The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), has warned that some intervening insecurity indicators already at play in the nation’s polity stand as potential threats to the peaceful conduct of the 2019 general elections which is scheduled to hold in February.
In its pre-election security assessment report titled “Voting amidst insecurity: Nigeria’s 2019 elections,” the CDD observed the trends of insecurity in different parts of the country, which include the continued attacks by the deadly Boko Haram insurgents; agitations for a separate state of Biafra; activities of the Niger Delta militias; armed robbery, political thuggery, cultism and kidnappings and concluded that these elements could undermine the fidelity of the elections next year.
According to the report, with at least 91 political parties (the largest number in Nigeria’s electoral history) expected to be on the ballot, and a total number of 84,271,832 citizens on the voter’s roll, the forthcoming 2019 elections is likely to be one of the most contested elections in the history of Nigeria.
“With four months to go, the political scene remains tense, with unofficial campaigns already underway. Just like in 2015, there are ongoing attempts by political parties and actors to form alliances and coalitions to win offices,” stated the report, which was released in October.
“One clear challenge is the insecurity pervading different parts of the country. Insecurity is an issue upon which the 2019 elections will be won and lost for candidates but will also be a significant obstacle to be overcome by those running and participating in the polls.”
While harping on the clashes between herdsmen and farmers, the report noted that violent incidents were occurring across the six geo-political zones but with heavier frequencies of incidents recorded in the Northern states of Benue, Taraba, Plateau, Adamawa, Zamfara and Kaduna.
The report highlighted that conflict was tearing apart the social fabric of the country and further dividing the country along ethnic, religious and geopolitical lines.
“Between January and July 2018, 183 incidents that are linked to herdsmen/rural banditry have been recorded in Nigeria, according to CDD figures,” the report asserts.
“In January 2018, a total of 17 attacks were recorded in Benue State alone, with 108 deaths. Across the country, April was the deadliest month with 54 attacks resulting in 409 deaths.
“Since the escalation of violence in January 2018, an estimated 300,000 people have fled their homes, particularly in Adamawa, Benue, Nasarawa, Plateau and Taraba states.
“Furthermore, the perceived complicity of the security agencies and government in the conflict is fast eroding trust between communities, government and the security agencies.
“In many of the affected states, the security agencies are perceived to be supporting the herders. Former Minister of Defence, Lt. General Theophilus Danjuma (rtd.) accused the military of complicity of ongoing killings in the country and called on people to defend themselves and their country.
“Another complaint is the slow response of the security agencies when there are attacks on the communities. This has led to the formation of self-help vigilante groups or ethnic militias.”
Citing armed banditry as another major source of concern for the coming elections, the report noted that in Zamfara and Kaduna states, armed bandits have been involved in killing, raping, robbing and displacing communities.
“The bandits operate from the Rugu and Fagoro forests that traverse the states of Kano, Katsina, Kaduna and Zamfara,” the report stated, adding that since the beginning of 2018, at least 371 people had been killed in Zamfara State alone, with a further 18,000 displaced as reported by Amnesty International on 31 July 2018.
The report also quoted the Zamfara State government as saying that 3,000 lives had been lost to banditry, 500 persons kidnapped, 2,000 homes destroyed and 500 cars burnt since 2011.
“The immediate implication of the security challenge for the 2019 elections is the accessibility of election officials and the safety of its materials to several parts of the states as well as the considerable number of IDPs scattered within and out of the states,” the report stated.
The report also noted the threats by the IPOB that unless the federal government called a referendum for the determination of the state of Biafra, there would be no elections in the southeast in 2019.
It said IPOB was mobilising its members against the 2019 elections and highlighted previous threats to elections, especially that of the Anambra State governorship election, where they urged their members not to participate in the election.
The report noted that although the election went on as scheduled, it was discovered that there was a low turnout of voters in IPOB strongholds.
CDD also pointed to the fact that Boko Haram insurgency, which is now in its ninth year, remained a challenge to the forthcoming elections.
“This challenge presents itself differently from the 2015 elections, where Boko Haram was occupying an area almost the size of Belgium across the three states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa,” the report said.
“Boko Haram is now effectively split into two factions. One that is led by Abubakar Shekau and the other by Abu Musab al-Barnawi, the latter recognised as the ‘authentic leader’ by the Islamic State in August 2016.
“The al-Barnawi led faction is politically conscious and may want to obstruct the electoral process during the 2019 elections.”
The report also identified militia groups operating in Boko Haram affected areas such as the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF); the Borno Youths Empowerment Scheme; the Hunters Group and the Men of the Nigeria Vigilante Group, as threats to the 2019 general elections as there are allegations that they also work for politicians.
CDD also predicted that the Intra and inter party conflicts in the two major parties of APC and PDP are likely to result in political violence during the election campaign and aftermath., adding that as the 2019 elections draw closer, the potential for violence has escalated further.
The group also feared that with the proliferation of militias in the Niger Delta and student fraternities or cult groups, there is no guarantee that politicians would not take advantage of these groups to further their interest and disrupt elections.
The report noted that some of the Niger Delta militias could disrupt elections in the areas, while the cult groups could simply be used as thugs by politicians.
Stemming the tide
In mitigating these potential threats to the elections, CDD recommended that a clear operational guidelines be provided for security agencies active on Election Day. The guidelines shoukd include a publicly available ‘rules of engagement’ handbook.
It also said INEC’s Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security should be used to improve the security of the electoral environment before, during and after the 2019 elections.
“The Inter-Party Advisory Council along with INEC should develop a framework for the conduct of campaigns and political rallies in the election and all parties should be encourage to sign up to the code of conduct.,” the report noted.
“The government should promote dialogue, rather than military force, as the primary approach to dealing with prevailing insecurity.
“The media should promote responsible reportage, respond to fake news and abide by the Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage.
“The international community should use its influence among key political stakeholders to advocate for a zero tolerance approach to violence and a commitment to accepting the electoral outcome declared by INEC,” the report highlighted.