigerians remain a major concern for the preparation of election stakeholders and the potential impact on citizens’ participation. While the flood is expected to subside, the time frame and financial implications for renovations and proper preparation for the 2023 elections remain an utmost concern to Yiaga Africa.
As the campaign kicks off on 28th September and despite candidates signing the peace accord, Yiaga Africa has received reports of clashes and attacks between political parties amidst campaigns with tribal and religious coloration. This is a clear violation of the Electoral Act and the National Broadcasting Commission Code. Thus, there is a need for relevant institutions of government to take necessary steps to prevent escalation as we go into a crucial period of the electoral process.
This is also a crucial time to develop strong early warning systems to track actions, words, and innuendos that can potentially instigate or trigger electoral violence while also promoting inter- agency security collaborations to ensure robust engagement in maintaining law and order. Also, Yiaga Africa recommends a comprehensive security mapping of the country to identify hotspots while developing effective strategies to prevent the escalation of security situations ahead of the elections.