Monday, 4th December 2023

CSOs offer path to peaceful, credible 2023 elections

By Clarkson Voke Eberu
10 February 2023   |   3:43 am
With 15 days to commencement of this year’s general elections, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) and partners, Education Rights Campaign (ERC) and Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL)

[files] A voter drops ballot papers into a ballot box during an election in Nigeria.

With 15 days to commencement of this year’s general elections, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) and partners, Education Rights Campaign (ERC) and Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL), have advised the Federal Government and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to put finishing touches to preparations with a view to giving Nigerians nothing short of a peaceful and credible exercise.

They gave the advice during media presentation of a report tagged, “2023 General Elections: Challenges and Threats to Consolidating Democracy” yesterday in Lagos.

In his welcome remarks titled ‘Threats Remain, But a Free and Fair Election is Possible!” CAPPA Executive Director (ED), Akinbode Oluwafemi, while chronicling Nigeria’s tumultuous democratic history from independence, acknowledged the despair and apprehension in the polity, emboldened by the unrest and uprisings in parts of the country, particularly in the North East, where the Boko Haram insurgency began, and in the South East, where separatist tensions have refused to abate.

He noted that the report interrogated misgovernance, electoral malpractices and related issues, which many Nigerians feel could impede a credible general election, as well highlighted concerns like logistical and administrative difficulties faced by tINEC and attacks on its facilities, the lingering fuel and cash scarcity, rising insecurity, spread of misinformation and fake news, manifestations of voter suppression and likelihood of social disorder.

Oluwafemi added: “Alongside challenges to free and fair election, the report zeroed in on the steps taken by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to guarantee credible elections with specific focus on the Electoral Act of 2022. It recognises INEC’s efforts to improve elections through the adoption of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV), and the largely successful voter registration managed by the Commission, which captured 9.5 million new voters among others.

“Despite the worrying challenges observed, the report notes that there is hope that credible elections can be achieved, only if stakeholders work together to ramp up efforts in ensuring that all identified threats are nipped in the bud. The report targets critical stakeholders and their role in guaranteeing a free and fair election.”

Against the foregoing, the CAPPA boss advised government to adequately secure villages and towns in a way that the exercise does not affect ongoing efforts to contain activities of violent groups across the federation.

He charged the electoral umpire to electronically monitor movement of election materials and personnel, adopt measures to safeguard the BVAS and IREV platforms, as well as liaising with relevant agencies to ensure the participation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the election, by developing a register which accurately maps the number, identity, status and location of displaced persons.

The ED urged security operatives to promptly arrest and prosecute electoral offenders, robustly collaborate with local communities and vigilantes, just as he charged the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) to work with security agencies to identify persons of interest based on credible intelligence and ensure they are subjected to lawful surveillance during the electioneering period provided a court order authorising such is secured.

To the media, he urged factual reportage, avoidance of fake news and education of voters on latest developments.

The Research and Policy Officer, Zikora Ibeh, said: “Let’s see the election as a time to make a change.”

She cautioned against the BVAS and IREV being compromised by people with ulterior motives.

Also speaking, National Coordinator of ERC, Hassan Taiwo Soweto, regretted that the elite were undermining the state via their manipulative acts and unpatriotic deeds.

He, therefore, charged Nigerians to unite in defining a new future for the country.

In his remarks, CACOL’s Director of Administration and Programmes, Tola Oresanwo, implored government to prioritise insecurity and urgently address the lingering Naira swap crisis, even as he implored the media and civil society to be factual in their reportage and reporting.