Thursday 10th Sept, 2020
For Immediate Release
Edo Election: CLEEN Foundation Identifies Hate Speech And Political Thugs as Key Risks; Calls on Politicians to Play by the Rules, INEC & Security Agents to be Professional
On 19th September 2020, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will conduct an off-cycle governorship election in Edo State. According to the statistics released by INEC, Edo state has total number of 2, 210, 534 registered voters. However, only 1, 726, 736 collected their permanent voters’ cards. About 483, 796 were not collected. Given the off-cycle gubernatorial election holding on the 19th of September 2020. CLEEN Foundation has conducted a security threat assessment. The general expectation is that the 2020 off-cycle gubernatorial election in Edo state will be peaceful. A total of 76.7% of respondents, either ‘strongly agree’ (32%) or ‘agree’ (43.8%) to this finding. 79.5% of the experts interviewed (‘agree’45.5% and ‘strongly agree’ 34.0%), as well as 75.4% of the general public (‘agree’ 43% and ‘strongly agree’ 32.4%) expressed a similar opinion.
Though history may point to Edo state as an environment not known for electoral violence, 51.7% (‘agree’ 37.1%, or ‘strongly agree’14.6%) of the respondents agree that Edo state has had a history of election violence, while 41.1% of the respondents posited otherwise. Recent events including the current tension between the major political parties threaten to undermine peaceful elections.
CLEEN Foundation employed the standardized Electoral Violence Mitigation & Advocacy Tool (EVMT) it developed with the Electoral Institute of INEC (TEI) to elicit responses from the general public, as well as a purposive sample including, selected experts in elections and electoral violence in the state. A representative sampling technique which ensures that all the key groups constituting the population are included in the sample was adopted in the study locations. A total of 1094 persons participated in the study across these categories; 332 experts (representing 30.3%) were interviewed, and 762 others (representing 69.7%) responded to the questionnaires. A total of 469 (42.9%) were female, and 625 (57.1%), males were interviewed. Respondents were drawn from all the local government areas in the state.
3.0 KEY RISK FACTORS ON THE EDO ELECTION
The key findings of this research are as follows;
3.1 Hate Speech
78.9% of the respondents fear hate speech could threaten the security of the forthcoming Edo State gubernatorial election. While 13.6% of respondents hold a contrary opinion.
3.2 Dynamics of Local Conflicts
73.1% (‘agree’ 49%, and ‘strongly agree’ 24.1%) of the respondents believe that inter-ethnic, religious, and communal conflict, may threaten the security of the upcoming Edo State Elections.
3.4 Illegal Migrants
The results of the survey conducted by CLEEN Foundation show that 74.9% (‘agree’ 47.6%, and ‘strongly agree’ 27.3%) that the tendency for ‘voter importation’ – hiring and transporting of persons including; thugs, from neighboring states to disrupt the election constitute a potential risk factor to the security of the upcoming elections.
3.5 Citizens’ Disaffection with Government Policies
69.3% (‘agree’ 48.6% and ‘strongly agree’ 20.7 %) of the respondents’ project that current disaffection with the government as a possible risk to the upcoming election. In agreement with this, 69%, of the interviewed experts, as well as 69.6% of the general public highlight an ongoing politics of acrimony as a potential risk. 71.2% of respondents (‘agree’ 48.4% and ‘strongly agree’ 22.8%), as well as analysts, strongly agree that poverty and economic stress compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic may contribute to the rate of ‘vote-buying’.
3.6 Drug Abuse
79.8% (‘agree’ 46.7%, and ‘strongly agree’ 33.1%) of the respondents agree that the abuse of controlled and substances by youth in Edo State, and the environment with endemic cultism, is a major risk to the security of the upcoming elections. Notable hotspots include Ilushi and Ozigolo – Esan Southeast LGA, Obazangbon – Uhunmwonde LGA, and Ujemen, Iruekepen and Emado – Esan West LGA.
3.7 Exclusion from Participation in Electoral Processes
Potential conflict stemming from political exclusions of minorities and marginalized groups constitutes a risk factor, 77.7% (‘agree’ 39.5% and ‘strongly agree’) highlight the exclusion of women, while 85% of respondents (34.3% agree and 50.7% strongly agree) noted the exclusion of youth may threaten the security of the upcoming elections. 72.7% (‘agree’ 40.1% and ‘strongly agree’ 32.6%) posited the exclusion of the elderly, 67.5% (‘agree’ 38.7% and ‘strongly agree’ 28.8%) cited the exclusion of persons with disability, 72.7% (‘agree’ 39.1% and ‘strongly agree’ 33.6%).
3.8 Party Politics
85% (‘agree’ 48.2% and ‘strongly agree’ 36.8%) prescribed the influence of Godfathers; 80.1 (‘agree’ 46.3% and ‘strongly agree’ 33.8%) prescribed disorderly party rallies, processions and campaigns; 80.1% (‘agree’ 45.2% and 34.9% ‘strongly agree’) cite a lack of training and corruption of party agents; 78.6% (‘agree’ 46.2% and ‘strongly agree’ 32.4%) highlighted lack of transparency and disagreement over the selection of party officials and candidates; 77.7%, (‘agree’ 44.9% and ‘strongly agree’ 32.8%) cite of lack of respect for party rules.
3.9 Partiality of INEC Officials and Electoral Violence
In terms of the election management, respondents perceive the partiality of INEC officials (82% -‘agree’ 47.3% and ‘strongly agree’ 34.7%), movement and distribution of election materials was 76.4% (‘agree’ 48.4% and ‘strongly agree’ 28.0%), 76.1% (‘agree’ 50.6% and ‘strongly agree’ 25.5%) highlighted problems associated with the distribution of PVCs, 74.5% (‘agree’ 48.4% and ‘strongly agree’ 26.1%) could significantly threaten the security of election.
3.10 Security Arrangement
85.7% (‘agree’ 42.3% and ‘strongly agree’ 43.4%) highlighted the partiality of the security agents; 85.3% (‘agree’ 46.2% and ‘strongly agree’ 39.1%) cited the aggressive and excessive use of force; 80.3% (‘agree’ 43.9% and ‘strongly agree’ 36.4%) posits the lack of synergy between INEC and security agents top the list of risk factors emanating from election security management. Others factors include; poor training and low professionalism of security agents (79.7% – ‘agree’ 46.3% and ‘strongly agree’ 33.4%), lack of synergy among security agents (79.4% – ‘agree’ 44.7% and ‘strongly agree’ 34.7%), problems associated with the deployment of security agents (76.4% – ‘agree’ 47.1% and ‘strongly agree’ 29.3%), low sense of safety among members of the public (74.7% – ‘agree’ 44.3% and ‘strongly agree’ 30.4%) and problems associated with the welfare of security agents (70.6% – ‘agree’ 42.2% and ‘strongly agree’ – 28.4%). These are factors identified by respondents that could influence the electoral outcomes negatively.
82.9% of respondents (‘agree’ 45.6% and ‘strongly agree’ 37.3%) believe misinformation by the media to be threat to the security of the upcoming Edo State elections; broadcast and publishing of hatred (81.9% – ‘agree’ 46.3% and ‘strongly agree’ 35.6%); partisanship, favouritism and partiality (79.1% – ‘agree’ 43.5% and ‘strongly agree’ 35.6%) are notable threats. Also a lack of professionalism (77.6% – ‘agree’ 46.2% and ‘strongly agree’ 31.4%); sensationalism and provocation (76.4% – ‘agree’ 46.1% and ‘strongly agree’ 30.3%); failure of regulatory bodies to ensure adherence to established rules by the media (75.8% – ‘agree’ 48.9% and ‘strongly agree’ 26.9%); abuse of social media (75.3% – ‘agree’ 43.7% and ‘strongly agree’ 31.6%); and unequal access to media (69.8% – ‘agree’ 43.2% and ‘strongly agree’ 26.6%).
Based on the key risk factors highlighted above, the CLEEN Foundation puts forward the following short-term recommendations for consideration by critical stakeholders:
- Federal Government
CLEEN Foundation recommends the Federal Government of Nigeria issues intensify commitment to peaceful elections in the State, and encourage all contestants to abide by the electoral act. Also, desist from deploying the military into streets during the elections to avoid heightened militarization of the state that could exacerbate voter apathy.
- Edo State Government
CLEEN Foundation further suggests a partnership between Edo State Government and religious leaders, professional bodies, and community leaders to encourage and mobilize members to exercise their rights to vote. Also, the state government is encouraged to sustain public enlightenment programs through town hall meetings, radio, television, and social media on the dangers of cultism and drug abuse to mitigate their consequences for the elections
- Security Agencies
CLEEN Foundation implores Security Agencies to implement robust and ‘right-sized’ deployment of operatives across the 18 LGAs to ensure efficient security provisioning before, during, and after the election. Intensifying surveillance patrols and interdiction operations in high-crime hot spots to deter drug and arms dealings in the state, collaboration with INEC to arrest all electoral offenders, including vote-buying, as well as utilizing the findings of this assessment and others that have provided evidence-based insights on potential security flashpoints to evolve or fine-tune security incident response plan for the elections, would also prove, most beneficial.
CLEEN Foundation recommends that INEC officials should be professional in the discharge of duty and ensure early distribution of non-sensitive materials to all LGA headquarters. Adequate preparation should be made to deliver all other materials promptly on the Election Day for timely commencement of voting. Also, provide and appropriately communicate to all stakeholders its platform for ensuring transparent counting, collation, and announcement of results. INEC should work closely with security agencies and CSOs for effective coordination of the process, complaints hotlines should be functional.
4.5 Political Parties
Political Parties are advised to commit to a Peace Agreement and be committed to it, encourage their flag bearers and supporters to abide by the provisions of the electoral law, including shunning the use of thugs, cultists and provocative speeches. Also adequately train their party agents to understand their roles and responsibilities to avoid acts that could compromise INEC officials or the electoral process. Also, partner with the INEC to continuously and properly educate the people as well as counter misinformation, incitation that are capable of dissuading people from voting or triggering violence.
The media is advised to intensify awareness creation and voter education to discourage apathy and motivate people to vote, as well as deliver refresher training to practitioners to maintain a high level of professionalism, accuracy, and impartiality in their coverage.
Also, media houses are encouraged to continue to monitor and provide an impartial report on the entire electoral process to help protect the integrity of the elections and report only verified information obtained from trusted sources and promote peace messaging
The CLEEN Foundation is a non-governmental organization established in 1998 to promote public safety, security and justice in Nigeria through the strategies of empirical research, legislative advocacy, demonstration programme with government, civil society and the private sector. For more information please visit www.cleen.org
May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Benson Olugbuo, PhD