A report titled “Ethnic Profiling, Hate Speech and Endemic Violence: A Preliminary Post-Election Statement on the 2023 General Elections in Nigeria” was obtained by Ejes Gist News Today in Abuja. The report noted that during the election process, there were instances of voter suppression through violence, hate speech, fake news, and ethnic bigotry.
The Community of Practise Against Mass Atrocities in Nigeria established an Incident Centre for Election Atrocities (ICEA) to monitor election-related atrocities following the governorship and state-level elections. The Centre had monitored incidents in 10 states, namely Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu, Anambra, Imo, Ondo, Ekiti, Lagos, Katsina, and the FCT.
The Centre also worked with local partners in other contiguous states such as Rivers, Edo, Kano, Kaduna, Zamfara, Taraba, Ogun, Nasarawa, Benue and Plateau due to the heightened threats of large-scale hate and violence in the run-up to the 2023 general elections.
The analysis of this exercise revealed that the general elections which were held on February 25, and March 18, 2023, were fraught with irregularities and were by no means the freest or fairest that the nation could have had.
Meanwhile, the ICEA verified and documented at least 137 election-related killings and at least 57 election-related abductions between December 20, 2022, and March 20, 2023. Of this number, at least 38 election-related killings (10 during Presidential elections and 28 during gubernatorial elections) and at least 27 abductions were documented on the election days of February 25 and March 18.
The report noted that election day fatalities were recorded in Rivers, Benue, Delta, Osun, Katsina, Cross River, Nasarawa, Ebonyi, Sokoto, Lagos, Taraba, Kogi, Ondo, Gombe and Abia states.
According to the report, on March 20, 2023, Bashir Shagari, the Electoral Officer, together with the Returning Officer for the Zamfara State governorship election in the Maradun L.G.A were both kidnapped on a bridge near Maradun town on their way to the collation center. Alhaji Dahiru Abba, the village head of Maigari in Rimin Gado L.G.A, Kano State was killed by gunmen when he was attacked at his residence just a few days before the gubernatorial election.
“Halliru Lafka was killed at Maigatari Local Government Area of Jigawa State. The death occurred after a clash between supporters of the PDP and APC during the campaign rally of the PDP in the state. Just a day after the presidential elections, HRH, Eze Igboke Ewa, the traditional ruler of the Umuezeokaha community, was killed at his residence in Ezza North LGA of Ebonyi State by yet-to-be-identified gunmen.
“On February 1, 2023, David Uche, the chairman of the Young Progressives Party (YPP) in Ibeme ward, Isiala Mbano Local Government Area of Imo State was killed in front of his house. On March 11, 2023, Mr Ogbonnaya Ugwu, the Councilor representing Echara Ward2 in Okposi Community, Ohaozara local government area of Ebonyi State, was attacked and killed by gunmen. Five days before the gubernatorial and state House of Assembly elections, Chukwudi Ogbonna, the Accord Party candidate for Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni L.G.A Constituency 2 in the Rivers State House of Assembly was abducted at Rumuigbo, near Port Harcourt, Rivers State. One person identified as Muhammad Abdullahi was killed while 15 other people were injured during a violent clash between supporters of PDP and APC at a gubernatorial campaign rally in Duguri, Alkaleri L.G.A Bauchi State” the report added.
Atrocities on Election Day
State security agencies failed to provide adequate security to protect INEC staff and voters who sought to exercise their franchise, on both election days particularly at polling units as they were in several instances, left to the mercy of political thugs. State security agents, especially the police, appeared ill-prepared for the forms of aggression and attacks that occurred on both the federal and state election days.
Having observed all this, the report disclosed that voting activities were brought to a halt in Ward 12 Emohua LGA, Ubimini Rivers State when Ruth Osah, a pregnant woman, and a man, Mark Orduize, were killed near a polling unit, causing other voters and INEC staff to flee.
In Ebonyi state Peter Nweke, PDP’s Chairman in Ezza North local government, sustained fatal injuries when political thugs attacked him during the governorship elections. He died the day after.
In Jalingo, during a heated argument, a yet-to-be-identified man was shot dead by soldiers enforcing a no-movement rule at a checkpoint at Gadan Karofi (Karofi bridge) along the CBN bye-pass in Jalingo, Taraba state. Ojochenemi Akayaba was shot dead after allegedly snatching ballot boxes during the elections at Agwu- doko area in Anyigba, Kogi state. Akinlabi Akinnaso was also shot dead by security operatives as he attempted to disrupt collation at a ward collation centre in Idanre Local Government Area of Ondo State.
As noted in its February 2023 Monthly Atrocities Report, the Southeast recorded the highest number of election-related deaths in the months leading up to the 2023 general elections.
Attacks on Journalists and Election Observers
There were also several reports of attacks on election observers including journalists at polling units while they had attempted to take footage of violent incidents on election day. Journalists were attacked by security personnel and political thugs while carrying out their duties on election day.
The reported highlighted some journalists who were brazenly attacked; Dayo Aiyetan, the Executive Director of the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) was attacked at the Agwan Fulani Town Hall, Gwagwalada town, FCT while he was covering the Presidential and National Assembly elections.
Six other journalists, Akam James, Daily Post’s State Correspondent, Princewill Sede, the Publisher of Upfront News Magazine, Jeany Metta, the Managing Editor of Upfront News Magazine, Joe Kunde Reporter of TVC and the Cameraman, Mr. Miebi Bina were assaulted by thugs who attacked the Ebelebiri community Ward 05 unit 19 in Bayelsa state.
Adebola Ajayi, a Lagos metro beat reporter at the Peoples Gazette was manhandled and had his phone temporarily confiscated for attempting to take footage when thugs attacked a polling unit in the Oshodi area of Lagos state.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that at least 28 journalists were obstructed, harassed, beaten or attacked while covering gubernatorial and state assembly elections across Nigeria on March 18 and 19.
To this end, the ICEA lamented the Impact of the frail security structure on the general elections as it said it added to the violence, deaths and abductions observed during the elections.
This was as they commended Nigerians for their show of patriotism and courage demonstrated through their turnout and orderly conduct at the polls.
“The turnout of voters in the March 18 elections was significantly lower when compared to the February 25 elections. We believe that this is linked to INEC’s failure to upload election results from the polling unit in a timely and transparent manner, and thus affected the confidence of the voters in participating in subsequent elections.
“Nonetheless, despite attempts at voter suppression through violence and ballot snatching by political thugs, Nigerians defied the odds and came out to exercise their franchise even in areas that were widely acknowledged as flash points” the ICEA stated.