INSECURITY, VOTER APATHY MAY IMPACT INEC PERFORMANCE ON VOTER's REGISTRATION AND 2023 ELECTION TURNOUT
Ahead of the 2023 general elections the number of newly registered voters announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is remarkably low for a continuous voter registration campaign that began 16 months ago; specifically, June 2021. According to the commission, nearly Ten Million two hundred and thirty-five thousand five hundred and sixty-Nine Nigerians had completed fresh voter registrations as of June 1, 2022.
The ongoing INEC voters Registration in Nigeria as a whole has seen the youths populace which is about 70% of Nigerian population.
In the past two years, at least 41 offices of the electoral commission, INEC, have been attacked across Nigeria by armed non-state actors. The attacks occurred in 14 states between February 2019 and May 2021.
Imo State topped the log with the most attacks during the period under review.
These attacks evolved as a result of election-related violence, protests unrelated to elections, and activities of thugs and unknown gunmen,” INEC chairman, Mahmud Yakubu, said. The commission said there were 18 attacks on its facilities during the ENDSARS protests last year and 11 attacks carried out by gunmen.
Similarly, there were six incidents of thuggery during elections and four incidents of post-election violence, INEC said.
Describing the nature of the attacks, INEC said 20 cases of vandalization and 18 arsons occurred during the period. It also categorized three incidents as “arson and vandalization.”
Of the total number of incidents, the commission said 21 attacks occurred last year across nine states. This year, assailants have staged 11 attacks across seven states.
Meanwhile, nine incidents occurred in four states during and after the general election in 2019.
Below is the timeline of attacks on INEC offices:
February 3, 2019: Arsonists attacked an INEC office in Orlu local government after a court-ordered a rerun election in Imo State.
February 22, 2019: Arsonists set 12 election duty vehicles ablaze at INEC office in Obot Akara local government of Akwa Ibom State.
February 23, 2019: Thugs attack INEC office at Oriade local government of Osun State.
February 24, 2019: In post-election violence, arsonists attack the commission’s office at Isiala Mbano local government of Imo State.
March 6, 2019: In another arson incident, thugs attacked INEC office at Ibesikpo Asutan local government of Akwa Ibom State.
March 6, 2019: On the same day, arsonists attacked the INEC office at Eastern Obolo local government of Akwa Ibom State.
March 9, 2019: Arsonists attacked the INEC office at Mpat Enin local government of Akwa Ibom State.
March 10, 2019: INEC office at Ngor Okpala local government of Imo State was attacked by arsonists in post-election violence.
November 16, 2019: Thugs attacked the INEC office at Nembe local government of Bayelsa State in a vandalization incident.
January 14, 2020: INEC office at Aboh Mbaise local government was attacked following a protest against the judgment of the supreme court in respect of the governorship election.
October 20, 2020: ENDSARS protesters attacked INEC office at Lagos Island.
October 20, 2020: In another incident of vandalism, ENDSARS protesters attacked INEC office at Aba South local government in Abia state.
October 21, 2020: INEC office at Arochukwu local government of Abia State was vandalized by ENDSARS protesters.
October 21, 2020: Arsonists vandalized INEC office during the ENDSARS protests at Nnewi North local government of Anambra State.
October 22, 2020: Again, arsonists vandalized INEC office at Okitipupa local government of Ondo state. The incident happened during the ENDSARS protest.
October 23, 2020: INEC offices at Ehime Mbano and Ezinhitte local government of Imo state were vandalized during the ENDSARS protests.
October 24, 2020: Arsonists joined the ENDSARS protests to vandalize four INEC offices in Cross Rivers State. The offices include the state headquarters, Akpabuyo local government office, and Bakassi and Calabasas municipal local government offices.
October 24, 2020: In Osun State, arsonists vandalized five INEC offices during the ENDSARS protests in a day.
The incidents occurred at Orolu local government, Atakumosa, Ifelodun, Irepodun, and Ede South local government offices.
October 25, 2020: INEC offices at Wukari and Donga local governments of Taraba State were vandalized.
November 26, 2020: Boko Haram attacks INEC office at Hawul local government in Borno State.
December 13, 2020: Unknown gunmen attack INEC office in Aba South local government of Abia State.
January 30, 2021: Bandits attacked INEC office at Giwa local government of Kaduna State.
May 2, 2021: Hoodlums attacked INEC office at Essien Udim local government of Akwa Ibom State.
May 9, 2021: Arsonists attacked INEC office at Ohafia local government of Abia State.
May 13, 2021: Arsonists vandalized INEC office at Udenu local government of Enugu State.
May 16, 2021: INEC Enugu State headquarters was vandalized by unknown gunmen and hoodlums.
May 18, 2021: Unknown gunmen attacked three INEC offices in Ebonyi State. Ebonyi, Ezza North, and Izzi local governments were the locations where the incidents occurred.
May 23, 2021: Hoodlums attacked INEC office at Igboeze South local government in Enugu State.
May 23, 2021: INEC state headquarters was attacked by unknown gunmen in Anambra State.
May 23, 2021: Hoodlums vandalized INEC office at Ahiazu Mbaise local government of Imo State."
In light of all these, non-state actors continue to attack government facilities. The President of Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari called an emergency security meeting regarding attacks on INEC offices by non-state actors, The President was dismayed by the report he got and gave a marching order to the security agencies to bring perpetrators to book and assured INEC that the government will do everything possible to assist the agency.
However, Osun state does not have crisis that could disrupt the election, neither does the state have non-state actors issuing threats to politicians and political parties not to carry out electioneering activities in the state. The residents of Osun state are eager to select their favourite candidate at the polls coming up in July 2022 and also willing to participate fully in the forthcoming general elections in 2023.
The People in the South-East have shown open contempt and indifference to the ongoing voter registration drive, Which could be attributed to fear, insecurity, violence of crime, issuing of threats to politicians, and some people with the old stereotype of votes not counting.
Meanwhile, States that witness terrorism such as Borno, Zamfara, Yobe, Kebbi, Sokoto, and Niger state have witnessed a huge turnout on voter's registration despite their security challenge's and also non state actors did not attack INEC facilities within the states, there's also huge voter's Sensitization from political parties, politicians, civil society and NGO.
Having said all this, State governments should work on a zonal framework to articulate and pursue a robust development blueprint for the region. This should include targeted empowerment programmes designed for unemployed youths to minimize their vulnerability to recruitment by separatist and criminal groups.
Measures for addressing the socio-economic drivers of insecurity should be prioritized by key actors, particularly the state governments and the private sector. The organized private sector can support youth capacity building and skills acquisition, while state governments develop and fund regional development plans.
Lastly, the federal government should support infrastructure development and promote policies to revive ailing industries.
A holistic response to insecurity in Nigeria’s south-east is vital to relieving separatist tensions and addressing local grievances, which should ultimately help rebuild trust in the federal government.