By JACOB ONJEWU DIXKSON
The Kaduna State Peace and Mediation Working Committee (KSMWC), recently inaugurated by the Global Peace Foundation Nigeria (GPFN) to promote a violence-free election has called on international partners and local civil society organizations to work harder toward mitigating electoral violence through intensive campaigns for tolerance and peaceful coexistence.
A communique issued signed by the Co-Chairmen Rev Bitrus Dangiwa and Malam Nurudeen Dauda at the end of its meeting in Kaduna on Wednesday, said, “We are also calling on international partners and local civil society organizations to work harder toward mitigating electoral violence through intensive campaigns for tolerance and peaceful coexistence.”
The communique added, “INEC should also do something to douse inter-party tensions thereby assuring and guaranteeing the safety of voters at their respective polling units.”
The committee expressed delight with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for taking steps to protect the integrity of what could be a particularly complex electioneering process.
IR explained that records showed that more than 90 million Nigerians, in a population estimated at over 210 million, are eligible to vote in 2023, saying that the number is considerably larger than the 84 million of those who cast their votes in 2019.
It added that to ward off fraud, manipulation, and rigging of the elections and burnish the vote’s legitimacy, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is rolling out technological innovations which have boosted voter confidence in the credibility of the elections.
The committee thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for showing greater respect for the INEC’s independence and also signed the Electoral Reform act, stressing that there likely going to record the freest and most fair elections in the history of the country’s democracy.
The communique expressed concern about the several factors that continue to heighten the possibility of violence which must be tackled, pointing out that the persistent multi-facet security challenges across the country coupled with a series of protests are affecting election preparations and could disrupt the vote in many places, thus raising the risk of post-election protests that could degenerate into street clashes or worse.
It also expressed concern about the shortages of motor vehicle fuel in most parts of the country since late 2022 and the scarcity of cash following the federal government’s introduction of redesigned Naira Notes in December.
According to the communique, “INEC and the security agencies must strive to ensure the credibility of the elections, especially by minimizing technical flaws and curbing vote buying. The federal government should act fast to resolve the fuel and currency crises.”
The communique stated, “It is pertinent to note that, from January to mid-December 2022 according to reports, armed groups have killed more than 10,000 people and abducted more than 5,000 in about 3,000 incidents by bandits/Boko Haram through a collection of ransoms and destruction of properties that occurred in at least 550 of the country’s 774 local government areas, particularly in Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Sokoto, Zamfara states as well as the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.”
It stated that the situation is quite worrisome going into the 2023 General elections, saying that herder-farmer conflict continues in parts of Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa, and Plateau states, aggravated by long-running ethnic and religious feuds as all of these unaddressed security issues pose concerns even to the boldest of before the elections.
The committee noted that for nearly 40 years, Kaduna State has been embroiled in multiple ethnoreligious crises that have pitted one part of the state against the other, saying that in those 40 years, it has been from one attack to another with alarming casualties and destruction of properties worth millions of people of Naira.
“The state has also recorded a series of electoral violence among which the 2011 post-election violence happened to be the most deadly resulting in the loss of hundreds of lives and properties worth millions of naira destroyed. Since then, citizens of the state continue to face every election with a level of apprehension which ought not to be so,” the communique observed.