By Tobias Lengnan Dapam

A research conducted by The Election Network has revealed that only 30 of 80% Nigerians with voter cards voted in 2019 elections.

The Election Network is a digital media company delivering creative, intelligent and data-driven journalism around global elections.

Speaking yesterday while addressing newsmen in Abuja, Asari Ndem, Editor of The Election Network, said the revelation was the lowest recorded voter turnout in the history of Nigeria’s democracy.

“We wanted to understand why this had happened, to enable us make submissions to policymakers on how this level of failure can be avoided in coming elections. So, we decided to talk to the people.

“To show the human impact of electoral deficiencies on average Nigerians, The Election Network produced a documentary titled “Left Behind.” In this documentary, we interviewed Nigerians who were unable to or chose not to vote during the 2019 elections.”

She said the Network found out that Nigerians who did not votes were stalled by factors like administrative shortcomings, intimidation, and violence.

“What stood out the most is violence. Between 2003 and 2019 alone, over 1932 electoral-violence related deaths were recorded, with 626 of these deaths occurring in 2019 alone. To paraphrase one of our expert interviewees, we attribute the low voter turnout to voter apathy but what really exists is voter fear; fear of intimidation and violence. The presence of heavy military and police personnel in certain regions aggravated this fear and prevented people from voting.

“In the 2019 general elections, there were at least 13 incidences of electoral violence as a result of military presence at polling units.

“Other barriers to voting were technical and administrative issues like the failure of card readers, and the lack of provisions for people living with disabilities.
In light of these findings, we recommend that the passage of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill: This overarching law on elections in Nigeria, when passed, will help put in check several irregularities but more importantly, give way
for the full implementation of electronic voting during elections.

“Electronic Accreditation, Voting and Collation: This is related to our first proposal on the passage of the Electoral Amendment Bill. To ensure credibility in the voting system, accreditation, voting and collation needs to be done electronically to avoid errors and to also trace malpractices in the system.

“Prosecution of Electoral Offenders: Snatching of ballot boxes and other election-related offences are common features during elections in Nigeria but these acts often go unpunished. We encourage parliament to pass the bill for the enactment of the National Electoral Offences Commission, to ensure that electoral offenders are punished.

“Transferability of Voters Card: Many voters were disenfranchised because they had registered in different places from where they currently live. It is important to ensure that voter cards are not only transferable but flexible, a Nigerian should be able to vote anywhere they are, when the need arises.

“Inclusion for People Living with Disabilities: The inclusion of people living with disabilities in the voting process should not be treated as an after-thought. Their needs should be included during election planning to ensure they are able to adequately exercise their rights.

“Financial Accountability: An embargo should be placed on the ability of political office holders to make financial transactions close to the elections.
With these submissions and the screening of this documentary, we hope to enact policy change that creates sustainable improvement to the Nigerian electoral ecosystem and contributes to the strengthening of our democracy.”

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