As Nigeria gets closer to her seventh general elections scheduled for February 2023 since returning to electoral democracy in May 1999, insecurity and attacks at the INEC facilities continue to stand out as a major concern to electoral stakeholders. This is because of the threat they pose to the integrity of the elections.
Nigeria as a country has been grappling with its own insecurity. In the North-East, the long-standing Boko Haram insurgency has continued, albeit with attacks now more intermittent than regular. “In the North-West and the North-Central, banditry, terrorism and the herder-farmer conflicts remain major challenges. In the South-South, the threat of renewed insurgency by groups demanding more share of petroleum revenue to the Niger Delta continues to simmer” said the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu while delivering a paper at Chatham House.
Between 2019 – 2022, INEC facilities have experienced fifty attacks spread across 15 states, mostly in the form of arson and vandalization. In these attacks, buildings, election materials, and vehicles were destroyed. Sometimes, these attacks have even targeted staff.
The table below illustrates type of incidents and a number of occurrences under which INEC facilities have been attacked.
The perennial issue of insecurity in different parts of the country, compounded by attacks on INEC facilities and the traditional issues of thuggery during elections organized by some of the political actors continue to worry INEC. “There is no doubt that violence and threat of violence are major challenges to credible elections in 2023. Violence makes deployment for elections difficult, particularly where some of the attacks are targeted at the electoral process and participants”, said the chairman, INEC while delivering a paper on Nigeria 2023 elections at Chatham House on 17th January.
National Democratic Institute (NDI)-International Republican Institute (IRI) in their 2nd joint pre-election assessment statement on Nigeria pointed out that if the 2023 elections fail to deliver on citizen expectations of credible and inclusive polls, the confidence of Nigerians in their government and elections, which is already the lowest in Africa, may further erode. The assessment also states that there are concerns about the potential for significant post-election violence.
While the electoral environment seems to be unsafe for credible elections, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, chairman has assured Nigerians that the Electoral Management Body has put in place measures to ensure safe, free and credible elections.
Oftentimes, the political and personal stakes are high in any election, and they can lead people to commit acts of questionable integrity, including unethical personal behavior aimed at swaying the election result. INEC must set standards of good conduct to maintain election integrity. The electoral process itself should be conducted based on the principles and values that ensure free and fair elections to avoid the surge of post-election violence.