January 27, 2023

Election Manipulation: Imo, Lagos, Kano, 19 others tagged ‘high risk states’

Revitalizing leadership decay in Nigeria

.Kogi, Delta, Borno medium risk

Omeiza Ajayi, Abuja

Ahead of the February/March general election, 22 states have been classified as “high risk” in terms of election manipulation.

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

The revelation was contained in an executive summary of the “Election Manipulation Risk Index EMRI 1st Iteration Report” undertaken by the International Press Centre and eight other organizations. They are Partners for Electoral Reform, The Albino Foundation, The Kukah Centre, Enough is Enough, Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development, SBM Intelligence, Dataphyte and Yiaga Africa.

The summary which was made available to Saturday Vanguard by Ezenwa Nwagu of Partners for Electoral Reform indicated that the states are classified as high-risk due to the presence of more than three EMRI variables.

The EMRI revealed 12 states with medium election manipulation risks. The states include Borno, Yobe, Nasarawa, Benue, Kogi, Zamfara, Kebbi, Ogun, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa and Cross River.

Also, three states were classified as low risk. They include Gombe, Ondo, and the Federal Capital Territory FCT.

Part of the report reads; “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 election 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 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.

“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). Most evidence for EMRI is sourced from INEC reports and statements and publications, pre- and post-election observation reports from domestic and international observers, and reports from trusted unbiased media institutions. Three EMRI iteration reports will be released on the 2023 general election. It is expected the EMRI will curb election manipulation, facilitate strategic election planning and promote citizens’ oversight of the electoral process”.

The report also provides risk mitigation measures which includes calling on INEC to deploy trusted, incorruptible, and experienced Administrative Secretaries, Heads of ICT, and Operations to high risks states.

“Intense scrutiny of applications for ad-hoc 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 ad-hoc 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”, it added.

It also advocated the clean-up of the voter register to remove multiple registrants, fictitious names, and underage registrants, while ensuring greater transparency with the management of claims and objections submitted by citizens to INEC.

The report called for diligent prosecution of INEC officials responsible for the manipulation of the voter register.

On voter suppression, the report advocated enhanced monitoring and oversight of INEC officials managing the PVC collection process to prevent manipulation and deliberate denial from issuing PVCs to certain persons.

It also advised INEC on timely production and distribution of PVCs to all registered voters.

On resistance to election technology like BVAS and IReV, the report called for enhanced security in storage facilities where the BVAS devices are stored.

Other recommendations are; “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

“Increase public awareness of 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.

“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”.