The Significance Of The Next Weeks For Nigeria Cannot Be Overstated

Nigeria’s Presidential and National Assembly elections took place on Saturday, 25th February.
Four days later, on Wednesday 1st March Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the ruling, All Progressives Congress (APC) was announced as president-elect by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Bola Tinubu won with 37% of the vote, followed by Atiku Abubakar collecting 29%, while Peter Obi registered 25%.
APC’s main opposition parties (Labour Party, Peoples Democratic Party [PDP], and others) rejected the results, claiming that the elections were neither fair, free, nor credible.
Since then, they have called for the elections to be cancelled and rerun. Given the prevailing security context, the credibility of the elections was the greatest concern for Nigeria’s citizens.
It is no secret that the elections took place at a highly volatile moment in the nation’s history.
The electoral administrator, INEC, warned that prevailing insecurity could destabilise polls. And indeed, as the elections approached, reports of hate speech, intimidation, and general electoral interference were on the rise.
The Armed Conflict Location Event Data Project (ACLED) highlights that in December 2022, there were more than 52 cases of electoral violence across 22 states, in addition to the politically motivated assassination of candidates.
The Labour Party’s senatorial candidate – Oyibo Chukwe – was killed by gunmen in Enugu State on Wednesday 22nd February after he was ambushed following a campaign event.
Since 1999, when civil governance was restored, the West African country has made a significant effort to establish international norms of electoral administration.
Last year the Nigerian Government introduced the Electoral Bill Amendment Act, while also rolling out the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) on a national scale for this round of polling.
Despite the security situation, the Nigerian electorate remained hopeful – 10 million new voters had registered since the previous elections in 2019, totalling roughly 90 million people with voter registration cards.
Once voting was underway, however, reports quickly emerged of inadequate electoral administration from INEC – polls did not open at the correct time, nor possess the correct equipment, causing significant delays.
Unfortunately, polling took place with incidents of violence reported in many parts of the country, including ballot snatching, various forms of intimidation, and aggravated attacks.
Opposition parties reported that BVAS’ portal experienced failures for prolonged periods. As a result, there was no means to verify the results; leading many to suggest that vote-rigging had taken place and that there was evidence of systematic manipulation of the outcome of the elections.
Administrative and technological bottlenecks further prolonged result declaration, causing citizens to join peaceful protests and further solidify doubts over the legitimacy of the electoral process.
On Thursday 2nd March, Peter Obi (Labour Party) held a press conference where he questioned INEC’s figures indicating that turnout was only 25 million when a further 10 million had registered to vote in this electoral cycle. He said that the Labour Party would challenge INEC’s decision in court. The PDP governors took their case to the Supreme Court, only to later withdraw it and instead head for the Elections Complaints Tribunal.

This situation is still constantly evolving – only today, 5th March, PDP orchestrated a peaceful demonstration outside INEC’s headquarters, calling on the Chairman of the electoral administration body to resign. Prolonged uncertainty may only significantly increase the likelihood of violence. We’re calling on the UK Government to continue to support the Nigerian government and relevant authorities across the nation to assess any legitimate accusations of wrongdoing, and, if proven, encourage the government
to take necessary action.

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