By Emmanuel Elebeke & Ahiaba Maranatha
ABUJA- CLEEN Foundation on Thursday listed hate speech, drug abuse and biased security agents as potential threats to the 2019 general elections.
It made this known in a pilot study it conducted recently in twelve states drawn from the six geo-political zones of the country tagged: Election Security Threat Assessment of Nigeria: Twelve Focal States, in preparation for the forth coming off circle and 2019 general elections in the country.
Presenting the findings in Abuja, the lead consultant and a political science expert, Dr. Freedom Onuoha from department of Political Science, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, said the study revealed that use of hate speech and indecent language by political actors has the potentials to trigger electoral violence in 2019 general elections if not well-managed. From the response gathered, it was revealed that majority of respondents (84%) across the twelve focal states affirmed that hate speech is a potential trigger of electoral violence in the coming elections and should be guided against.
Another factor revealed from the study as a potential threat to the coming elections is security agents. According to Dr. Onuoha, inadequate deployment of security agents during poses great danger to free and fair election in Nigeria.
Buttressing the point, the Lead Consultant noted that how security agents carry out their duties during elections could become potential source of electoral violence if not done with patriotism.
Similarly, the report also shows that the growing habit of hard drug consumption in Nigeria among youth is a major source of growing concern ahead of the general elections.
According to the survey, majority of the respondents (83%) held the view that widespread spread availability and use of hard drugs can precipitate electoral violence in the focal state.
The study did not spare the electoral umpire, the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC. It indicated that INEC officials equally pose a great threat to elections if allowed to carry out their duties in a biased manner.
Meanwhile, the study identified party thugs; religious extremists; cultists; other armed groups and insurgents major actors that could cause electoral violence in the forth coming general elections.
Other factors listed in the report that could cause electoral violence include: political parties; security agents; the integrity, competence and professionalism of the electoral management body.
Also , substitution of trained electoral officials; problems associated with distribution of PVCs and failure to prosecute electoral offenders were part of factors listed as factors that could cause electoral violence in the 2019 general elections.
Another important finding from the study is that citizens’ disenchantment with the government the electoral process could lead to electoral violence.
The media was not spared by the survey, as the result indicates that activities o the media are capable of causing electoral violence in the 2019 general elections.
‘‘Situations that have very high likelihood of triggering electoral violence include when the media is involved in partnership, favouritism and partiality , misinformation of the public, broadcast and publishing of hatred and sensationalism and provocation..
Other actions of the media that could cause electoral violence include lack of professionalism, failure of regulatory bodies to ensure adherence to established rules by the media, abuse of social media and unequal access to media.
The report however, suggested that for the INEC to ensure highest level of commitment to administrative and technical competency as well as professional integrity in the conduct of the election.
‘‘This is crucial as electoral experts have presciently noted that the character, competence and composition of electoral management bodies can determine whether an election is a source of peaceful change or a cause for serious instability,’’ it stated.
In her goodwill message, the representative of the DFID, Anthonette Grant, said the UK government would support the 2019 general elections as much as it can, assuring that it would do everything that is possible towards free and fair elections in 2019.
‘‘For election to be free and fair, every eligible Nigerian has got to be comfortable going out to exercise their franchise. So we want to have a sense of where the challenges are, where the pockets of violence are likely to be, and then think of how we might have loss to ensure that the pains we feel are taken care of.
‘‘I am particularly pleased to see the representatives of the security sectors here in this event. You will need to be the guardian of that process, you will need to reassure Nigerians that it is safe for them to go out and vote for leadership of their choice.
‘‘And so, we are very happy and pleased at the work that has been done. It is work that has been years in the meeting, but we constantly try to refine and adapt it to make it relevant to where we are today. So 2019 is going to be a lot different from what it was in the 2015. The approach has to be treated accordingly,’’ said Grant.
In his goodwill message, the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, who was represented by SP. Nwafor Ernest, said the police was always and ever ready to ensure the safety and security of the electorate during and after the general elections.
He assured that the police would partner with all stakeholders to make sure that there is a violent-free, fair and credible election come 2019.
‘‘We are also making arrangement and synergizing already with other security agencies. We have held several meetings in respect of this.
‘‘I believe that come 2019, the election will be very free. We witnessed the success recorded in Anambra state. This did not just come like that, it was not a magic, and we worked for it.
‘‘We embarked on a threat assessment which yielded the result we witnessed in 2017. In addition, on behalf of the Inspector General of police, I would want to say that we will abide by the recommendations from this survey,’’ he said.