Not less than 28 days to the general elections, findings by a coalition of ten civil society organisations have identified 22 states with high risks of manipulation and malpractices.
The findings also revealed that while 12 states had medium election manipulation risks, three states were classified as having low risk of manipulation.
The CSOs stated these issues during the presentation of the Election Manipulation Risk Index first iteration report.
Our correspondent reported that three EMRI iteration reports would be released on the 2023 general election.
The ten organisations were International Press Centre; Institute for Media and Society; Partners for Electoral Reform; Albino Foundation; Nigerian Women Trust Fund; The Kukah Centre; Enough is Enough Nigeria; Center for Journalism Innovation and Development; SBM Intelligence; Dataphyte; and Yiaga Africa.
The event was attended by Samson Itodo, Dr. Akin Akingbulu, Samson Ezenwa, Cynthia Mbamalu, Emmanuela Azu, Lanre Arogundade, Yemi Adamilekun and Jack Epelle.
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The report said, “As preparation for the 2023 general election reaches advanced stages, attempts to distort election outcomes using manipulation strategies are on the rise. Key actors are devising strategies to punctuate electoral preparations and neutralize the impact of laudable reforms aimed at enhancing the integrity of the electoral process.“The political interference with INEC operations, tampering with the voter register, frivolous litigations and resistance against electoral technology like BVAS and IReV, and administrative lapses are electoral risks that may potentially impugn the integrity of the 2023 elections.
“Election manipulation risks are high in twenty-two states of the federation. The states are classified as high-risk due to the presence of more than three EMRI variables. The states include Imo, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Abia, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Oyo,Osun, Ekiti, Kwara, Niger, Plateau, Taraba, Kaduna, Bauchi, Adamawa, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Jigawa.
“EMRI reveals twelve states with medium election manipulation risks. The states include Bornu, Yobe, Nasarawa, Benue, Kogi, Zamfara, Kebbi, Ogun, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Cross River. Three states are classified as low risk. They include Gombe, Ondo, and Federal Capital Territory.”
The CSOs also made some recommendations for the Independent National Electoral Commission to mitigate the risks
While calling on INEC to deploy trusted, incorruptible, and experienced administrative secretaries, Heads of ICT, and operations to high risks states, the coalition suggested intense scrutiny of applications for ad-hoc personnel recruitment.
The report said, “Applicants should undergo competency tests, and names of successful applicants should be published for public scrutiny. INEC should create a system for submitting objections against partisan and compromised ad-hoc officials. INEC should intensify oversight and monitoring of its officials in high and medium-risk states. This includes establishing a reporting mechanism that enables citizens to report concerns and complaints against INEC officials.”
The EMRI recommended a clean-up of the voter register to remove multiple registrants, fictitious names, and underage registrants, while greater transparency should be done with the management of claims and objections submitted by citizens to INEC.
The findings also recommended diligent prosecution of INEC officials responsible for the manipulation of the voter register and voter suppression, while enhanced monitoring and oversight of INEC officials managing the PVC collection process should be done to prevent manipulation and deliberate denial from issuing PVCs to certain persons.
To check election fraud, the CSOs made the following recommendations.
They are, “Increase public awareness of mitigation measures in the 2022 Electoral Act against election manipulation. INEC should ensure adequate training of its staff to enforce compliance with the Electoral Act 2022 and INEC Regulations and Guidelines Election litigation.
“The judiciary should dismiss cases instituted to undermine the preparations for the general elections. The Nigerian Bar Association should take disciplinary actions against legal practitioners engaged in election manipulation using the judicial process.”