ELECTION SECURITY RISK ANALYSIS: HYBRID THREATS, EARLY WARNING SIGNS AND PROSPECTS OF A SEAMLESS POLITICAL TRANSITION IN NIGERIA – PART 2

Chances of seamless, simultaneous elections nationwide

Citing anonymous intelligence shared about Nigeria’s election security by concerned civil society actors conversant with the undertaking of the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Electoral Security (ICCES), THISDAY Newspaper revealed that, ‘the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) may be under constraint to conduct 2023 elections in plausibly over 686 communities under the atrocious activities of armed non-state actors across the federation’’. According to the report, ‘’affected communities and wards cut across 90 local government areas (LGAs) and 18 states of the federation’’. Out of the 686 affected communities, 618 were identified in the north alone with 336 in the Northwest and 200 communities domiciled in Zamfara state. The implication of this is that Zamfara state is currently deemed as the most dangerous state in Nigeria.

Similarly, in the Northeast, 168 communities were identified. Gombe is the only state that is comparatively safe in the Northeast while there are about 79 wards in Borno state where elections may not hold. Aforesaid report submits that it would be challenging to hold elections in about 114 wards in North-central Nigeria, largely in Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger and Plateau. “In Southeastern Nigeria, 55 communities mainly in Abia, Anambra, and Imo state were referenced as red zones. The findings put the number of communities affected in the South-south at three, all located in Rivers State. THISDAY Newspaper report extrapolated that 90.1 per cent of the purported unsafe communities are domiciled in the north alone while 9.09 per cent representing 68 unsafe communities are in southern Nigeria. A purported policy brief by some northern governors to president Buhari, anticipates that elections may not hold in the North West states of Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara in 2023, due to growing insecurity.

For instance, data collated by Punch Newspaper as at December 18, 2022, estimated that no fewer than 50 offices and facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission were attacked across 15 states in the past 4 years. However, data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), suggests aforesaid data might be a conservative estimate. According to ACLED’s December 2022 data, ‘’there have been more than 100 attacks associated with elections since the last elections in 2019’’. No fewer than 67 of such attacks were recorded on non-election days between January 2019 and December 2022. Gunmen on Monday, November 28, 2022, killed the women leader of the Labour Party (LP) in Kaura LGA of Kaduna State, Mrs. Victoria Chintex at her residence in Kaura, Kaduna. Suspected thugs on Monday, October 17, 2022, disrupted the campaign train of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kaduna State. The campaign convoy of the presidential candidate of the PDP, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, was reportedly attacked in Maiduguri, Borno state, on November 9, 2022.

States With High Risk of Election Manipulation, Voter Suppression

An “Election Manipulation Risk Index EMRI”, a triangulated data developed by the International Press Centre and eight other organizations including Partners for Electoral Reform, The Albino Foundation, The Kukah Centre, Enough is Enough, Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development, SBM Intelligence, Dataphyte and YIAGA Africa, classified 22 states out of the 36 states in Nigeria as ‘’high risk’’ as it pertains to election manipulation. The states include Imo, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Abia, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Oyo, and Osun. Others are Ekiti, Kwara, Niger, Plateau, Taraba, Kaduna, Bauchi, Adamawa, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto and Jigawa states.

According to the EMRI report, 12 states with medium election manipulation risks include Borno, Yobe, Nasarawa, Benue, Kogi, Zamfara, Kebbi, Ogun, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa and Cross River while three states: Gombe, Ondo, and the Federal Capital Territory FCT, were classified as low risk. The EMRI report identifies indicators such as voter suppression, resistance against electoral technology like BVAS and IReV, political interference with INEC operations, administrative lapses, tampering with the voter register, and frivolous election litigations, as electoral risks that may potentially impugn the election integrity of the 2023 elections.

Election Violence Heat Map: States To Watch Out For

The situation in Lagos state pre, during and after the election promises to be dicey, unpredictable. Perhaps as a sign of things to come, the Campaign train of the Governorship Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party – PDP in Lagos State, Dr. Abdulazeez Olajide Adediran (JANDOR) was reportedly attacked on Sunday, 23rd October, 2022 while his entourage were returning from a visitation to members of the party at the Ikoga Junction area of Badagry LGA. Similarly, on Tuesday, January 24, 2023, thugs attacked the convoy of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate in Lagos state, Abdul-Azeez Adediran (Jandor) in Kosofe LGA, stabbing a security officer. Also, Nollywood actress and PDP deputy governorship candidate in Lagos State Funke Akindele was on Tuesday, January 24, 2023, reportedly chased out of the Ikosi fruit market in Lagos by suspected thugs while campaigning. Supporters and thugs loyal to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) reportedly clashed and shot sporadically in the Aguda area of Surulere, Lagos, on Friday, January 27, 2023.

Plausible election suppression and violence flashpoints in Lagos include: Oshodi-Isolo LGA (Ajao Estate, Mafoluku, Okota, Ago Palace Way, Oke-Afa, Ejigbo areas), Amuwo-Odofin (FESTAC, Satellite town), Surulere (Aguda, Ijesha), Mushin (Jandor’s neck-of-the-woods), Apapa (Olodi Apapa, Agegunle), Alimosho (the largest and most densely populated LGA in Lagos, nay, Nigeria). This prognosis is deduced from trends, open source intelligence (OSINT) and the fact that there is a high concentration of opposition supporters, non-locals in aforesaid areas. For instance, there was election violence specifically at Ago Palace Way during the February 2019 election as suspected thugs reportedly stormed a polling unit and set ablaze no fewer than 100 ballot boxes filled with election materials. It is not unexpected that the ruling party will attempt to rein in Jandor, the PDP and the Labour party in Mushin (where the PDP gubernatorial candidate hails from), and also Alimosho, said to be the largest and most densely populated local government area in Lagos. Note that the projected population of Alimosho LGA is 3,082,900, as of 2019.

Another concern or risk worth mentioning is the devil-may-care rivalry and role played by the leadership and membership of transport unions such as the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Road Transport Employees Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) and the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), or the newly constituted Lagos Parks Management Committee led by Musiliu Akinsanya, popularly known as MC Oluomo, have played in the past and will likely play during the 2023 elections. For one, the INEC intends using the NURTW to move election materials. What if they deliberately compromise or jeopardize the delivery of election materials in some areas? Of course the ongoing petrol scarcity could be a good alibi.

Imo state in particular and the entire southeast is also another election violence hotspot. Imo state is apparently the new Afghanistan in Nigeria. This is because of the activities of so-called separatist agitators – IPOB factions, unknown gunmen and ‘’ungun known men’’ run amok and seem to be bent on disrupting elections in the southeast. Mr Cajethan Duke claimed in a statement, that no fewer than 50 members of his party had been killed in the state. A witness, Isa Adamu, said no fewer than eight people were killed by gunmen in Umunna town near Okigwe on Friday, including some mechanics who had gone to repair a vehicle in the town.

Imo state recorded the highest number of attacks on INEC facilities with more than a dozen incidents…and counting. One of the recent attacks happened on Saturday, January 14, 2023 when gunmen numbering about 20 on Saturday, January 14, 2023, attacked INEC’s office at Ahiazu Mbaise Local Government Secretariat, Imo State, killing one person in the process. This substantiates the statement of the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of Imo state on September 7, 2022, that the 2023 general election may not hold in three local government areas (LGAs) in the state, including in Orlu, Orsu, Njaaba (Okigwe LGA should be in the list) due to what can be characterized as hybrid threats On Sunday, January 22, 2023, gunmen beheaded the sole administrator of Ideato North LGA of Imo State. The victim, Christopher Ohizu, was abducted two days earlier alongside two others when the gunmen attacked him and set his residence ablaze. The hoodlums beheaded the victim after his family reportedly paid N6 million as ransom to them. Sources said the gunmen were attacking those backing the conduct of the 2023 elections in the Southeast.

Similarly, on Tuesday, January 24, 2023, gunmen killed the ward chairman, Christian Ihim popularly known as ‘’Zako’’ of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Umuchoke ward in Okwe, Onuimo LGA of Imo State. The gunmen also kidnapped five other chieftains of the ruling party in the community. Recall that gunmen had on December 15, 2022, killed the Labour Party candidate for the Onuimo LGA state House of Assembly election, Christopher Elehu, popularly known as Wasco, after they set ablaze his country home in Okwe community. Also, gunmen have kidnapped two community leaders in Ogbaku in the Mbaitoli LGA of the state. A driver and four police orderlies were on Monday, January 02, killed as the convoy of a former governor of Imo state and an APC leader, Chief Ikedi Ohakim was attacked by gunmen at Umualumoke, Oriagu in Ehime Mbano LGA of Imo state. Ohakim escaped death by the hair’s breadth because he was in a bulletproof vehicle with two of his children when the gunmen struck. From the foregoing, it is safe to say that Imo state is the new Afghanistan in Nigeria and if adequate measures are not put in place, it will be a herculean task to conduct elections in Imo state.

Scores of people were killed, and properties worth billions of Naira destroyed in Aku-Okigwe, in Imo state as a result of the random kidnapping, bloodletting and arson attacks by criminals, non-state actors and counter-offensive, indiscriminate extrajudicial killings by government security forces (GSF) searching for the criminals. The conflict is deep-seated, and it is unlikely that normalcy will return prior to the election or afterwards. The implication is that Aku community and pockets of communities in the southeast are deserted as residents live as IDPs in neighbouring communities. They will be disenfranchised during the forthcoming election.

In 2021, the Kaduna State Independent Electoral Commission (KADSIECOM) postponed council election in four LGAs – Chikun, Kajuru, Zangon Kataf and Birnin Gwari LGAs, due to insecurity. Reports indicate that Ansaru terrorist group banned political activities in many communities in the Eastern part of Birnin-Gwari LGA of Kaduna State. It would be a challenge to hold elections in this part of Kaduna state.

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