Thursday, 16 November 2017


The cycle and integrity of elections are critical to the democratic process that any perceived or real threat to elections is often interpreted as a threat to the sustenance of democracy. Since Nigeria's return to democratic rule in 1999, elections had been characterised by security and administration challenges, resulting in discredited outcomes and associated cases of off-cycle elections. The November 18, 2017 governorship election in Anambra state is the latest in the list of off-cycle elections in Nigeria. The elections will take place in a largely tensed atmosphere, shaped by the resurgence of Biafra separatist agitation by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), large number of political contestants, huge deployment of state security forces, influence of godfather politics, prevalence of cultism, and proliferation of arms, among other factors.
It is against this backdrop that CLEEN Foundation embarked on an assessment of elections security threat to the November 2017 governorship election in Anambra State. The study examined the real and potential election security threats in the state, focusing on each of the three senatorial districts. It adopted a mixed-methodology, involving both qualitative and quantitative research methods, to generate vital information on the nature and extent of threats to the November 18 elections.
The report identified some critical actors whose conduct could undermine the peaceful conduct of elections in the state. These include IPOB agitators, party thugs, political parties, armed groups (Cultists), INEC officials, security agents, judiciary, media, traditional institutions, vigilante groups, and CSOs. The way and manner these actors behave before, during and after the elections could constitute election security threats. The findings of the quantitative survey revealed that the activities of IPOB agitators constitute the greatest elections security threats (70%). The study showed that the group has the capacity to threaten the election through subtle intimidation of voters, propaganda operations using especially social media, and confrontation with security agents and electoral officials where there is weak or non-existent security presence. Besides the IPOB, other actors whose actions, inactions or misconduct could pose significant threat to the forthcoming elections are party thugs and political parties (67%), armed groups (61%), INEC (56%), and security agents (55%). The potentials of the conduct of the judiciary and media to contribute to the outbreak of electoral violence were ranked below 50%. However, there is widespread concern of possible misuse of social media by IPOB agitators, political contestants and some aggrieved individuals to instigate violence. 
The study further identified some communities or locations that are possible flashpoints of electoral violence and security breaches (see Map below). Factors such as the potency of IPOB's threat, politics of Godfatherism, allegations of gubernatorial candidates' connections to cult groups, undue exploitation of power of incumbency, and desperation of opposition parties to capture the state constitute main sources of election security threats. The threat level is shaped by factors such as high population density (especially youths), huge presence of IPOB members, stronghold of the major political heavy weights or contestants, and history of electoral violence. Locations considered to be chiefly at risk are Atani, Ekwulobia, Fegge, Niger/Head Bridge (Onitsha), Nkpor, Obosi, Okija, Okpoko, Ozubulu, Ubuluisiuzo and Uli. Places such as Abagana, Aguleri, Agulu, Amansea, Anaocha, Aroma, Ifete, Nkwele Ezunanka, Nnewi-Ichi, Nsugbe, Ogbunike Ajalli, Ogidi, Okpuno, Orafite, Osumenyi, Ukpo and Umunze are equally potential flashpoints of violence.

The study envisaged low  voter turnout in the forthcoming governorship election. Several factors could account for it. First, is the traditional apathetic disposition of most residents of the state. Second, is the threat by IPOB for election boycott, with promise of death for those who vote in the election. Third, and as a corollary to the above, is the possibility of further militarisation of the state in view of the potency of the IPOB threat. There is also widespread concern of possible post-election violence in the event that APGA loses the election to APC.

In light of the major findings as well as those common to each senatorial district, the study proffered the following recommendations for the key stakeholders.
Federal Government:
a.       Desist from deploying the military into streets during the elections in order to avoid heightened militarisation of the state that could exacerbate voter apathy.
b.      Develop a robust strategy for rapid deployment of the military to flashpoints of violence, to be activated only when and where there is serious security breaches that overwhelm the capacity of the police.
c.       Task the Ministry of Information to collaborate with the National Orientation Agency,  INEC and DSS to create a formidable influence operation team (IOT) that could proactively counter IPOB's propaganda, or hate speeches by desperate politicians and faceless individuals during the election period.
Anambra State Government:
a.       Leverage Anambra Broadcasting Service to heighten the synergy between the media and security agencies in the state to address people's concerns about securitisation and militarisation of the state.
b.      Encourage religious leaders, Town Union executives and community leaders to mobilise their people to vote in peaceful manner and assist in disseminating credible electoral information at the grassroots.
c.       Sustain public enlightenment programmes through town hall meetings, radio, television and social media on the dangers of youth involvement in cultism and consumption of hard-drugs to mitigate their consequences for the elections.

For Security Agencies:
a.       Implement robust and 'right-sized' deployment of security agents and intelligence operatives across the 21 LGAs to ensure efficient security provisioning before, during and after the election. This will ensure that the right size of security forces are deployed for the right mission.
b.      Establish a Special Inter-Agency Monitoring Team that will commence and sustain active patrolling of the roads in the state to appropriately deal with corrupt and overzealous security agents who are taking advantage of the huge force deployment to engage in the molestation, maltreatment and extortion of people.
c.       Properly publicise non-classified aspects of security arrangements for the election to boost the confidence of the people to come out and vote. In partnership with the political parties, media and CSOs, they can agree that carrying a Voters Card will be the only acceptable means of identification for moving about during the voting hours. Exception would be made for those on essential duties.
d.      Establish a special committee with representatives of political parties, CSOs and traditional leaders to conduct transparent demobilisation of vigilante groups and other informal policing outfits. Involving other diverse stakeholders will give credibility to the exercise and boost the confidence of opposition parties that are doubtful of past exercises.
e.       Leverage the findings of this study and others that have provided evidence-based insights on potentials security flashpoints to evolve or fine-tune security incident response plan for the elections.
f.       Maintain professional conduct in the discharge of their responsibility, especially when conducting stop-and-search operations, handling of suspects, management of crowd and dispersals of illegal gathering during the election.
g.      Sustain active and visible patrolling of all vulnerable streets and spots while the election is on, especially in areas with large students and youth population.
h.      Create toll-free lines for timely reporting and response to incidents that could undermine peace and security before, during and shortly after elections.
a.       Ensure early distribution of non-sensitive materials to all LGA headquarters, and make adequate preparation to deliver all other materials promptly on the election day for  timely commencement of voting.
b.      Emplace a special social media team (SSMT) that would constantly scan the social media horizon to counter false allegations or rumours that could undermine the legitimacy of the electoral process. The team would equally serve as a platform for entertaining complaints from the public as well as giving real-time update on the progress of the elections.
c.       Provide and appropriately communicate to all stakeholders its platform for ensuring transparent counting, collation and announcement of results. 
d.      Ensure that the posting of electoral officials is done a night to the election. This will ensure politicians do not get to know which electoral officer would work in any polling unit.
e.       Capture the biometrics of all ad hoc staff during training and their identity confirmed on the day of election to ensure that only trained ad hoc staff work on the day of election.
For Political Parties:
a.  Develop and sign Peace Commitment Charter (PCC). Through the Charter, the parties and their candidates would sign to abide by the provisions of the electoral law, desist from using political thugs, and shun hate and provocative speeches that could trigger electoral violence.
b.  Adequately train their party agents to understand their rights and responsibilities in order to avoid acts that could compromise INEC officials or the electoral process.
For CSOs and Media:

a.       Partner with the INEC and political parties to continuously and properly educate the  people as well as counter misinformation, falsehood and incitation that are capable of dissuading people from voting or triggering violence.
b.      Deepen collaboration with INEC and security agencies in area of security information sharing and voter education.
c.       Continue to monitor and provide impartial report on the entire electoral process to help protect the integrity of the elections.
d.      Conduct security awareness and sensitisation programme to encourage healthy relation between the people and state security forces.
e.       The media should report only verified information obtained from trusted sources and promote peace messaging.

For Voters:
a.       Should have the confidence to cast their votes and report observed electoral irregularities to appropriate quarters.
b.      Seek for updates and information on election matters through the right channels like the INEC information desk rather than depend on social media.

c.       Abstain from spreading unverified electoral information via social media.


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