Over 56 million disenfranchised by 2019 electoral violence — Election group

By MOSES EMORINKEN, Abuja

The 2019 general elections recorded the lowest voter turnout in the history of the country’s democracy as only 30 percent (56 million) out of over 80 million Nigerians who collected their voter cards, actually voted, The Election Network has stated.

It stated that Nigerians were stalled from exercising their civic rights to vote by a number of factors like administrative shortcomings, intimidation, and violence, with violence standing out.

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It further noted that between 2003 and 2019, over 1,932 electoral-violence related deaths were recorded with 626 of these deaths occurring in 2019 alone.

The Editor of the Election Network, Asari Ndem, who made these known while addressing journalists at its event in Abuja, urged policy makers and other stakeholders in the electoral process to ensure passage of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, National Electoral Offences Commission Bill, to ensure Nigerian are able to vote anywhere they are, among other recommendation.

She said: “The 2019 elections were a setback for Nigeria’s electoral and democratic framework. Officially, over 80 million Nigerians collected their voter cards from INEC but only about 30 percent of those people voted during the elections, the lowest recorded voter turnout in the history of Nigeria’s democracy.

“We wanted to understand why this had happened, to enable us make submissions to policymakers on how this level of failure can be avoided in coming elections. So, we decided to talk to the people.

“To show the human impact of electoral deficiencies on average Nigerians, The Election Network produced a documentary titled ‘Left Behind.’

“In this documentary, we interviewed Nigerians who were unable to or chose not to vote during the 2019 elections. We found that these Nigerians were stalled by factors like administrative shortcomings, intimidation, and violence. But what stood out the most is violence.

“Between 2003 and 2019 alone, over 1,932 electoral-violence related deaths were recorded, with 626 of these deaths occurring in 2019 alone.

“To paraphrase one of our expert interviewees, we attribute the low voter turnout to voter apathy but what really exists is voter fear; fear of intimidation and violence.

“The presence of heavy military and police personnel in certain regions aggravated this fear and prevented people from voting. In the 2019 general elections, there were at least 13 incidences of electoral violence as a result of military presence at polling units.

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“Other barriers to voting were technical and administrative issues like the failure of card readers, and the lack of provisions for people living with disabilities.”

Ndem added: “In light of these findings, we are making the following proposals for Electoral reform: The Electoral Act Amendment Bill, when passed, will help put in check several irregularities but more importantly, give way for the full implementation of electronic voting during elections.

“To ensure credibility in the voting system, accreditation, voting and collation needs to be done electronically to avoid errors and to also trace malpractices in the system.

“Snatching of ballot boxes and other election-related offences are common features during elections in Nigeria, but these acts often go unpunished. We encourage parliament to pass the bill for the enactment of the National Electoral Offences Commission, to ensure that electoral offenders are punished.

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“It is important to ensure that voter cards are not only transferable but flexible, a Nigerian should be able to vote anywhere they are, when the need arises.

“Also, the inclusion of people living with disabilities in the voting process should not be treated as an after-thought. Their needs should be included during election planning to ensure they are able to adequately exercise their rights.

“Finally, an embargo should be placed on the ability of political office holders to make financial transactions close to the elections.

“With these submissions, we hope to enact policy change that creates sustainable improvement to the Nigerian electoral ecosystem and contributes to the strengthening of our democracy.”

(The Nation

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