Nigeria’s upcoming 2023 elections face numerous risks but could still establish a new precedent for transparency and credibility if the government fulfils its commitment to secure the electoral process, a report from the Office for Strategic Preparedness and Resilience (OSPRE) – also known as the National Early Warning Centre of Nigeria – has revealed.
The recently released report, titled “Ballots and Battlegrounds: 2023 Election Security Risks as Nigeria Decides,” evaluated the threats to the credible conduct of the upcoming polls based on crime reporting, incident mapping, historical research, publicly available information, open-source intelligence and ancillary data. It is the result of a unique collaboration between state actors and civil society organisations aiming to improve the security and integrity of Nigeria’s electoral process and democratic institutions.
The report identified the use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as a development that could transform election management. It further noted that the deployment of digital tools narrows the spectrum of options available to bad actors seeking to subvert the electoral process. These actors may resort to voter suppression through intimidation and violence, attacks on INEC officials, attempts to steal, clone or destroy BVAS devices, vote buying, subversion of INEC staff and security agents and attempts to hack the online transmission of results.
Despite the likelihood of these tactics being employed by criminal elements, a high voter turnout under secure conditions and cybersecurity measures will ensure the integrity of the process.
The report described the recent attacks on INEC facilities and personnel as “unprecedented” and called on the government to treat such attacks as “acts of subversion under the Terrorism Prevention and Prohibition Act of 2022”. It also recommended that “the expeditious investigation and prosecution of electoral crimes should be a top priority for law enforcement and security agencies”.
The report concluded that ending the culture of political violence requires strong disincentives, such as reducing the premium placed on the public office by modulating the rewards and privileges associated with power and punishing electoral crimes stridently.
According to OSPRE’s head of communications and public relations, Nike Babalola the National Centre for the Coordination of Early Warning and Response Mechanism was established in June 2022 through the signing of Executive Order 12 by President Muhammadu Buhari, under Article 58 of the Treaty of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Article 16 of the 1999 Protocol on the Mechanism relating to Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security.
The centre is mandated to address threats to human security and to build the preparedness and resilience of institutions and communities.