As Nigeria heads to the polls on Saturday, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has disclosed that no fewer than 60 attacks were recorded at political rallies leaving nine people dead and others injured since campaigns started in September last year.
CDD, in an Election Analysis Centre (EAC) brief, which was released ahead of the polls, said insecurity, fuel scarcity, naira policy of the apex bank and other issues may pose challenges for the conduct of elections.
While EAC is expected to keep a close watch on the key processes in the build up to, during and after the elections, it said said it had deployed over 4,993 trained and accredited observers, 42 data clerks and 15 fact-checkers and social media experts to monitor the elections.
“In the last quarter of 2022, violence targeting political parties reached its highest point since the previous general election in early 2019. In total there have been 60 attacks recorded on political rallies, resulting in nine fatalities since the start of campaigning on 28 September,” CDD said in the report made available to journalists.
The centre expressed fear over the mobilisation of non-state actors by political figures for activities, which undermine the credibility of the polls, stressing that such realities could further worsen the state of insecurity.
CDD added that the groups could utilise the financial and military resources acquired to further perpetuate criminality of all forms including kidnapping, banditry, armed robbery and militant insurgency.
According to the CDD, while the insecurity they create itself portends dangers for the ability to conduct credible elections, politically sponsored violence could also be a determining factor in the outcome and acceptance of the polls.
It stressed that INEC may face serious security challenges to hold elections across several polling units in areas where insecurity has been prevalent, adding that the challenges have the potential to impact on the quality of the elections.
“It could even determine whether elections will be held all across the country given the threat they pose to the security of voters, electoral materials, and poll officials.
“The Nigerian Election Violence Tracker recorded at least 134 incidents involving INEC offices and staff between 2019 and 2022. Among these events are lootings, arson attacks, shootings, as well as abductions and assassinations of electoral officers,” CDD said.
To ensure seamless elections, CDD urged the government to ensure that key election stakeholders – in particular INEC and the security agencies have the necessary resources at their disposal to roll out their comprehensive plans for election day operations that ensure polls take place in a safe, free and fair environment.
It also asked political parties to ensure that their members and supporters adhere to the conditions laid out in the National Peace Accord through the voting process and after the announcement of results.
“INEC must continue to communicate regularly with Nigerians about the ongoing election process and is as transparent as possible during the collation and announcement of results,” CDD concluded.