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YIAGA: How voter suppression can be tackled in Nigeria

YIAGA: How voter suppression can be tackled in Nigeria
March 11
09:01 2020
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YIAGA Africa, a youth advocacy group, says adequate voter education is the key to tackling voter suppression and other electoral challenges in Nigeria.

The organisation said this at a meeting which was held in Abuja on Tuesday.

At the meeting tagged ‘tackling voter suppression’ the stakeholders in attendance agreed that the key to a credible election in the country was by voter education which all political actors must be involved in.

Samson Itodo, executive director of YIAGA Africa, lamented that voter suppression has become recurrent in elections in Nigeria.

He said voter suppression could either be in a specific geographical area or a particular ethnic group where voters are deprived of voting in elections.

Itodo

“We saw this manifested in the 2019 as well in Kogi and Bayelsa elections where voters were denied their rights to cast their votes and we were witnesses to the fact that in recent elections, thugs have targeted specific local governments or polling units and destroying election materials thereby preventing people from casting their votes just in a bid to dilute the voting power of a particular geographical space or a particular group,” Itodo said.

“Now when we deprive citizens their rights will intrude our democracy and democracy loses its vitality when citizens are unable to cast their votes during elections and so we convene the roundtable to push the envelope in the discussion around voter suppression.

“The elections reform provides us an opportunity to strengthen our legal framework to which lack definition of what voter suppression is all about and the implications, which should be captured in the new amendment of the electoral act.

“If we continue to let development of this nature pervade our electoral process, what we stand to do is to further deepen voter apathy within our elections and once people lose confidence in democracy, if we lose confidence in election, we will no longer consider ourselves as democracy because where only a small fraction of people are determining the political leadership on behalf of the vast majority then we are no longer in democracy.”

Charles Ukeje, a professor from Obafemi Awolowo University, also said voter education must be considered a priority if the country will get it right.

Ukeje said though the management of security agencies is another area of concern, if the electorate are well informed about their rights in the electoral process, the process of manipulation by the security agents can be minimised.

“If the police institution can understand that their job during the elections is constitutional, they would have been taking order from INEC than their boss who may have been influenced by the party in charge,” he said.

“Heavy presence of security agencies at polling unit causes voter suppression. In 2019, only 32 percent of people that registered voted.

“No one wants to lose election. The judiciary should also look into issues of voter suppression. Can judicial decision void the voice of the people? We have seen evidences of impunity in the justice system and the security agencies.”

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