By Dennis Agbo
NO less than 626 persons were reportedly killed in the event leading to and during the conduct of the 2019 general elections in Nigeria.
Out of the number, the South-south geopolitical zone recorded the highest incidents of violence (59), while the North-West had the highest number of fatalities (172), with South-East recording the least incidents of violence and fatalities, 7 and 14, respectively.
The disclosure was contained in stakeholders reports reviewing the security challenges in the 2019 general elections, held in Enugu by civil society organisations including SBM Intelligence and Gatefield Nig. Ltd, in collaboration with the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, OSIWA.
The stakeholders which also included the military, the police and the Civil Defence Corps, blamed the rising cases of violence on politicians, their supporters, as well as security operatives.
Head of Research, SBM Intelligence, Cheta Nwanze lamented the high scale violence which trailed the elections.
In the group’s report presented to the stakeholders, it was disclosed that “thuggery, influenced by politicians and political parties, protest, election fraud, violence in battleground areas and vote buying impacted on the outcome of the elections.
“Same can be said for terrorism, especially in the North-eastern States of Yobe and Borno, and the activities of security agencies in some contentious States.”
While blaming low turnout of voters partly on the fatal clashes recorded in the months leading to the elections, SMB said: “there were 161 verified incidents, which resulted in 626 deaths within the period between 16 November 2018, the official start of the campaigning and the day of elections.”
It concluded that by voters’ admission, “the 2019 general elections in Nigeria were greatly flawed. Some of the blame adduced to INEC’s shoddy preparation for the elections, some electoral officers’ willingness to participate in fraud and politicians’ lack of sportsmanship.”
Tracing the root Causes of Electoral Violence during the 2019 Elections, Dr Maurice Ogbonnaya from the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, NIPPS, said with the wild scale violence and manipulations, “young people are losing hope in the election system. They do not believe that the election represents the voice of the people.”
Ogbonnaya added that elections ought not to cost the life of any Nigerian. Even if it is one person, it is a loss too many.
Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, Anambra State, Nkwachukwu Orji, identified major challenges during the elections to include insufficient assessment of trouble spots; unavailability of deployment information; insufficient number of security agencies; poor response to situations, late of deployment of senior officers, among others.