Press Statement Issued By Cleen Foundation Ahead Of The Rescheduled 2023 Governorship And State Assembly Elections

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INEC
INEC

CLEEN Foundation Election Security Support Centre (ESSC) continues to observe and track incidences related to the 2023 general election capable of impacting on the peaceful conduct of the elections with the aim of getting key stakeholders to take necessary steps to mitigate perceived threats to the smooth conduct of the March 18th Governorship and state assembly elections across the 36 states of the federation with the exception of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

CLEEN Foundation ESSC has received and tracked data that indicates a possible increase in electoral violence during the March 18th governorship elections particularly in Rivers, Lagos and Kano states compared to the election violence recorded during the presidential elections three weeks back.

CLEEN Foundation observed that the postponement was disappointing to most Nigerians but the development provided perhaps a rare chance and privilege for INEC and security agencies to execute a credible election that would be acceptable to majority of Nigerians. Already the stakes are high and lastminute permutations are taking on frenetic and violent dimensions in many states of the federation. On the one hand, a new political consciousness generated by youth social media advocacy is wrestling power with the old politicking class. Regrettably, none of the two divides appear devoid of money politics, nepotism and cronyism.

CLEEN ESSC continues to observe that the political class are desperately in opposition of a violent free election; and this fact has been noticed in many states including Lagos, Ogun, Kogi, Plateau, Benue, Taraba, Sokoto, Bauchi, Delta, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo, Rivers and Kano. Sadly, pockets of violence and tragedies springing up are being given political coloration that may complicate the prevalent high tension.

Never before has the southern elite been so bitterly polarized along ethnic and religious lines like this present moment. The bigotry has been so insanely conjured that it is worth questioning why such bitterness has been pent up for so long in the minds of the elite. This is sad for a country with so much potential and a promising youth population seeking guidance. CLEEN Foundation ESSC further highlights the following:

State of INEC’s preparedness: With over 93 million registered voters and over 23,000 election duty staff, the gubernatorial election is a big endeavor. With the Presidential and NASS elections recently concluded, there are a number of lessons INEC must learn to further strengthen its logistics. The issue of efficient and timely distribution of sensitive and non-sensitive voting materials, timely dissemination of information, functionality of INEC’s hotlines and the BVAS are fundamental. The capacity of staff is another whilst the capability of the infrastructures deployed will be put to test again.

The stakes are higher at sub-national levels, Governors over the years have constantly marshaled all state assets towards winning or paving the way for their anointed candidates. This comes with huge pressure on INEC and INEC must do everything possible to resist such pressure and do everything possible to ensure a free, fair, transparent and credible elections. And avoid any action that could lead to break down of law and order.

Preparedness of the Security Agencies: The Police in particular, have demonstrated consistent improvement after every election. This is a classical demonstration of the implementation of its roadmap and the institutionalization of modern and democratic policing in Nigeria. We saw a more responsive and professional police and other sister agencies over the presidential elections. Nonetheless, we are asking that security is beefed up in Lagos, Ogun, Kogi, Plateau, Benue, Kaduna, Taraba, Sokoto, Zamfara, Bauchi, Delta, Anambra, Ebonyi, Rivers and Kano state following security threats and developments. It is also our hope that the State Governments will not undercut this milestone achievement by attempting to influence and induce personnel into serving their vested interest.

Use of Informal Policing Structures: As we already know, Governors have established quasi security apparatus in various states to manage the dynamics of security in their various states. The tendency to use these groups in various means outside their original mandate might provoke resistance. In states where keen contests are recorded, this might be an area to pay more attention towards.

Accessibility to Polling Units: The hangover from the Presidential elections will play out strongly at some polling units as voters might be deprived of performing their civic duties. As indicated in the ESTA, groups of individuals who believed the presidential results went outside their expectations might disrupt the polls on the 18th of March. As further predicted in the ESTA, Bandits have imposed a ₦2m levy on a community in Zamfara as a condition for a peaceful process. The levy was charged at ₦200,000 per polling unit within the colony of the bandits.

Indicators of Voter Inducement and Electoral Offenses: With the reversal of the cash swap policy and the pre-bendal nature of governance at sub-national levels, voter inducement through the distribution of money and gift items, from the beginning of the pre-election to the Election Day is potential. This is a permanent feature in Nigeria’s elections at the state level and it is capable of undermining the legitimacy of the electoral process.

Violent Attack on Political Party Supporters: CLEEN Foundation tracked activities that could affect the peaceful conduct of the elections using its Election Security Threats Assessment. Reports of physical violence during political party rallies and campaigns in Lagos, Kogi, Gombe, Delta, Akwa Ibom and some parts of the southeast suggest that supporters of unpopular parties and candidates in the localities are vulnerable to attacks. The tribal, religious, and ethnic sentiments in some parts of the country are a recipe for violence if security personnel do not rise to the occasion. The report already has it that an APC leader in the southeast was killed after celebrating the victory of his party after the presidential elections.

Nigerian security agencies must improve their intelligence-gathering capabilities. The DSS entrance into the twitter space is commendable but they must not fail to address the negative perception of their announcement to join the social media space at the peak of the election period. We expect the security agencies to bridge the identified gaps during the presidential elections as stakeholders expect an improvement in their conduct during the 2023 governorship and state assembly elections.

The Foundation recommends that key actors in the electoral processes particularly INEC, political parties, security agents, mass media and CSOs need to pay increased attention to the identified risk factors to tackle them headlong through the various duty bearers. The early warning signs identified in the ESTA report is still valid and should be seen as a priority by appropriate authorities to take early action. Synergy among these agencies is imperative to the peaceful outcomes of the elections. We still call on relevant stakeholders to prioritize the welfare of all security agents and safety of voters, essential workers/ad-hoc staff on election duties to avoid unintended outcomes.

Lastly, CLEEN Foundation calls on all registered voters to exercise their franchise come March 18th and wishes Nigerians the best as they decide who takes the helm of affairs at the gubernatorial and state levels.

Long live the federal Republic of Nigeria!

Signed:

Gad Peter

Executive Director

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