Since Nigeria’s return to democratic elections in 1999, Africa’s most populous nation has held presidential elections every four years up till now. The next general elections in 2023 would see the country elect leaders across all levels of government, including the president, governors, senators, etc.
In preparation for the 2023 general elections, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Electoral Act 2022 into law to set the tune for a free and fair election. Also, political parties, according to the timeline of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) organized primaries where presidential, gubernatorial and other candidates emerged.
As part of these preparatory measures, INEC holds the responsibility of assessing Nigeria’s situation to identify potential threats to the country’s electoral process. In its report the commission identified electoral violence as the primary threat to the country’s electoral process. Analysts have further identified this to be the primary cause of low voter turnout on election days.
- Intimidation and physical attacks
As far back as the 2011 general elections, there have been various reports of intimidation and attacks on voters and electoral officers. In recent elections (2015 and 2019) there were also several reports of abuse on voters and officials. In fact, the European Union in 2019 reported the death of about 150 people in election related violence. Between February 2019 and May 2021, INEC has reported an attack on 41 of its offices. Electoral violence is a potential threat to Nigeria’s general election.
Another branch of electoral violence experienced in the country is the kidnapping of voters and INEC personnels for ransom. Terrorists have turned the kidnapping of citizens into a business, as in the last few years there have been many reports of kidnappings in different parts of the country. Recent events in Imo State have recorded the killing and kidnap of INEC staff, which forced the commission to suspend the continuous voter registration exercise in the state.
- Other threats
INEC named other non-violence related threats to be misinformation by media houses, bribery of voters, and forgery of result sheets.