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Election Violence

CYBER SECURITY, GEOPOLITICAL ANALYSIS, Nigeria, POLITICS, Reports, SECURITY THREATS

ELECTION SECURITY RISK ANALYSIS: HYBRID THREATS, EARLY WARNING SIGNS AND PROSPECTS OF A SEAMLESS POLITICAL TRANSITION IN NIGERIA – PART 3

Political Intolerance And The Risk of Election Violence in Nigeria The National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Monguno on Friday, November 11, 2022, stated that “rogues” are planning to disrupt the 2023 elections. Monguno said he was aware that in the last month, at least 52 cases of electoral violence were reported across 22 states in the country. Sequel to the NSA’s declaration, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Wendy Campbell Laing stated that, “When people feel intimidated, they can’t get out to vote, the election itself will not be credible, that is why the violence is of great concern”. On this note, she averred that the United Kingdom  will be watching closely any individual who acts violently or incites people through the social media and would not hesitate to impose visa sanction on such individuals. As a matter of fact, on Wednesday, the United States Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken went ahead to impose visa restrictions in his words, ‘’on specific individuals in Nigeria for undermining the democratic process in a recent Nigerian election’’. According to Blinken, ‘’additional persons who undermine the democratic process in Nigeria—including in the lead-up to, during, and following Nigeria’s 2023 elections—may be found ineligible for U.S. visas under this policy’’. The United Nations and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Tuesday, 17 January, 2023, warned Nigeria against violence in this year’s general elections. ‘’While the UN cautioned that if things go wrong in Nigeria, there would be serious consequences for the peace and stability of the entire region; the ECOWAS said if violence occurs in Nigeria, no other nation in the sub-region could accommodate Nigerian refugees’’. In new security advisories independently issued on Thursday, January 19, 2023, Australia, United Kingdom and the European Union, warned their citizens to reconsider their intending visits to Nigeria, avoid all political gatherings and election related sites in the lead up to, during and after the election due to the hostile “security climate” and threats preparatory to the 2023 general elections. Recall that in October 2022, the United States, UK, Canada, Germany, and Bulgaria issued terror alerts, warning their citizens in Nigeria to avoid shopping malls, religious centres, and hotels which they said could be targeted by terrorists. In its final report on the 2019 general election, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room conservatively estimated that, ”At least, 626 people were killed between the start of the campaign in October 2018 and the final election in March 2019’’. In 2021, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) recorded a 22% increase in the number of organized political violence events in Nigeria. The violence resulted in over 9,900 reported fatalities, nearly a 30% increase compared to 2020. Cybersecurity, Election Hacking And Interference Evidence abound that state-actors and cyber sleuths interfere with the electoral ecosystem. Their interference can range from one or a combination of information operations, disinformation, broadcasting deep-fake videos across social media platforms, to corrupting data, altering voter registration databases hence disentrancing or impeding citizens’ ability to vote, to attempting to tamper with the outcome of vote count, and undermining voters’ confidence on the legitimacy, integrity of an election. With an approximately 80 million Nigerians online, social media plays enormous role in Nigerian political space hence fake news, disinformation is a thriving industry in Nigeria. For instance, a British Broadcasting Corporation investigation discovered that ‘’political parties in Nigeria are secretly paying social media influencers to spread disinformation about their opponents ahead of the 2023 general elections. According to the BBC’s Global Disinformation Team, a politician acknowledged that in addition to dolling out gifts and promising contracts, nay, political appointments, his team paid a social media influencer up to 20 million Naira (about ($45,000; £37,000) for delivering a ‘result’. The modus operandi of their strategists entails planting fabricated stories through other micro-influencers aimed at eliciting emotions and misinforming people. Idayat Hassan, director at the Centre for Democracy and Development, says the activities of these influencers is tantamount to “political interference”. According to her, “It is undermining trust in democracy, undermining trust in the electoral system, and it is instigating conflict“. Election interference is not exclusive to Nigeria. The website of Ghana’s election commission was allegedly hit by a cyber-attack in 2016. The commission said an attempt to put up “fake results” failed. Also, in 2021, the German government warned Russia over a wave of cyberattacks – “combining conventional cyberattacks with disinformation and influence operations” on German politicians. Similarly, in a BBC report of 11 September 2020, tech giant, Microsoft sent word that hackers with ties to Russia, China and Iran targeted US and British political parties and tried to meddle in elections. According to a newly declassified US State Department cable, Russia covertly spent more than $300m since 2014 to try to influence politicians and other officials in more than two dozen countries. Similarly, two Iranian nationals were charged for cyber-enabled disinformation and threat campaign designed to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election. In the just concluded 2022 Kenyan election, reports indicate that about 200 hacking attempts were made on election results, between Thursday, 11th August and Friday 12th August. Thus, it is not surprising that the Chairman of the INEC Boss, Professor Mahmoud Yakubu confirmed sometime in September 2022, that the Commission’s ‘’result viewing portal (IReV) during the gubernatorial elections in Ekiti and Osun states, experienced several cyberattacks from hackers across the world, some of them from Asia’’. I reckon that the risk and threat of election interference will be higher during Nigeria’s forthcoming presidential election. It behooves on the INEC to ramp up its cybersecurity defenses (including elimination of human error) and ensure that critical technological infrastructure such as its servers, the Result Viewing (IReV) web portal and the over 200,000 Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) that would be deployed across the 176,846 polling units across the country, for the 2023 general election, are not compromised by hackers. According to IBM Cyber Security Intelligence Index Report, human error (and I must add,

CURATED OSINT

Cameroon: 40,000 Nigerians Who Fled Election Violence Return Home

Moki Edwin Cameroon authorities says at least 40,000 Nigerians who fled across the border for fear of election-related violence have returned home and another 20,000 are soon to follow. Cameroon troops whistle to indicate it is time for departure as about 3,000 Nigerians prepare to return to the village of Kukawa in Borno state.  Midjiyawa…

The post Cameroon: 40,000 Nigerians Who Fled Election Violence Return Home appeared first on Global Sentinel.

SECURITY THREATS

Rivers State Security Situation 101

Rivers state used to be known as a peace loving state, but with the current security landscape, it is hard to imagine that was once true. Crime in Rivers state has reached an alarming level, with assassinations, kidnapping, rape, extortion, armed robbery and murder being carried out on a seemingly daily basis. To make matters worse, when it is election season, the criminal activity significantly worsens. As the Rivers re-run Election Day drew closer, more and more lives were needlessly taken, the most gruesome being the 5th March murder of the APC Ward Chairman, Franklin Obi, who was decapitated alongside his wife and 18-year-old son, Bestman, at his residence on Rutachi Street, Omoku. It appeared that those being killed were overwhelmingly members of the opposition party APC. APC members argued that in order for elections to be free and fair in Rivers state, there would have to be ample security. The ruling party members PDP agreed that there needed to be adequate security, but they were extremely suspicious of the presence of security personnel especially the Nigerian Army for fear that they will help APC rig the elections in their favor. Regardless of the fears of PDP on compromised security personnel one thing almost everyone could agree on was that the level of politically related killings were alarming and therefore security within the state needed to be beefed up. The police force relocated an Assistant Inspector-General of Police and three Commissioners of Police to Port Harcourt, and deployed an additional 6,000 policemen and 14 units of Police Mobile Force personnel to Rivers state to complement the personnel of the Rivers State Command during the election. The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), also approved the deployment of an Assistant Commandant General (ACG), four Commandants and 2,000 personnel for the re-run elections in Rivers. In addition to the security personnel reinforcement, there were restrictions of non-essential vehicular movements around the state on Election Day from 6:00a.m. to 6:00 p.m.  Bans were placed on tricycles, motorcycles and engine speed boats with capacity of 200 horsepower and above, during the election weekend. The Military The Rivers state governor and PDP insisted that the military be kept away from Rivers claiming that they were going to be used as instruments in rigging the elections in favor of APC (the Federal ruling party). To reiterate this concern, the River’s state governor Wike wrote letters to 52 countries and even paid a visit to the Army Headquarters to discuss the security issues in the state. PDP went further and filed a law suit with the Rivers state High Court requesting that the military be restrained from deploying troops to conduct monitor and supervise the elections on that day. The anti-military comments constantly made by PDP encouraged attacks against military and other security personnel. Rivers State Election Day Security Despite the increase in security personnel within the state, the re-run elections were still wrought with pockets of violence and poor turnout. THE Independent National Electoral Commssion, INEC, said it was unable to carry out a conclusive election and has since announced that it would not return to Rivers until the state is more secure and conducive to conduct elections. Some policemen who had been deployed to Rivers got involved in an accident in Rivers state when a truck conveying about 100 policemen collided with another truck transporting cattle along the same road. A vehicle conveying journalists covering the National and State Assembly rerun election, was smashed by hoodlums. Two soldiers who were on patrol, were attacked and killed by gunmen suspected to be sea pirates at Abonnema in Degema Local Council of Rivers State. Another set of “unknown gunmen” also killed a DSS operative in Omaku, Ogba/Ndoni/Egbema Local Government Area of the state, during a joint operation carried out by the army, police and DSS. An immigration officer was shot dead at a registration centre at Abalama in Asari Toru Local Government Area (LGA). A skirmish had ensued, following attempt by All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members. The Director General of NIMASA, Dakuku Peterside escaped an assassination attempt. Eight individuals wearing fake military uniforms were arrested in Khana Local government area of Rivers state along with the Governor’s Special Adviser on Special projects who was found with large wads of cash. The Police reported four deaths and the arrest of 22 people, although other sources put the casualty numbers higher than that. Why the Violence Politics in Rivers state is a do or die affair because most of the politicians are vying for power over the oil resource of the state which has one of the highest oil revenue in the country. This political wrangling encourages the use of political thugs and the use of violence to gain power. These thugs are said to be funded and armed by politicians to silence political rivals during election season, and off season, their allegiance is to their various gang or cult groups who carryout crimes against members of the community and citizens of the state. A report written by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2009 stated that “Rivers State is saturated with cults and cultism. The Government itself acknowledged the existence of 100 cults; we listed additional 16 cults”. So the presence of heavily armed thugs across the state is known information, none of it is new. In fact, when getting ready to deploy policemen for the Rivers re-run election, the IGP stated that “the intelligence unit of the Nigeria police has conducted a comprehensive security analysis of Rivers state. The areas likely to present major security threat as well as individuals who are poised to make themselves available as political thugs to threaten the peaceful conduct of the electoral process have been identified. Trouble makers will not be picked for now but the individuals have been placed under watch and will be apprehended when they cross the threshold set for them. In other words, the Police Force was saying yes we know all

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