Foreign Observers: Vote Buying, Insecurity, May Hamper 2019 Elections

  • Risk of parties relying intensively on unethical means to secure victory high

By Udora Orizu in Abuja

The International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) yesterday identified several challenges that could hamper the successful conduct of the 2019 general election in Nigeria.

Briefing journalists during a joint pre-election assessment in Abuja, the two United States bodies warned that if these challenges were left unaddressed, “they could limit the ability of Nigerians to experience a fully participatory and credible process during the 2019 general elections.”

The National Network Coordinator of West Africa Network for Peace Building, (WANEP) Anna Jones, who addressed journalists on the IRI and NDI observations, highlighted these challenges to include inappropriate voter inducement schemes and vote buying; incitement to violence and disinformation; delays in finalising legal framework for the 2019 elections and persistent insecurity, particularly in the middle belt and North East which may be amplified in the pre-election environment.

Jones also noted that the lack of robust investigation and prosecution of alleged vote buying despite numerous instances reported by civil society groups as well as the use of inflammatory language by political parties could hamper the successful conduct of the elections.

She stated that delays in finalising legal framework for the 2019 elections had left many Nigerians questioning whether INEC would have enough time to implement these changes for the 2019 elections.

She said: “The delegation notes consensus among political, civic and governmental stakeholders on proposed amendments to the electoral act 2010, which could improve the credibility and transparency of elections in 2019. After weeks of back and forth between the executive and legislative branches, the bill is currently with the National Assembly, which is slated to reconvene on October 9, 2018.”

According to the WANEP coordinator, Nigerian interlocutors expressed concerns regarding timely and sufficient funding for the 2019 elections though INEC leadership has affirmed that it will be prepared for elections if the full budget is released when the National Assembly returns to session.

Jones observed that tighter political competition heightens the risk of political parties relying more intensively on unethical and illegal means to secure victory, including inappropriate voter inducement schemes and vote buying. Furthermore, she said the delegation heard from many stakeholders, including those within political parties, that there’s neither sufficient will not incentive to remedy these issues.

The groups also observed that barriers to internal party democracy and incitement to violence and disinformation could affect citizen participation and the credibility of 2019 general elections.

Jones further added: “The delegation recognises that some political parties have experimented with direct primaries that empower members to select a candidate of their choice while others rely on indirect for candidate selection. In reality, candidates contesting in party primaries are often imposed on members by political elites and so called godfathers. Observations were also made on the use of inflammatory language by political parties, particularly through social media, which at times contains false or unverified information or hate speech which can manipulate public perceptions, heightens tensions and fuels the possibility of election-related violence”.

The groups implored the federal government to ensure the timely passage of the amendment to the Electoral Act 2010, provide sufficient and timely funds so that INEC and other electoral bodies can fulfill their responsibilities as prescribed by law.

They also urged the authorities to enforce laws against election malfeasance such as vote buying and robust application through such measures as the establishment of the Electoral Offenses Commission and Tribunal.