Nigerian elections have been marred by widespread violence and vote rigging, which takes two forms.
In some polling stations, armed gangs intimidate voters attempting to enter the polling offices, or in some cases, thugs steal the ballot boxes at the end of the day and stuff them with fake ballots.
The Nigerian government has mobilized the military and the federal police forces to protect voters traveling to their polling stations and canceled 240 polling locations Feb. 14 due to threats of violence.
The government has made efforts to shore up the credibility of the voting system and has reported that 93 million citizens are registered to vote.
Critics of the government have alleged that the voter rolls are stuffed with millions of unqualified voters. At least 516 foreign nationals were arrested in the northern part of Kaduna state on Feb. 5 for carrying voting cards, according to Nigerian TV news.
According to the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is the engine of a sham election.
“The present 93.5 million registered voters for [the] 2023 presidential poll includes an estimated 20 million ineligible identities comprising [an] estimated 8 million Muslim children of underage, 2 million Muslim illegal migrants, 4 million fake or fictitious names, and 6 million stolen or diverted identities or permanent voting cards [PVCs] out of which, 90% or 18 million may likely represent dead/fake votes,” alleges Emeka Umeabulasi, the founder of Intersociety.
CNA was unable to verify Intersociety’s claims.
On the other hand, last year’s electoral law is being implemented to close out some of the vote-rigging efforts in past elections, according to Emmanuel Ihim, a Dallas-based lawyer and president of the Diaspora Alliance, USA, an Igbo ethnicity group.
“INEC leadership has done a commendable electoral reform using the new law, which closed the loopholes for rigging, snatching of ballot boxes, and changing election result sheets,” Ihim told CNA.
“Yet the risk of violence and even mass atrocities is real. More than 50 INEC offices have been attacked in 21 states,” he added.
Despite the threats, Mahmood Yakubu, chairman of INEC, has pledged that the elections will be held on Saturday, Feb. 25. In previous elections, the winner has been declared the third day after voting.
As Nigeria lurches toward a fateful election, Nigeria’s bishops called upon the faithful to vote as if their very lives depended upon it.
“Our votes are precious; we must use them well. We encourage all eligible citizens to come out en masse to vote for God-fearing, honest, vibrant, and transparent leaders for a better Nigeria,” the bishops wrote at the end of a plenary session held Feb. 11-17.