By Emmanuel Elebeke & Favour Ulebor
A security threat assessment survey released on the forthcoming 2019 general elections in Nigeria reveals that vote buying is the foremost of the fourteen risk factors that could generate tension or electoral violence.
In the survey, the level of tension the risk factors can generate was rated on a scale of 0.1 to 1.0 as Low, 1.1 to 2.0 as Medium, and 2.1 to 3.0 as High.
The nationwide survey conducted by CLEEN Foundation with support from European Union and the Electoral Institute of INEC between October and December 2018, was carried out with a view to identifying early warning signals that could assist relevant stakeholders, especially the INEC, security agencies and civil society organisations (CSOs) to deploy appropriate responses.
The national average score for the risk factors emerged in this order: vote-buying (1.16), godfatherism (1.16), hard drugs (1.14), hate speech (1.14), history of electoral violence (1.11), cult activities (1.10), politicians (1.10), problematic party primaries (1.08), violent campaigns (1.07), farmer/herdsmen crisis (1.07), ethnicity/religious crisis (1.08), insurgency (1.04), agitation (1.04), and militancy (1.02). However, there are variations in the ranking of these risk factors amongst the states and geopolitical zones, due to sub national socio-economic, security, and political dynamics.
Across the 36 states, overwhelming majority of the respondents believe that citizens’ disaffection with government either on policy grounds or economic considerations could cause electoral violence with higher percentages in: Ondo (95%), Adamawa (92%), Imo (89%), Rivers (89%), Sokoto (88%), Osun (88%), Akwa Ibom (88%), Zamfara (88%), and Benue (87%).
The report indicates that across the states, respondents identified different actors who are likely to cause electoral violence. Assessed on a scale of 1 to 5, the national average result shows that the top five actors with the most likelihood of causing electoral violence are party thugs (4.06), political parties (3.99), INEC (3.79), religious extremists, cultists, and other armed groups (3.79), and security agents (3.78) in a list that contain twelve actors.
The study further posits that hate speech and inciteful messages have the potentials to trigger electoral violence. The percentage of those who think that hate speech could trigger electoral violence are as follows: Benue (94%), Gombe (94%), Osun (94%), Ondo (93%), Sokoto (92%), Ekiti (92%), Adamawa (88%), Ogun (87%), and Plateau (87%) among others.
Overall, the findings highlight the challenges of undue manipulations and politics of godfatherism that undermine transparency and credibility of internal party politics in Nigeria.
Majority of the survey respondents held the view that widespread availability and use of hard drugs can precipitate electoral violence in the states. The view that widespread availability and use of hard drugs can bring about electoral violence was shared by residents in both rural and urban areas, and held mostly by people of 18 -39 years.
The survey indicates that low sense of safety among members of the public essentially due to the inability of the security agents to tackle banditry, kidnapping, and assassination (4.12) tops the list of factors that could lead to electoral violence, followed by partiality of security agents (4.07).
The results show that exclusion of certain groups on the bases of age, gender and religious identity can lead to electoral violence. Across the states survey, the respondents believe that the exclusion of youth, minority groups and women can contribute to violence during elections.
Going by the national average score, the survey indicates that ‘problems associated with the distribution, location and adequacy of polling units and voting points’ (4.02) is the principal factor most likely to cause electoral violence.
The national average score reveals that factors that are more likely to precipitate electoral violence include when the media is involved in partisanship, favouritism and partiality (4.04), failure of regulatory bodies to ensure adherence to established rules by the media (3.99).
While the findings from some states suggest that the elections will be peaceful, in some other states[O1] it points to possible violent elections. The states with high electoral risk are: Borno, Adamawa, Benue, Plateau, Kogi and Abia States. Others are: Rivers, Bayelsa, Bauchi, Kaduna, Kano and Taraba states. However there is a significant number of respondents who think that the election will be violent, especially if the incumbent looses the election or wants to manipulate the process using electoral and security officials. There is equally a sizeable number who are uncertain about how the election will go.
Presenting the report, the Executive Director of CLEEN Foundation, Dr. Benson Olugbuo said the objective of the survey was to harmonise and standardize the methodology of carrying out electoral risk assessment by stakeholders who wish to access the election environment for possible outbreak of violence during and after the election.
‘‘The original concept was to use the election violence litigation advocacy for the 2015 general elections. But because of the process of involvement and trying to put everybody who has one thing or the other to do with electoral violence litigation, the project could not be completed before the general elections. We actually had he tool ready after the elections.
According to him, ‘‘the election violence litigation advocacy was developed in 2016 through a project implementation Committee by Gate foundation and the electoral institute of INEC with the support of the Uk Department for International Development.
‘‘It is pertinent to note that the harmonization and standardization of the methodology became necessary as a commission that is the INEC received several risk assessment report from different electoral stakeholders ahead of the 2019 general elections with contradictory findings.’’
Based on these findings, the survey recommended collaboration between INEC and Office of National Security Adviser, ONSA with other relevant stakeholders to develop a standard protocol on engagement of security agencies on election duties in Nigeria; that ONSA should collaborate with relevant agencies such as the Nigerian Communication Commission and the National Broadcasting Commission in establishing framework for effective monitoring and response to the use of the different media platforms; that there is the need to integrate conflict risk analysis into election security management to track and proactively respond to the dynamics of local conflict that could exacerbate electoral risks and that there is the need for security agencies to scale up operations against hard drugs and banned substances, through a multi-agency exercise to identify the hotspot of drug use as well as interdict the networks, routes and actors that sustain drug and substance abuse in each state.
The survey also suggests the need for capacity building programmes for some of the critical elections stakeholders to enhance professionalism and accountability in the discharge of their duties; that INEC needs to be more involved in monitoring internal party processes and primaries with enhanced capacity to impose appropriate sanctions on erring parties and that government, political parties, media, and civil society organisations must escalate public enlightenment and sensitisation programmes on the dangers of vote buying; INEC should prioritise strategic communication to ensure that technical electoral hitches are not wrongly interpreted as deliberate attempts to favour a particular party or candidates during elections; political parties and their candidates should be encouraged to sign and commit to binding peace agreements in the form of Peace Commitment Accord (PCA), which could help in reducing the potential for electoral violence and that practical and cost-effective election risk mitigation are required for robust early warning system to more accurately identify potential elections security threats before, during and after the elections.
Earlier in his remarks, the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris , said the police had carried out threat assessments of elections threats in previous elections and recorded success and is ready to replicate the success in 2019.
The IGP, who was represented by SP Nwafor Ernest maintained that the police is not unaware of the possible threats to the 2019 general elections but assured that the police authorities had taken steps to deal with them.