Hate speech, violence, voter inducement early warning signs – YIAGA

Ahead of the 2019 general election, the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA) has said violence, hate speech, and voter inducement are indicators of looming challenges during the elections.

In its pre-election observation report titled, “How prepared is Nigeria for the 2019 elections?” under Watching The Vote (WTV) project, YIAGA said it observed this trend in different states.

This report, YIAGA said, was done between November 9 and November 22 based on 1,563 reports received from its observers.

YIAGA revealed this is one out of six reports it will issue to show its findings in the pre-election period leading up to the presidential election in 2019.

“WTV LTOs reported on incidents of violence in their various LGAs across the country and tracked potential early warning signs of violence including hate speech, physical and verbal violence, large movement of people into and out of LGA, vandalism and recruitment of thugs.

“A total of 47 critical incident reports have been received and confirmed within the period. These reports include incidences of hate speech, attack on rallies, fighting between communities, attack against election officials, attacks against candidates or their supporters, attack against observers, brutality by security agents, voters inducement and vandalism or destruction of properties belonging to their candidates or their supporters.”

This report revealed this early warning signs were seen in reports received from local government areas in Kogi, Kwara, Bauchi, Borno, Nasarawa, Kano, Taraba, Yobe, Jigawa, Kano, Rivers, Ekiti and Lagos.

The report broke down this trend into three: hate speech, violence and voter inducement, noting the states where each is prevalent.

Hate speech was observed in Kogi, Kwara, Taraba, and Nasarawa State; violence in Kogi, Kwara, Kano Kebbi, Lagos, Taraba, Rivers, Jigawa, Sokoto, and Borno; voter inducement in Kwara, Taraba, and Rivers.

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Preparatory Activities
The group commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for some of its impressive activities such as the display of voter register, distribution of Permanent Voter Cards (PVC), voter education which it said is now targeted at women, youth and People With Disabilities (PWD).

“The WTV LTOs observed that in 90 per cent of LGAs, INEC activities were ongoing. In addition, PVC distribution is ongoing in 71 per cent of the 774 LGAs of the country.

“The WTV LTOs observed voter education and information activities conducted mainly by INEC and CSOs. In 64 per cent of the LGAs across the country, the LTOs observed voter education by INEC while 53 per cent of the LGAs, LTOs observed such activities by CSOs.”

The report also showed Civil Society Organisation (CSOs) and other organisations are also active in this preparatory activities towards the election and some of these organsations are performing better than INEC in some areas.

On the activities of marginalised groups in canvassing for votes on behalf of candidates, YIAGA said its observers witnessed 26 per cent youth involved in this, heard of 41 per cent involved in this and 33 per cent not involved. On the other hand, 20 per cent of women were observed to be involved in canvassing for votes, 37 per cent heard of and 43 per cent not involved.

The report also did not leave out the preparatory activities of political parties, specifically their campaigns.

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In accordance with INEC timetable, campaigns for presidential and national assembly election commenced November 18. These campaigns include rallies and campaign trails.

The report highlighted the political activities of African Democratic Congress (ADC), All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the Social Democratic Party SDP) which it observed.

“Twenty per cent of WTV observers witnessed or heard of political campaign rallies associated to ADC, 58 per cent to APC, 58 per cent to PDP and 27 per cent to SDP in their respective LGAs,” the report added.

Recommendations
YIAGA recommended that INEC and other organisations continue to educate the citizens on the importance of their votes (in order to discourage vote buying), INEC’s timetable, the electoral process, PVCs collection.

It also urged security agencies to partner with CSOs monitoring violence for effective violence response system, remain neutral throughout the electoral process and bring perpetrators of violence to book.

In party campaigns, the organisation tasked parties and candidates to focus on issue based campaigns and shun hate speech and inciting comments.

It also urged INEC and other actors to invest more in activities targeted at promoting active and informed participation of women, youth and PWDs.

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