Election experts have harped on the need to curb the menace of vote trading, hate speech and other issues of national interest ahead before the 2023 general elections.
They warned that hate speech campaigns among candidates should be replaced with policy-based and issue-based campaigns to address the urgent needs of the nation.
These were the issues raised at a technical session with focus on addressing vote trading in Nigeria, expectations from campaigns of political parties, and candidates; security challenges and possible solutions ahead of the 2023 general election, organised by The Electoral Forum in collaboration with Macarthur Foundation and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).
A press statement signed by the chairman of the Forum, Prof Adebayo Olukoshi, said concerns were raised on the Electoral Offences Commission being subject to the Attorney General of the Federation.
The Forum advised the National Assembly to expedite action on the proposed Electoral Offences Commission Bill to decisively deal with electoral offences in Nigeria and the independence of the body, void of inteference by the Attorney General.
They also said the failure of politicians to heed the timetable for the commencement of campaigns slated for September 28 as some were seen campaigning on social media was a worrisome feature.
Expressing further concerns, they said “the lack of clear programs and the unhealthy competition among candidates during campaigns, the “who prosecutes who” in relation to power of incumbency and the illegal use of state funds for campaigns,” were of deep issues that must be tackled.
The Forum suggested the full inclusinveness of banks and anti-corruption agencies such as Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in campaigns monitoring and the electioneering period.
The experts also underscored the importance of security in the electoral process, emphasising “that peaceful and credible elections can only be possible through close collaboration between INEC and the Security Agencies in view of the preponderance of numerous challenges which include but are not limited to insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, communal clashes, etc.”
They, however, appreciated the initiatives of INEC such as the establishment of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), identification of high-risk or flashy areas using electoral risk tools like the Election Violence Mitigation And Advocacy Tool (EVMAT), among others.
Conclusively, the experts called for “The revival of strategies and alliances by CSOs such as was in operation before and which brought the changes in the electoral process between 1999 -2010 (the first 10 years of the return to democracy in Nigeria); “taskforce by citizens and CSOs should be formed to enable citizens to protect their mandate where necessary; Engagement of INEC on the proper placement of voting cubicles during the election to ensure the secrecy of the ballots in line with global integrity standards and best practices.”
Other recommendations were training of ad-hoc staff by INEC on “the proper placement of the voting cubicles to ensure secrecy of the ballot and privacy in relation to the positions of party agents during the voting process; INEC and other anti-graft agencies should ensure that there is compliance with the provisions of the law on campaigns.”
They noted that political parties should be made to submit audits of their account to INEC as provided by law and charged the electoral body to publish audit reports of the accounts.
The Forum noted that mainstream and social media should be used to curb misinformation, disinformation, and the issues pertaining to the misuse of media during the electioneering period.
Members present at the meeting include Professor Adele Jinadu, former NEC Federal Commissioner, Hajia Amina Zakari, former INEC National Commissioner and Acting Chairperson, Professor Antonia Taye Simbine, DG, NISER, and former INEC National Commissioner, Kassim Gaidam, former INEC REC Adamawa State, Gloria Ukpong, former Chairperson AKSIEC, Hannatu Biniyat Usman, former Chairperson KADSIECOM, Ademola E. Johnson, former INEC Deputy Secretary, Okechukwu Ndeche and Alhaji Lawal Isa Wase, former INEC Directors, Mike Asukwo of Business Day, and Everest Amaefule formerly of The Punch Newspapers as well as Professor Olatunde Babawale, Provost, Anticorruption Academy, and LASIEC Commissioner. The meeting also had in attendance, Professor Mohammad Kuna, Special Adviser to the INEC Chairman.