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How to ensure credible election in Nigeria, by CAPPA

CAPPA officials presenting the report to the media.

.Unveils report on 2023 general elections

He also condemned the INEC’s failure to directly transmit the Presidential election results to the result-viewing portal (IReV) on Election Day as they had promised, significantly undermining the credibility and progress achieved by its latest reforms

By Valetine Amanze

The Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to strengthen and safeguard its digital and electronic assets by collaborating with the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Ministry of Communications, and Cybersecurity outfit, while unveiling a report titled, “Unpacking Nigeria’s 2023 General Election” in Lagos at the weekend.

It stated that the measure, among others, would guard against electoral fraud in the nation’s subsequent general elections.

The Executive Director, CAPPA, Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi, who gave the advice, said that considering the significant role of the result-viewing portal (IReV)in the voting processes that it was imperative for INEC to conduct a thorough pre-election testing of its digital systems, stressing, “This should be done well before election day to ensure its systems are in optimal working condition and capable of handling the high volume of interactions typically experienced during a nationwide election.”

 He also appealed to the federal government to grant more autonomy to the INEC, especially in the appointment of its members by democratic and non-partisan stakeholders, while calling on the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and Ministry of Information to work hand in hand with INEC to reinforce national unity, peace, and citizens’ trust in democratic institutions and political processes.

Other recommendations to the federal government include:

  • Collaboration between INEC, security agencies, media and civil societies to leverage existing platforms like the “Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room” to develop robust early warning, prevention and mitigation mechanisms for the next general elections.
  • INEC should liaise with relevant government, intergovernmental and non-governmental agencies to agree on measures to ensure more effective participation of women, PWDs and other marginalized groups in subsequent elections.
  • To recruit more police officers with a view to improving Nigeria’s election security management which is currently deficient due to the inadequacy of security personnel. Furthermore, specific training sessions in community policing and capacity-building programs should be provided for police officers, along with local and community security units during election periods.
  • INEC, civil society and all relevant communication agencies of the federal government must invest in extensive voter education programmes ahead of elections to empower the electorate with sufficient information on electioneering processes to enable them to make informed decisions and keep abreast of all relevant information pertaining to election administration.
  •   The government should make a robust investments to build the country’s digital infrastructure, including supporting infrastructures such as road networks and power to boost connectivity and enhance the inclusion and experiences of every section of the eligible voting populace, especially rural dwellers during elections. 

On the report, Oluwafemi explained that it was based on CAPPA’s observations of the recently concluded 2023 general elections and recommendations on how to improve subsequent exercises.

Also read: CAPPA raises alarm over political tension, violence

He described the 2023 general election as a combination of significant progress and regrettable shortcomings, stressing that the lead-up and preparations for the elections sparked high hopes among Nigerians, such that the country’s voters’ register saw the addition of over nine million new voters who registered to participate in the election.

Oluwafemi also commended the federal government for the signing into law of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.

“The Electoral Act, 2022 together with INEC’s Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections, 2022 introduced groundbreaking provisions, including the incorporation of enhanced technologies such as the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS), and the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal into the electoral process, all of which aimed to enhance the elections,” he said.

He however lamented incidences of violence, voter intimidation, delayed arrival of election staff and materials, curtailment of press freedom, data rights violations, and divisive identity politics and rhetoric during the elections.

He also condemned the INEC’s failure to directly transmit the Presidential election results to the result-viewing portal (IReV) on Election Day as they had promised, significantly undermining the credibility and progress achieved by its latest reforms.

Contributing on the election, Zikora Ibeh, CAPPA Research & Policy Officer, lamented: “There was high rhetoric around ethnic themes which forced many not to vote. Security agencies must ensure that perpetrators of violence, hate speech, intimidation, inducement, and voter suppression in the 2023 General Election are arrested and prosecuted in compliance with appropriate laws.

“Accountability through the enforcement of the punitive measures contained can help ensure deterrence while restoring public confidence.”

CAPPA Associate Director, Aderonke Ige, said: “Many Nigerians were encouraged to vote following the amendment of the Electoral law, but it stopped short of a crucial ingredient which should ensure electronic voting.

“This will totally remove the human element from elections by ensuring full automation of the voting process while also permitting Nigerians in the Diaspora to vote in elections.”

Tola Oresanwo of the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL) said:

“While voter education is important for the youths, I still think we have a lot of work to do to educate even adults on their roles in a free and fair election devoid of the name calling and ethnic coloration we saw in the Presidential and Gubernatorial elections”.

Philip Jakpor, CAPPA Director of Programmes, said: “The short comings and disappointments of the 2023 General Elections notwithstanding, Nigerians should remain unwavering in their quest for free and fair elections, while Saul Alinsky reminded Nigerian that democratic constitutions place power in people’s hands.

“That power may rein in powerful elite if enough citizens made use of it. But few citizens make use of it at all and those who do, and stumble give up, their potential power never actualized,” he said.

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