‘Hate speech, violence, voters inducement may mar 2019 elections’
A group, the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA), has expressed worry that violence, hate speech and voters inducement may hinder conduct of free, fair and credible elections in 2019.
In its pre-election observation report titled “How prepared is Nigeria for the 2019 elections?” made available to The Guardian yesterday, the group said the content was based on 1,563 reports received from its observers.
The report, which is one of the six YIAGA would issue on its findings in the pre-election period, is a call to stakeholders to increase efforts in addressing possible threats to the polls.
According to the report, “report on a total of 47 critical incidents have been received and confirmed. These reports include incidences of hate speech, attack on rallies, fighting between communities, attack on election officials, attacks on candidates or their supporters, attack on observers, brutality by security agents, voters inducement and vandalism or destruction of properties belonging to their candidates or their supporters.
“The incidents of violence in various Local Government Areas (LGAs) across the country are potential early warning signs of violence. There are also signs of hate speech, physical and verbal violence, large movement of people into and out of LGAs, vandalism and recruitment of thugs.”
YIAGA said the early warning signs were seen in reports received from LGAs in Kogi, Kwara, Bauchi, Borno, Nasarawa, Kano, Taraba, Yobe, Jigawa, Kano, Rivers, Ekiti and Lagos states.
The Executive Director, YIAGA Africa, Samson Itodo, told The Guardian that the first step to be taken to ensure a credible poll is ensuring that the independence of the electoral commission is protected.
Itodo who identified the delay in assenting to the Electoral Reform Bill is a major threat to the 2019 poll, said: “The electoral reform process has been politicized by the Presidency and the National Assembly. This is very unfortunate”
According to him, there is need for the legal framework of the election to be settled before its commencement, the reason President Muhammadu Buhari should assent to the bill before him.
The report broke down the trend into three: hate speech, violence and voter inducement, revealing the states where each is prevalent.
Hate speech was observed in Kogi, Kwara, Taraba, and Nasarawa states; violence in Kogi, Kwara, Kano Kebbi, Lagos, Taraba, Rivers, Jigawa, Sokoto, and Borno states; voter inducement in Kwara, Taraba and Rivers states.
The group commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for some of its impressive activities such as the display of voter register, distribution of Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVC) and voter education.
YIAGA urged security agencies to partner with civil society organisations monitoring violence for effective response system, remain neutral throughout the electoral process and bring perpetrators of violence to book.