State of play
In January 2022, the Nigerian government labeled the bandits who have masterminded killings, rapes, many kidnappings and other related acts of crimes and violence in the Northern region of Nigeria and other parts of the country as a terrorist organization.
Since that time these terrorists have gone on to carry out audacious attack on a moving train along the Abuja-Kaduna rail line and a high-profile correctional center which saw the release of over 600 terrorists, opened fire on Christian worshippers in Owo, engaged the Nigerian Army Presidential Guard Brigade in a shootout, attacked an advance presidential convoy, amongst many. These incidents go a long way to prove the sophistication of these terrorists.
The worsening security crisis in the country which began in 2011 has resulted in the death of at least 12,000 people and the displacement of over 450,000 people despite the over N1 trillion budget of the country’s military between 2019-till date.
Unfortunately, these are happening a few to months into the election year. Because of this, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu, had to forewarn the federal government to check the security situation as it poses a significant threat to the conduct of credible elections come 2023.
The Nigerian public and officials cannot overlook the warning by INEC, as security concerns in the country limited the locations earmarked to carry out the just suspended Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) nationwide from 2,673 to 811.
Other reasons that justify INEC’s warnings include the killing of an INEC officer during voters’ registration exercise by a 12-man group of gunmen, an attempted attack on registrants in Borno State by two female suicide bombers, amongst others.
What the constitution says about insecurity posing a risk to general elections
While stakeholders in the country, including elder state men, religious leaders, political analysts and many others are doubting the credibility of an election in a nation plagued by insecurity in both the northern and southern regions, INEC is continuing its schedule for the forthcoming elections.
Next on the agenda on the electoral commission timetable for the next three months is the submission of the nomination forms and commencement of political campaigns.
However, Robert Clarke, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), has disclosed that the Nigerian President can extend his tenure by six months according to the 1999 constitution if the security challenges in the country threaten the conduct of the 2023 elections.
What to watch
For insecurity not to disrupt the credible conduct of the 2023 election, the federal government in collaboration with security agencies in the country need to adopt policies and measures to counter terrorism in the country.
One of such measures in consideration by the federal government includes the possibility of a nationwide ban on motorcycles. As a result, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) issued a statement ordering all 37 Sector Commanders in the country to impound any motorcycle with an unregistered National Vehicle Identification Scheme.