2023: Don, stakeholders harp on abating violence

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By Sumaila Ogbaje

Prof. Sheriff Ibrahim, Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Abuja; and other stakeholders have stressed the need to abate electoral violence before, during and after 2023 general elections.

They made the call at a symposium on election security organised by Centre for strategic research and studies, National Defence College in collaboration with African Peace Support Trainers Association.

The symposium is with the theme Election Security: Abating Election Violence in the 2023 General Elections.

Ibrahim said that electoral violence had caused colossal loss and damage to lives and property as well as nation’s economy hence should be abated.

He said that electoral violence had taken its toll on all stakeholders, including Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), officials and property, the security agents, media and electorate.

He noted that since the 2019 general elections, the electoral body had recorded 50 attacks in 15 states of the federation., while property worth billions of naira had been destroyed with loss of lives at different stages.

He noted that ”record shows that 100 persons killed in election related violence in 2003, 300 in 2007, 800 in 2011

“In all, the electoral body recorded nine attacks in 2019, 21 incidents in 2020 and over 12 as of May 2021. It also lost 9,836 smart card readers, 345 ballot boxes, and 135 voting cubicles, among other assets,” he said.

According to him, on Feb. 12, 2019, shortly before the general elections, two containers loaded with 4,695 smart card readers were destroyed along with other sensitive materials in a mysterious fire at the Anambra State headquarters of INEC.

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“The commission estimated in its budget that each card reader cost N167, 063 while each memory card cost N6,000.

“It was estimated that based on INEC’s budget for such sensitive materials, the loss incurred was about N847million, which also included batteries and Secure Access Module cards,” he said.

According to him, a report in 2019 showed that 352 cases of attack against journalists were recorded between 1985 and 2019.

“In 2021, 40 incidents of press freedom attacks against 49 journalists were recorded. Reporters without borders ranked Nigeria 120 out of the 180 countries in freedom of journalists,” he said

He said that violence against electorate included attacks by parties not sensing victory, inter-party clashes, vote buying, attacks by political thugs

He also noted cyber attacks on the INEC portal which may affect results of the election.

According to him, security agents are also targets before, during and after elections.a report indicates that within the Q4 of 2022 and Q3 of 2021, 322 police officers and 642 soldiers have been killed.

“This is due to the divergent insecurity ambiance of the federation.”

He said that there was the need to adequately protect election’s officials, material and infrastructure, stressing that this should be a collective responsibility of all stakeholders.

He noted that in abating electoral violence in the 2023 general elections, securitization of election infrastructure was indispensable.

He believed that if it is well protected, INEC offices would not be razed before, during and after elections and the electorate would be safe.

“Federal, State and local government agencies would be safe and well coordinated election materials would be safe and delivered accordingly, INEC portal would be good and safe.

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“Political thuggery and violence would have no place in the electoral environment,” he said.

He said that to abate violence before, during and after the election, weeks before the elections there should be inner and outer cordoning by members of the Police and the Military.

“There should be sophisticated intelligence gathering across the nation, absolute surveillance system should be put in place across the nation.

“Emergency response teams should be well prepared against any security threat, .identification of flash points should be made and well monitored.

He also stressed on INEC Portal Security, adding that “isolating the ransomware is the first step to be taken. This can prevent east-west attacks, where the ransomware spreads from one device to another through their network connections.

He also noted access to technology, resources, and processes like cyber security assessments, cyber hygiene scanning, incident response, network baselines, network segmentation, security policies, threat hunting, detection and prevention, and vulnerability assessments among others as steps to abate electioral violence

Also speaking, the commandant of NDC Rear Admiral Murtala Bashir, represented by the College Secretary Air Vive Marshall David Solomon said the election violence should be nip in the bud.

He said that efforts should be made to ensure that violence before, during and after the election should not see the light of the day..

While calling for collective efforts to abate electoral violence l, he said that military should not be left alone in the fight against violence.

Also from Yussuf Mohammed Department of Security Service, said that  ember of electoral violence were fanned by politicians who wanted to win at all cost.

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Mohammed noted that most of such politicians had criminal nature which made it easier for them to become instigator of violence

He called for proper investigation and background check of all would-be -political office holders.
He urged the media to be patriotic in their reportage and see Nigeria as their own, ”we need to see good in Nigeria and not focusing on the negative always”

Also retired Brig.-Gen. Robert Kabagel from Kenya gave experience of his county democratic process and call for independent judiciary, where judgment on election would not be influenced .

He called for usage of early warning mechanism, to identify the hotspots and nip violence in the bud before elections.

Others also stressed on the need to curtail the culture of impunity and always bring culprits in election violence to book

They also called demilitarization of electoral process should  stressing that military should not be the first point of call in electoral violence (NAN) (www.nannews)

Edited by Isaac Aregbesola

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