January 27, 2023

CSOs identify 22 states to be high risk election manipulation spots

By Gabriel Ewepu

WITH about 30 days to the 2023 polls, Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, Friday, identified 22 States as high risk election manipulation spots.

According to leaders of the CSOs, Lanre Arogundade, International Press Centre; Ezenwa Nwagwu, Chairman, Partners for Electoral Reform and Yiaga Africa board member; Dr Sam Oguche, Coordinator, Yiaga Africa Centre for Legislative Engagement while presenting the report in Abuja, said the States identified in the Election Manipulation Risk Index, EMRI, include Imo, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Abia, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Kwara, Niger, Plateau, Taraba, Kaduna, Bauchi, Adamawa, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, and Jigawa.

Leaders of the CSOs explained that the EMRI is a qualitative tool of analysis that relies heavily on observation, content analysis and expert interviews. Data collected through these methods are triangulated to reflect how they result in election manipulation. Following the aggregation of data, the EMRI highlights the states according to the risk of election manipulation, using a ranking system based on the prevalence of the election manipulation indicators.

According to them, the risk indicator ranking is divided into three categories: High Risk, Medium Risk, and Low Risk. The analysis is limited to key aspects of the electoral process that relate to election management.

They added that to avoid duplication, election security is not included in the EMRI due to the existence of diverse assessments and monitoring tools on election security. The bulk of evidence for EMRI came from INEC reports, statements and publications; pre- and post-election observation reports from credible domestic and international observers; and reports from trusted and unbiased media organizations.

The CSOs that signed the report include International Press Centre; Institute for Media and Society; Partners for Electoral Reform; The Albino Foundation; The Nigerian Women Trust Fund; The Kukah Centre; Enough is Enough Nigeria; Center for Journalism Innovation and Development; SBM Intelligence; Dataphye; and Yiaga Africa.

They said: “As preparation for the 2023 general election reaches advanced stages, attempts to distort election outcomes using manipulation strategies are on the rise. Key actors are devising strategies to punctuate electoral preparations and neutralize the impact of laudable reforms aimed at enhancing the integrity of the electoral process.

“The political interference with INEC operations, tampering with the voter register, frivolous litigations and resistance against electoral technology like BVAS and IReV, and administrative lapses are electoral risks that may potentially impugn the integrity of the 2023 elections.

“In response to these risks, civil society organizations designed the Election Manipulation Risk Index (EMRI) to facilitate systematic and coherent monitoring of the insidious nature of election manipulation in the build-up to Nigeria’s 2023 general elections.

“The central focus of the EMRI is election administration, and it seeks to provide citizens with a clear understanding of what constitutes election manipulation and the role of citizens in risk mitigation. It should be seen as a rapid scanning tool rather than an in-depth solution for threats of election manipulation.

“While other forms of manipulation can take place, the EMRI focuses on six variables for tracking election manipulation. They include; INEC capture, manipulation of the voter register, voter suppression, resistance to the election technology, especially BVAS and IReV, history of election manipulation, and election litigation. Several empirical indicators are then identified for each variable to unravel election manipulation.

“Election security may compound the analysis and shift the focus from the election administration process, hence its exclusion from the EMRI variables and indicators.

“The EMRI highlights states where election manipulation occurs and introduces a ranking of states based on the prevalence of election manipulation indicators. The risk indicator ranking is divided into three categories: High Risk (states with three variables and above), Medium Risk (states with two variables), and Low Risk states with 1 or 0 variables).

“Election manipulation risks are high in 22 states of the federation. The states are classified as high-risk due to the presence of more than three EMRI variables.

“The states include Imo, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Abia, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Kwara, Niger, Plateau, Taraba, Kaduna, Bauchi, Adamawa, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Jigawa.”

Meanwhile, according to them, the EMRI revealed 12 States with medium election manipulation risks. The states include Bornu, Yobe, Nasarawa, Benue, Kogi, Zamfara, Kebbi, Ogun, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, and Cross River

Three states classified as low risk include Gombe, Ondo, and Federal Capital Territory.

However, the CSOs recommended some risk mitigation measures based on the six variables carefully selected basically on impact they will have on the elections, which include INEC capture; Tampering of the voters register; Voter suppression; Resistance to election technology (BVAS and IReV); History of electoral fraud; and Election litigation.

“INEC Capture; INEC leadership should sustain its nationwide redeployment of INEC officials with tainted records to inspire public confidence 1. INEC leadership should sustain its nationwide redeployment of INEC officials with tainted records to inspire public confidence; INEC should deploy trusted, incorruptible and experienced Administrative Secretaries, Heads of ICT, and Operations to high risks states; Intense scrutiny of applications for adhoc personnel recruitment. Applicants should undergo competency tests and names of successful applicants should be published for public scrutiny. INEC should create a system for submitting objections against partisan and compromised adhoc officials; INEC should intensify oversight and monitoring of its officials in high and medium risk states. This includes establishing a reporting mechanism that enables citizens to report concerns and complaints against INEC officials. INEC should improve regular interface with stakeholders and citizens at the state level. A comprehensive framework for stakeholder engagement should be designed for the newly appointed Resident Electoral Commissioners.

Civil society and media should ensure adequate deployment of pre-election observers and personnel to monitor INEC officials at the local level. In addition to improved security deployment in all INEC facilities across the country, the Interagency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) should ensure improved intelligence gathering to forestall future attacks on INEC facilities.

Tampering with the voter register; Clean-up of the voter register to remove multiple registrants, fictitious names and underage registrants; Greater transparency with the management of claims and objections submitted by citizens to INEC; Prosecution of persons engaged in voter registration offences;. Diligent prosecution of INEC officials responsible for the manipulation of the voter register

Voter Suppression; Timely production and distribution of PVCs to all registered voters; Decentralized PVC collection process to ease collection by citizens; Improved security for all INEC facilities nationwide to protect election materials against vandalization; Enhanced monitoring and oversight of INEC officials managing the PVC collection process to prevent manipulation and deliberate denial to issue PVCs to certain persons; Citizens should report cases of PVC buyouts and; and INEC should ensure the implementation of its guideline on IDP voting.

Resistance to election technology like BVAS and IReV; Enhanced security in storage facilities where the BVAS is stored Restraint on the part of the judiciary to entertain frivolous litigations against the use of the BVAS and IReV; Continuous public sensitization on the capacity of the BVAS and IReV to limit election manipulation

History of election fraud; Increase public awareness on mitigation measures in the 2022 Electoral Act against election manipulation; INEC should ensure adequate training of its staff to enforce compliance with the Electoral Act 2022 and INEC Regulations and Guidelines

Election litigation; The judiciary should dismiss cases instituted to undermine the preparations for the general elections; The Nigerian Bar Association should take disciplinary actions against legal practitioners engaged in election manipulation using the judicial process; and Improved understanding of judicial officers on provisions of the Electoral Act 2022.