The Centre for Democracy and Development on Friday disclosed that about 109 deaths recorded in Nigeria between January and March 10, 2023 were connected to the conduct of the 2023 general elections.
The organisation, therefore, warned that if appropriate measures were not taken, Saturday’s governorship and State House of Assembly elections would also be fraught with violence.
According to the CDD, electoral violence could manifest through voter intimidation, ballot box snatching and the destruction of election materials.
The chair of the CDD Election Analysis Centre, Prof. Adele Jinadu, and its Director, Idayat Hassan, stated this at a briefing during the opening of the EAC in Abuja.
While stating 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 are likely to be sites for election violence.
The CDD 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 10 March 2023 according to the tracker.”
Based on its mapping, CDD predicted that violence linked to the states’ elections could worsen due to the activities of armed groups’ 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, the organisation stated.
Apart from these outfits, the CDD believed the presence of the more conventional political thugs, paid to disrupt polls or intimidate political opponents, was 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 said.
The CDD asked the Independent National Electoral Commission to use the key lessons learnt from its conduct of the presidential poll held on February 25 to improve the conduct of the state elections.
The think tank stated that given that the polls had been delayed a week, to give INEC time to reconfigure the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System devices, the commission now has sufficient time to conduct better elections, which will be devoid of the earlier noticed flaws.
The CDD expressed hope that the extra time INEC has had will translate into an improved opening of polling units across the country, with those PUs 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 organisation said that the functionality of the BVAS machines and improved use of the INEC Results Viewing platform would also be critical for the credibility of the polls.
To ensure the breaches, which occurred during the presidential polls do not happen again, the CDD also called on INEC to reprimand and suspend those found to be colluding with political actors in their state, and support polling unit cancellations in such instances.
The CDD 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 have erroneously projected similar results to the presidential results of 25 February in the distribution of governorship seats.
The CDD 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 experts stressed the need for political actors to ensure they do not depend on outsized 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:
“After the 25 February elections, eleven states elected a majority of their national assembly delegations from an opposition party to the candidate they voted for president. Nine of those eleven states will be electing governors tomorrow and nuanced analysis will provide better understanding of how the results might go,” the CDD said.