As Nigeria goes to the polls on Saturday for a highly contested election, ARTICLE 19 has raised concerns over human rights, the safety of journalists and disinformation in the country.
A statement jointly signed by Maateuw Mbaye and Aissata Diallo Dieng, with the West Africa office of the human rights organisation, emphasised the need for free, fair, and transparent elections.
According to the statement, “Elections are a cornerstone of democracy, but if they are held amidst insecurity and human rights violations, their value and legitimacy are called into question. As Nigerians prepare to cast their votes on 25 February, ARTICLE 19 emphasizes the need for a transparent and fair electoral process in Nigeria.”
“Moreover, the recent attacks against several Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) offices ahead of the 25 February presidential election raises deep concern,” it said
“The process of vote counting and collation has been seen as problematic, with allegations of manipulation, intimidation and vote-buying. The INEC, which is responsible for organising and conducting federal elections, has been criticised for its lack of transparency and impartiality… Reliable media reports indicate that, in the last three elections, which took place in 2011, 2015 and 2019, more than 1,149 people, including INEC employees and security officers, were killed.”
Other organisations, like Amnesty International, have called on the authorities to bring those who participated in electoral violence in the country’s previous elections to book. Electorates and journalists who took part in the previous elections have expressed hesitation, too, over the upcoming polls.
“Regardless of a range of warnings to prevent violence in electoral cycles, the recent attacks against several INEC offices and the extensive use of disinformation throughout the campaign period raises deep concern .”
Alfred Nkuru Balakali, Regional Director of ARTICLE 19 West Africa, said, “The integrity and credibility of elections, which serve as a foundation of democracy, are put at risk when they occur in a climate of insecurity and disregard for human rights. Ensuring that the upcoming election in Nigeria is secure, impartial, and protects the basic rights of all its citizens is of the utmost importance to strengthen Nigerian democracy and stability.”
The statement also pointed out that for the impact of disinformation during elections to be mitigated, voters must be cautious and also take steps towards verifying the accuracy of information before they pass it on. This, it says, includes by being vigilant and questioning the authenticity of the information, fact-checking using reliable sources, and avoiding the spread of false or misleading information.
Unlike previous elections, the negative impact of disinformation on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Tik Tok, and WhatsApp may likely influence the outcome of the elections.
“By taking these steps, voters can help prevent the spread of disinformation and ensure a fair and credible electoral process,” the statement concluded.
Nigeria’s general elections, organised after every four years, are crucial this year with insurgency, banditry, farmer-herder clashes affecting parts of the country, cash scarcity, fuel shortages, and a hike in commodity prices.
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