Monday 6 February 2023

Election Security Risk Analysis: Hybrid Threats, Early Warning Signs And Prospects of A Seamless Political Transition in Nigeria

Barring unforeseen circumstances, Presidential and National Assembly elections in Nigeria will hold across 109 senatorial districts and 360 federal constituencies on Saturday, February 25, 2023. Similarly, gubernatorial and State Assembly elections is slated to take place two weeks after the presidential election in 28 states and 993 state constituencies on Saturday, March 11, 2023. Three off-cycle [1] governorship elections for Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi states, will hold same day, Saturday, 11 November, 2023. It is interesting to note that about 48 million [2] out of the 93.5 million eligible voters in Nigeria are youths. The implication of this is that if majority of youths exercise their franchise, they might flip the outcome of the general election. Election can be likened warfare in Nigeria and the situation is not different preparatory to the 2023 general elections. If anything, the tension, uncertainty have escalated. Synonymous with every election season in Nigeria, governance is now relegated to the back seat while ethno-religious politicking, political brinkmanship, intolerance, gaslighting, dog-whistling, disinformation seems to have taken the front seat. This election security threat assessment was carried out using publicly available information (PAI), open source intelligence (OSINT) to glean and forecast likely multidimensional or hybrid election security threats in Nigeria such as internecine conflicts, cybersecurity challenges, logistics and legal issues that could hinder the 2023 general elections.

Election Security, Election War-chest And Logistics Deployment

With a whopping N305 billion [3] budgeted to conduct the 2023 general elections, it promises be the most expensive election in the annals of Nigeria. Whereas Nigeria’s amended Section 88 [4] of the Electoral Act pegs the maximum amount to be spent by a Presidential candidate to N5bn (approximately $12m), from the current N1bn (400 per cent increase), and 1 billion Naira for gubernatorial election, a former Presidential Spokesman reckons [5] that in reality, “No Nigerian President in the last 20 years has spent less than $100m to be President''. Given the rate of inflation and depreciation of the Naira, the war chest could have ramped up to a staggering $300m. Tells how expensive politics, prosecuting an election is in Nigeria.

The forthcoming 2023 general election also promises to be a security and logistics nightmare for the electoral commission, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) who obviously have no direct control over logistics and security. For instance, barely few weeks to the general election, the Independent National Electoral Commission says the lingering petrol scarcity could hamper [6] the movement of election materials and election personnel. Apparently, the INEC relies on private transportation and transport unions such as the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Marine Workers’ Union (MWUN), to move electoral materials to the nook and cranny of the country. Similarly, the electoral Commission would rely on government security forces (GSF). The Nigerian Navy expected to help ferry election materials to riverine communities, the Nigerian Air force (NAF) will provide logistics support with its retrofitted C-130 Hercules aircraft [7], amongst others. To this end, the INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, revealed [8] that 530,538 security agents, including policemen and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) personnel would be deployed to polling booths for the 2023 general election. Talking about logistics management, the INEC says the 2023 general elections will involve nationwide deployment [9] of over one million personnel (including ad hoc staff), 100,000 vehicles, about 4,200 boats to be escorted by naval gunboats and massive quantities of materials to 774 LGA’s; 8,809 Electoral Wards and 176,846 polling units across the length and breadth of Nigeria. Technology will play a role in coordinating this massive logistics. In this light, he INEC says it established [10] a ‘’Logistics Management System - Election Logistics Framework (ELF), which uses an android application and web dashboard to track election materials procurement through storage to delivery’’.

Though the deployment of the Nigerian military as an election watchdog is a contentious and controversial issue, it appears the pervasive insecurity in Nigeria is an extenuating factor. As apprehension rises over the likelihood of holding elections in parts on Nigeria, the Chief of Defence Staff, Lt. General Lucky Irabor allayed fears and assured [11] that the elections will indeed hold as scheduled. The Defence Headquarters confirmed [12] it would deploy substantial troops to areas ravaged by terrorists, bandits, and gunmen to ensure the safety of electorates during the polls. According to the Director, Defence Information, Major General Jimmy Akpor, “Nobody is sleeping; we’ll continue to do our utmost and scale-up our operations, intelligence and physical, kinetic and non-kinetic activities to ensure that the environment is safe for socioeconomic activities’’. To this end, there’s likely to be massive military deployment in the entire southeast, including Imo, Anambra, Benue, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto state, amongst others, before the general elections. While they are at it, the military and other security agencies must be apolitical and desist from extrajudicial killing. It is commendable that the Inspector General of Police is distributing [13] more than 1 million copies of the 36-page Nigeria Police Force handbook - “Revised Standard Operational Guidelines/Rules for Police Officers and Other Law Enforcement Agents on Election Security Duties” ahead of the 2023 General Election. Hopefully those that would be deployed for election duties will read and assimilate the spirit and letter of the standard operating procedure which spells out “crowd control, use of force and lethal weapon, escorting and protection of election materials, general conduct, procedure of arrest, dress and accoutrement, managing political parties’ convention and rallies”, amongst others.

It is a welcome development that the police hierarchy has banned [14] the deployment of quasi security outfits established by regional or state governments such as the Southwest Security Outfit called Amotekun, Ebubeagu et al from participating in election campaigns and other electoral processes.

Despite Huge Spending on Security, Insecurity Is Nigeria’s Undoing

Talking about money-spinning and sapping undertakings in Nigeria, (in)security tops the list. The Nigerian government has spent more than N8 trillion on defence budgets [15] in the last seven years while additional N722.53 billion ($1.76 billion) was borrowed from the domestic capital market. This is in addition to the $1 billion that the presidency withdrew from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) [16] and supposedly splashed on national security. Recall that president Buhari's administration appropriated N1.55 trillion for defence/military [17] out of the N20.51tn 2023 proposed appropriation bill presented to the National Assembly. Nigeria's Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Lucky Irabor on October 18, 2022, lamented [18] that Nigeria lost 100,000 lives and spent $9 billion (about N3.24 trillion) since the Boko insurgency began in 2009. Of course, aforesaid defence/security spending excludes the muddy, corruption-laden, and unaccounted-for ‘’security votes’’, which Transparency International approximates to be over $670 million annually, as of 2017. To get a hang on the security vote miasma, consider the report of a former Nigeria analyst, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, US Department of State, Mr. Matthew T. Page, titled - Camouflaged Cash: How ‘Security Votes’ Fuel Corruption in Nigeria [19].

It needs no explanation that the security situation in Nigeria has deteriorated over the years and there is no assurance that a silver bullet is in the offing. A research [20] by World Risk Poll which attests that three in five Nigerians (61 per cent) feel less safe than they did five years ago. The prevailing security situation in Nigeria renews calls for state policing. In an unprecedented and unanimous move, 17 southern governors commended their 19 northern counterparts for joining the call for the establishment of state police [21] to tackle the persistent security challenges in Nigeria. Similarly, Nigerian Senators across political parties, on Wednesday 27th July 2022, voiced their discontentment with the deteriorating security situation in the country. The Senate gave President Muhammadu Buhari a six week ultimatum [22] to properly address worsening insecurity or face immediate impeachment.

Opinions, Fears That 2023 Political Transition May Not Pan Out Well

Legal luminary, Chief Afe Babalola [23] apparently fired the first salvo when he advocated that the 2023 election be deferred. In a press release on April 18, 2022, Chief Babalola ‘’advised the federal government to suspend the 2023 elections and allow a 6-month interim government [24] after President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure that would give a new constitution that would tackle insecurity, economic, political and other ills bedeviling the nation’’. Not long after Babalola’s prompting, precisely on May 9, 2022, another elder statesman and senior lawyer, Robert Clarke, proposed [25] that President Muhammadu Buhari ‘’should serve for an extra six months to give him enough time to address the country’s security woes’’. Mr. Clarke extenuated what seems like a sales pitch by citing that, ‘’the Constitution provided the President to extend his tenure for six months in the first instance if conditions were not ripe for an election’’. Also, Reverend Chris Okotie on Sunday, June 19, 2022, ‘’proposed an interim government [26] as a solution to Nigeria’s political problems’’. At the risk of spiritualizing, we may have to ponder on the take of the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor Enoch Adeboye who opined sometime in April, 2022, that, “As we speak, I am not sure yet [27] if there will be an election in Nigeria. I said yet – because the Lord has not told me about it’’. Afterwards, precisely on Thursday, June 23, 2022, during a bilateral meeting on the margins of the 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kigali, Rwanda, the erstwhile British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, rhetorically asked President Muhammadu Buhari if he will be running for another term in office? It is either Johnson wasn’t  aware that Buhari is constitutionally barred from seeking another term in office or we can safely infer that his prying question was aimed at extracting assurances from Buhari that he would relinquish power in 2023. The latter seems more tenable. The United Kingdom’s government is also concerned about the prospect of the 2023 elections in Nigeria. During the launch of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum Peace and Inclusive Security Initiative (PISI) in Abuja, Mr. Chris Beecroft, director, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), expressed anxiety [28] over the 2023 general elections Nigeria. Mr. Beecroft cited active insurgency in the Northeast; farmers-herders’ conflicts across the country, resource conflicts in the Niger-Delta, the tension in the southeast and banditry in the northwest as some of the major security challenges that may affect the election. 

Legal Loopholes And Allegation of Election Sabotage

A senior advocate of Nigeria, Chief Wole Olanipekun is one of those worried about the legal loop-hole and ticking time bomb in Nigeria’s new electoral act 2022. According to him, Section 65 of the Electoral Act, ‘’empowers the Chief Returning Officer of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to return and also review his decision’’. Chief Olanipekun contends that this clause is ‘’a very dangerous act in Nigeria’s electoral system’’. He argues [29] that, “the returning officer is not a court of law, not a tribunal, not vested with jurisdiction to exercise quasi- decision or to assume jurisdiction over any matter that is judicial in nature.” Similarly, A few weeks to the February/March general election, the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC is reportedly confronted [30] with ‘’at least, 791 court cases, a geometric rise from the 600 cases it was confronted with as of November 2022’’. Interestingly, it appears the presidential candidate of the APC, Bola Tinubu seems to have doubts about the presidential election. On Wednesday, January 25, 2023, Bola Tinubu opined that, ‘’the lingering fuel scarcity, and introduction of the new Naira notes are plots to sabotage [31] general elections’’. The implication of Tinubu’s assertion is that it is either he’s trying to separate his campaign from the shortcomings of the ruling government or his own ruling party and indirectly, the presidency is indeed not comfortable with his candidacy. Well, President Buhari has assured [32] that there is no going back on the Naira redesign and that nobody will be allowed to intimidate voters. 

Early Warning Signs Or Shaping Operations?

Early warning signals suggests that the 2023 general election and political transition in Nigeria may not be seamless. Lately, a coalition of civil society organisations under the aegis of Alliance for Democratic Sustenance (ADS) led by Malam Yusuf Bulama, raised the alarm [33] over what he called a subterranean plot to truncate the conduct of the general elections. According to the civil society group, “We have impeccable information from highly placed and reliable sources of a clandestine meeting by some powerful and highly placed persons aimed at truncating the democratic transition to another democratically elected government in the country''. Akin to a serial doomsday prognosis, the Conflict Research Network, West Africa (CORN West Africa) on Tuesday January 10, 2023, raised alarm [34] that ‘’terrorism could threaten the peaceful conduct of 2023 elections in northeast Nigeria if a proactive specific security plan was not designed for the zone’’. Prior to now, precisely on Monday, January 09, 2023, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) reiterated that the 2023 general election faces serious threat of cancellation or postponement [35] if the waves of insecurity in parts of the country fails to improve. In what can be regarded as a Freudian slip or a ‘shaping operation’, Board of Electoral Institute (BEI), Prof. Abdullahi Abdu Zuru, who represented the INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu at the Validation of Election Security Training Resources in Abuja, presaged that, ''if the insecurity is not monitored and dealt with decisively, it could ultimately culminate in the cancellation and/or postponement of elections in sufficient constituencies to hinder the declaration of elections results and precipitate constitutional crisis. Similarly, the umbrella body of all registered political parties in Nigeria, Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), warned [36] that the rising level of insecurity in parts of Nigeria may abort the 2023 general elections. Chairman of the IPAC, Yabagi Yusuf Sani reportedly dropped the clue during a meeting with the Director-General of the Department of State Service (DSS) Yusuf Magaji Bichi. 

A report by Professor Okechukwu Ibeanu and Idayat Hassan of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), titled ‘Nigeria’s presidential polls: A SWOT Analysis’ [37] released on September 6, 2022, warns that in addition to significant logistic challenges in reaching the 176,846 polling units (a 56,872 increase on 2019), ‘’it is becoming increasingly clear that insecurity will be a major factor that could even lead to a possible postponement of the election, at least in some parts of the country’’. 

TheCable, August 23, 2022, reported [38] that, ''Nigerian governors are of the opinion that elections may not hold in several north-west states comprising Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara in 2023 as a result of the prevalent insecurity in the geopolitical zone''. In the same vein, a publication titled – ‘Insecurity: Will elections hold in 2023?, TheCable quoted [39] INEC’s Commissioner, Mr. Festus Okoye, to have asserted in a paper he presented at a brainstorming session between the Department of State Services (DSS) and Civil Society Organisations held at the DSS Headquarters in Abuja on April 6, 2022, that, “The security situation in the country may affect voter mobilization, deployment of personnel and materials to different parts of the country.” Sequel to the flip-flops and crises of confidence sown, the INEC went on overdrive, trying to douse tension and reassure Nigerians and the international community that the 2023 general election would hold as scheduled. The INEC boss re-echoed this during his outing at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), London on Tuesday, January 17, 2023. Perhaps it is worth studying why Chatham House has morphed into a sort of an international validation outpost for Nigerian politicians. 

Chances of seamless, simultaneous elections nationwide

Citing anonymous intelligence shared about Nigeria’s election security by concerned civil society actors conversant with the undertaking of the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Electoral Security (ICCES), THISDAY Newspaper revealed [40] that, ‘the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) may be under constraint to conduct 2023 elections in plausibly over 686 communities under the atrocious activities of armed non-state actors across the federation’’. According to the report, ‘’affected communities and wards cut across 90 local government areas (LGAs) and 18 states of the federation’’. Out of the 686 affected communities, 618 were identified in the north alone with 336 in the Northwest and 200 communities domiciled in Zamfara state. The implication of this is that Zamfara state is currently deemed as the most dangerous state in Nigeria. Similarly, in the Northeast, 168 communities were identified. Gombe is the only state that is comparatively safe in the Northeast while there are about 79 wards in Borno state where elections may not hold. Aforesaid report submits that it would be challenging to hold elections in about 114 wards in North-central Nigeria, largely in Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger and Plateau. “In Southeastern Nigeria, 55 communities mainly in Abia, Anambra, and Imo state were referenced as red zones. The findings put the number of communities affected in the South-south at three, all located in Rivers State. THISDAY Newspaper report extrapolated that 90.1 per cent of the purported unsafe communities are domiciled in the north alone while 9.09 per cent representing 68 unsafe communities are in southern Nigeria. A purported policy brief [41] by some northern governors to president Buhari, anticipates that elections may not hold in the North West states of Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara in 2023, due to growing insecurity. 

For instance, data collated by Punch Newspaper as at December 18, 2022, estimated that no fewer than 50 offices [42] and facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission were attacked across 15 states in the past 4 years. However, data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), suggests aforesaid data might be a conservative estimate. According to ACLED’s December 2022 data, ‘’there have been more than 100 attacks [43] associated with elections since the last elections in 2019’’. No fewer than 67 of such attacks were recorded on non-election days between January 2019 and December 2022. Gunmen on Monday, November 28, 2022, killed [44] the women leader of the Labour Party (LP) in Kaura LGA of Kaduna State, Mrs. Victoria Chintex at her residence in Kaura, Kaduna. Suspected thugs on Monday, October 17, 2022, disrupted [45] the campaign train of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kaduna State. The campaign convoy of the presidential candidate of the PDP, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, was reportedly attacked [46] in Maiduguri, Borno state, on November 9, 2022. 

States With High Risk of Election Manipulation, Voter Suppression

An “Election Manipulation Risk Index EMRI”, a triangulated data [47] developed by the International Press Centre and eight other organizations including Partners for Electoral Reform, The Albino Foundation, The Kukah Centre, Enough is Enough, Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development, SBM Intelligence, Dataphyte and YIAGA Africa, classified 22 states out of the 36 states in Nigeria as ‘’high risk’’ as it pertains to election manipulation. The states include Imo, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Abia, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Oyo, and Osun. Others are Ekiti, Kwara, Niger, Plateau, Taraba, Kaduna, Bauchi, Adamawa, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto and Jigawa states. According to the EMRI report, 12 states with medium election manipulation risks include Borno, Yobe, Nasarawa, Benue, Kogi, Zamfara, Kebbi, Ogun, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa and Cross River while three states: Gombe, Ondo, and the Federal Capital Territory FCT, were classified as low risk. The EMRI report identifies indicators such as voter suppression, resistance against electoral technology like BVAS and IReV, political interference with INEC operations, administrative lapses, tampering with the voter register, and frivolous election litigations, as electoral risks that may potentially impugn the election integrity of the 2023 elections. 

Election Violence Heat Map: States To Watch Out For

The situation in Lagos state pre, during and after the election promises to be dicey, unpredictable. Perhaps as a sign of things to come, the Campaign train of the Governorship Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party – PDP in Lagos State, Dr. Abdulazeez Olajide Adediran (JANDOR) was reportedly attacked [48] on Sunday, 23rd October, 2022 while his entourage were returning from a visitation to members of the party at the Ikoga Junction area of Badagry LGA. Similarly, on Tuesday, January 24, 2023, thugs attacked [49] the convoy of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate in Lagos state, Abdul-Azeez Adediran (Jandor) in Kosofe LGA, stabbing a security officer. Also, Nollywood actress and PDP deputy governorship candidate in Lagos State Funke Akindele was on Tuesday, January 24, 2023, reportedly [50] chased out of the Ikosi fruit market in Lagos by suspected thugs while campaigning. Supporters and thugs loyal to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) reportedly clashed and shot sporadically [51] in the Aguda area of Surulere, Lagos, on Friday, January 27, 2023. Plausible election suppression and violence flashpoints in Lagos include: Oshodi-Isolo LGA (Ajao Estate, Mafoluku, Okota, Ago Palace Way, Oke-Afa, Ejigbo areas), Amuwo-Odofin (FESTAC, Satellite town), Surulere (Aguda, Ijesha), Mushin (Jandor’s neck-of-the-woods), Apapa (Olodi Apapa, Agegunle), Alimosho (the largest and most densely populated LGA in Lagos, nay, Nigeria). This prognosis is deduced from trends, open source intelligence (OSINT) and the fact that there is a high concentration of opposition supporters, non-locals in aforesaid areas. For instance, there was election violence specifically at Ago Palace Way during the February 2019 election as suspected thugs reportedly [52] stormed a polling unit and set ablaze no fewer than 100 ballot boxes filled with election materials. It is not unexpected that the ruling party will attempt to rein in Jandor, the PDP and the Labour party in Mushin (where the PDP gubernatorial candidate hails from), and also Alimosho, said to be the largest and most densely populated local government area in Lagos. Note that the projected population of Alimosho LGA is 3,082,900, as of 2019. 

Another concern or risk worth mentioning is the devil-may-care rivalry and role played by the leadership and membership of transport unions such as the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Road Transport Employees Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) and the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), or the newly constituted Lagos Parks Management Committee led by Musiliu Akinsanya, popularly known as MC Oluomo, have played in the past and will likely play during the 2023 elections. For one, the INEC intends using the NURTW to move election materials. What if they deliberately compromise or jeopardize the delivery of election materials in some areas? Of course the ongoing petrol scarcity could be a good alibi. 

Imo state in particular and the entire southeast is also another election violence hotspot. Imo state is apparently the new Afghanistan in Nigeria. This is because of the activities of so-called separatist agitators - IPOB factions, unknown gunmen and ‘’ungun known men’’ run amok and seem to be bent on disrupting elections in the southeast. Mr Cajethan Duke claimed [53] in a statement, that no fewer than 50 members of his party had been killed in the state. A witness, Isa Adamu, said no fewer than eight people were killed [54] by gunmen in Umunna town near Okigwe on Friday, including some mechanics who had gone to repair a vehicle in the town. 

Imo state recorded the highest number of attacks on INEC facilities with more than a dozen incidents…and counting. One of the recent attacks happened on Saturday, January 14, 2023 when gunmen numbering about 20 on Saturday, January 14, 2023, attacked [55] INEC’s office at Ahiazu Mbaise Local Government Secretariat, Imo State, killing one person in the process. This substantiates the statement [56] of the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of Imo state on September 7, 2022, that the 2023 general election may not hold in three local government areas (LGAs) in the state, including in Orlu, Orsu, Njaaba (Okigwe LGA should be in the list) due to what can be characterized as hybrid threats [57] On Sunday, January 22, 2023, gunmen beheaded [58] the sole administrator of Ideato North LGA of Imo State. The victim, Christopher Ohizu, was abducted two days earlier alongside two others when the gunmen attacked him and set his residence ablaze. The hoodlums beheaded the victim after his family reportedly paid N6 million as ransom to them. Sources said the gunmen were attacking those backing the conduct of the 2023 elections in the Southeast. Similarly, on Tuesday, January 24, 2023, gunmen killed the ward chairman, Christian Ihim popularly known as ‘’Zako’’ of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Umuchoke ward in Okwe, Onuimo LGA of Imo State. The gunmen also kidnapped five other chieftains of the ruling party in the community. Recall that gunmen had on December 15, 2022, killed [59] the Labour Party candidate for the Onuimo LGA state House of Assembly election, Christopher Elehu, popularly known as Wasco, after they set ablaze his country home in Okwe community. Also, gunmen have kidnapped two community leaders in Ogbaku in the Mbaitoli LGA of the state. A driver and four police orderlies were on Monday, January 02, killed [60] as the convoy of a former governor of Imo state and an APC leader, Chief Ikedi Ohakim was attacked by gunmen at Umualumoke, Oriagu in Ehime Mbano LGA of Imo state. Ohakim escaped death by the hair’s breadth because he was in a bulletproof vehicle with two of his children when the gunmen struck. From the foregoing, it is safe to say that Imo state is the new Afghanistan in Nigeria and if adequate measures are not put in place, it will be a herculean task to conduct elections in Imo state.

Scores of people were killed, and properties worth billions of Naira destroyed in Aku-Okigwe, in Imo state as a result of the random kidnapping, bloodletting and arson attacks by criminals, non-state actors and counter-offensive, indiscriminate extrajudicial killings by government security forces (GSF) searching for the criminals. The conflict is deep-seated, and it is unlikely that normalcy will return prior to the election or afterwards. The implication is that Aku community and pockets of communities in the southeast are deserted as residents live as IDPs in neighbouring communities. They will be disenfranchised during the forthcoming election.


In 2021, the Kaduna State Independent Electoral Commission (KADSIECOM) postponed [61] council election in four LGAs - Chikun, Kajuru, Zangon Kataf and Birnin Gwari LGAs, due to insecurity. Reports [62] indicate that Ansaru terrorist group banned political activities in many communities in the Eastern part of Birnin-Gwari LGA of Kaduna State. It would be a challenge to hold elections in this part of Kaduna state.


Political Intolerance And The Risk of Election Violence in Nigeria

The National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Monguno on Friday, November 11, 2022, stated that “rogues” are planning to disrupt the 2023 elections. Monguno said he was aware that in the last month, at least 52 cases of electoral violence [63] were reported across 22 states in the country. Sequel to the NSA's declaration, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Wendy Campbell Laing stated that, “When people feel intimidated, they can’t get out to vote, the election itself will not be credible, that is why the violence is of great concern”. On this note, she averred that the United Kingdom  will be watching closely any individual who acts violently or incites people through the social media and would not hesitate to impose visa sanction [64] on such individuals. As a matter of fact, on Wednesday, the United States Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken went ahead to impose visa restrictions [65] in his words, ‘’on specific individuals in Nigeria for undermining the democratic process in a recent Nigerian election’’. According to Blinken, ‘’additional persons who undermine the democratic process in Nigeria—including in the lead-up to, during, and following Nigeria’s 2023 elections—may be found ineligible for U.S. visas under this policy’’. The United Nations and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Tuesday, 17 January, 2023, warned [66] Nigeria against violence in this year’s general elections. ‘’While the UN cautioned that if things go wrong in Nigeria, there would be serious consequences for the peace and stability of the entire region; the ECOWAS said if violence occurs in Nigeria, no other nation in the sub-region could accommodate Nigerian refugees’’. 

In new security advisories [67] independently issued on Thursday, January 19, 2023, Australia, United Kingdom and the European Union, warned their citizens to reconsider their intending visits to Nigeria, avoid all political gatherings and election related sites in the lead up to, during and after the election due to the hostile “security climate” and threats preparatory to the 2023 general elections. Recall that in October 2022, the United States, UK, Canada, Germany, and Bulgaria issued terror alerts, warning their citizens in Nigeria to avoid shopping malls, religious centres, and hotels which they said could be targeted by terrorists. In its final report [68] on the 2019 general election, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room conservatively estimated that, ”At least, 626 people were killed between the start of the campaign in October 2018 and the final election in March 2019’’. In 2021, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) recorded [69] a 22% increase in the number of organized political violence events in Nigeria. The violence resulted in over 9,900 reported fatalities, nearly a 30% increase compared to 2020. 

Cybersecurity, Election Hacking And Interference

Evidence abound that state-actors and cyber sleuths interfere with the electoral ecosystem. Their interference can range from one or a combination of information operations, disinformation, broadcasting deep-fake videos across social media platforms, to corrupting data, altering voter registration databases hence disentrancing or impeding citizens’ ability to vote, to attempting to tamper with the outcome of vote count, and undermining voters’ confidence on the legitimacy, integrity of an election. With an approximately [70] 80 million Nigerians online, social media plays enormous role in Nigerian political space hence fake news, disinformation is a thriving industry in Nigeria. For instance, a British Broadcasting Corporation investigation discovered that ‘’political parties in Nigeria are secretly paying social media influencers to spread disinformation about their opponents ahead of the 2023 general elections. According to the BBC's Global Disinformation Team, a politician acknowledged that in addition to dolling out gifts and promising contracts, nay, political appointments, his team paid a social media influencer up to 20 million Naira (about ($45,000; £37,000) for delivering a ‘result’. The modus operandi of their strategists entails planting fabricated stories through other micro-influencers aimed at eliciting emotions and misinforming people. Idayat Hassan, director at the Centre for Democracy and Development, says the activities of these influencers is tantamount to "political interference". According to her, "It is undermining trust in democracy, undermining trust in the electoral system, and it is instigating conflict". Election interference is not exclusive to Nigeria. The website [71] of Ghana’s election commission was allegedly hit by a cyber-attack in 2016. The commission said an attempt to put up "fake results" failed. Also, in 2021, the German government warned [72] Russia over a wave of cyberattacks - "combining conventional cyberattacks with disinformation and influence operations" on German politicians. Similarly, in a BBC report of 11 September 2020, tech giant, Microsoft sent word [73] that hackers with ties to Russia, China and Iran targeted US and British political parties and tried to meddle in elections. According to a newly declassified [74] US State Department cable, Russia covertly spent more than $300m since 2014 to try to influence politicians and other officials in more than two dozen countries. Similarly, two Iranian nationals were charged for cyber-enabled [75] disinformation and threat campaign designed to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election. In the just concluded 2022 Kenyan election, reports [76] indicate that about 200 hacking attempts were made on election results, between Thursday, 11th August and Friday 12th August.

Thus, it is not surprising that the Chairman of the INEC Boss, Professor Mahmoud Yakubu confirmed [77] sometime in September 2022, that the Commission’s ‘’result viewing portal (IReV) during the gubernatorial elections in Ekiti and Osun states, experienced several cyberattacks from hackers across the world, some of them from Asia’’. I reckon that the risk and threat of election interference will be higher during Nigeria’s forthcoming presidential election. It behooves on the INEC to ramp up its cybersecurity defenses (including elimination of human error) and ensure that critical technological infrastructure such as its servers, the Result Viewing (IReV) web portal and the over 200,000 Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) [78] that would be deployed across the 176,846 polling units across the country, for the 2023 general election, are not compromised by hackers. According to IBM Cyber Security Intelligence Index Report, human error [79] (and I must add, insider threat) is the main cause of 95% of cybersecurity breaches. In other words, humans are the weakest link in cybersecurity. For instance, citing data shared by cybersecurity firm Trellix, TIME Magazine of October 12, 2022, reports [80] that in Pennsylvania, United States of America, ''malicious emails targeting county election workers surged around its primary elections on May 17, 2022, rising more than 546% in six months, to 7,555 by the end of the second quarter of 2022''.

Border Security And Integrity of Nigerian Elections

Just recently, the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) said it arrested 516 illegal immigrants [81] from Chad, Cameroon, Togo, and Senegal in Kaduna State, with some of them having Nigeria’s permanent voters and national identity cards. According to the state comptroller of the NIS, Liman Sani Kila, ‘’in the last year’s mop-up operations, the command retrieved 1,000 PVCs from illegal immigrants arrested within Kaduna Zone’’. Prior to now, in November 2022, the NIS said it arrested and repatriated 18 foreigners [82] for allegedly possessing voters’ cards in Oyo state. Aforesaid number of illegal immigrants in possession of Nigeria’s permanent voters and identity cards is a small fry. There are hundreds of thousands out there who will influence the outcome of elections in Nigeria. Perhaps this explains why president Buhari belatedly ordered that ‘’Nigerian borders should be made impenetrable [83] to foreign bodies who might want to come in and manipulate the election process or engage in other nefarious activities”. Mr. president should be reminded that Nigeria’s borders is quite massive covering 5,330 kilometers. As a matter of fact, 15 out of the 36 states in Nigeria share land borders [84] with foreign countries. With an area of 923,768km², Nigeria is said to be almost four times the size of the United Kingdom [85] or slightly more than twice the size of California in the United States of America. We also understand that there are conservatively, no fewer than 1,490 illegal entry points to Nigeria [86] and the entire workforce of Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) is tenably not more than 25,000. In essence, it is difficult to ‘police’ Nigeria’s extensive illegal borders.  

Conclusion: It goes without question that the pervasive security challenges in Nigeria will pose tremendous challenges in conducting seamless election simultaneously across Nigeria. Despite aforesaid monies expended on national security, ‘ungoverned spaces’ proliferates across Nigeria. From the northeast to the southeast, northcentral to the northwest, there are swathes of land where so-called "unknown gunmen", bandits and kidnappers, reign supreme, even imposing ‘’tax’’, "protection levy" on communities. My prognosis is that unless a miracle happens, a staggered, inconclusive, or a run-off election will not be ruled out for the presidential election. This is because constitutionally, a presidential candidate is required to garner at least 25 per cent of votes cast in two-thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states. If Nigeria’s current system of government is not rebooted, separatist agitation and quest for Biafra, Yoruba Nation, will likely escalate in the southeast and southwest if either Peter Obi or Bola Tinubu loses the presidential election. In the words of Reuben Abati [87], ‘’The 2023 election is bound to be an election like no other. It would be a contest between the old and new order, the rich and the poor, the establishment, and the people’’. Bring to mind that the 2023 federal budget has a deficit of N77 trillion, unemployment rate is over 33% and 63% of persons living within Nigeria (133 million people) are multidimensionally poor [88]. The unbecoming bigotry, ethnic jingoism, xenophobia, religious sentiments that seem to shape support for the various presidential candidates, attests to the fact that the much bandied #OneNigeria mantra, is a farce. Whichever the presidential election swings, it is not Uhuru!

Written by:


Tech-savvy security thought leader, analyst, researcher, writer, content creator, military veteran.


Twitter: @DonOkereke

February 03, 2023.































































































































































































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