The International Crisis Group (ICG) has urged the Nigerian government, political parties, electoral and security agencies to step up efforts on four priority issues to ensure peaceful and credible elections in 2023.
A backgrounder to the elections, titled “Countdown Begins on Nigeria’s Crucial 2023 Elections,” was released on Friday.
The Brussels-based conflict prevention and peacebuilding group said the issues include improving security in North-West and South-East zones, particularly around the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) offices.
ICG demands curbing the toxic altercations between the major parties, which are fuelling tensions that could escalate to wider violence during and after the polls.
The third priority is for INEC to firm up arrangements, especially by ensuring a clean voters’ register and seamless electronic transmission of results in real-time nationwide.
Furthermore, ICG urges anti-corruption agencies to forestall vote buying, through intensified surveillance of politicians and banks.
The statement highlighted the several challenges that are unprecedented in terms of their spread across the country.
“These include the decade-long jihadist insurgency in parts of the North-East, diverse armed groups in the North-West and North-Central zones, and violence by armed groups associated with, or impersonating, Biafra separatist agitators in the South-East.
“Activities of these groups, particularly their attacks on INEC’s offices but also on highway travels, are hampering election preparations in many areas and could depress voters’ turnout or mar the ballots entirely in some constituencies.”
ICG decries the surge of misinformation, disinformation, hate speech and bullying on social media, and activities of hired thugs and vigilantes intimidating opposition candidates in some states.
The body expressed concern about the disclosure by the national security adviser, retired Major General Babagana Monguno, that police recorded 52 incidents of election-related violence in 22 states between 28 September and 11 November 2022.
“The elections may witness vote buying on an unprecedented scale. With INEC’s newly introduced safeguards against vote rigging, some politicians and their parties are now devising new schemes to buy votes and even voters’ cards from poor and vulnerable citizens.”
Noting that the 2023 elections – marking 24 years of unbroken democracy in Nigeria – will be an affirmation of democratic progress, ICG urged citizens to exercise their rights and advised all stakeholders to play by the rules.