Global Rights Report Exposes Electoral Violence in Nigeria's 2023 Elections

A forensic analysis by Global Rights reveals widespread election violence and impunity in Nigeria's 2023 general elections, with Rivers and Lagos states being the worst affected. The report highlights a culture of impunity, citing incidents of hate speech, fake news, and voter suppression.

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Nitish Verma
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Global Rights Report Exposes Electoral Violence in Nigeria's 2023 Elections

Global Rights Report Exposes Electoral Violence in Nigeria's 2023 Elections

A forensic analysis by Global Rights has revealed widespread election violence and impunity during Nigeria's 2023 general elections, with Rivers and Lagos states being ranked as the worst affected. The report, titled "In Pursuit of Justice: Forensic Insights into Nigeria's 2023 Election Atrocities," highlights a culture of impunity that undermines democracy and human rights in Africa's most populous nation.

Why this matters: The persistence of electoral violence and impunity in Nigeria's elections has far-reaching implications for the country's democratic stability and the protection of human rights. If left unchecked, it can erode public trust in the electoral process and undermine the legitimacy of elected governments.

The report, launched in Abuja at a national dialogue organized by Global Rights in partnership with the Incident Centre for Election Atrocities (ICEA), cites numerous incidents of hate speech, fake news, violence, and voter suppression that characterized the elections. Abiodun Baiyewu, Executive Director of Global Rights, stated, "The occurrence of electoral malpractices, particularly when they persist over time, not only undermines the legitimacy of election results but also diminishes public confidence in the democratic system."

One glaring example highlighted in the report is the case of Bago Adenuga, now the Senior Special Assistant to President Bola Tinubu on media, who incited hate and violence during the pre-election period but escaped consequences. Lagos State governorship candidate Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour was also targeted by fake news and hate campaigns, with his Igbo heritage being twisted into a narrative that he was sympathetic to the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra.

The report identifies hate speech, fake news, and the emergence of deep fake and artificial intelligence as major drivers of election atrocities. Ken Henshaw, Executive Director of We The People and Lead Researcher, noted that the spread of fake news is a deliberate effort that extends beyond the individuals spreading it, with financial incentives posing a challenge in addressing its negative impact on elections.

Global Rights recommends divesting the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of the responsibility of prosecuting electoral offences, handing it over to law enforcement or a newly created body specifically empowered to perform this task. Baiyewu emphasized, "INEC has historically never demonstrated capacity in carrying out this role. This has created a gap as several persons who breach the provisions of the Electoral Act are not held to account, thereby denying their victims justice."

Other recommendations include implementing robust systems for continuous monitoring of elections, enhancing basic education with a focus on civic duties, evolving homegrown methods to solve election violence, promoting media literacy, prebunking fake news, researching and documenting hate speech, effectively implementing laws and prosecuting offenders, and fostering collaborations among civil society organizations.

The Global Rights report serves as a stark reminder of the challenges Nigeria faces in consolidating its democracy and ensuring free, fair, and peaceful elections. As the nation looks ahead to the 2027 general election, it is crucial that concrete steps are taken to address the drivers of electoral violence and foster a culture of accountability and respect for human rights.

Key Takeaways

  • Nigeria's 2023 elections saw widespread violence and impunity, with Rivers and Lagos states most affected.
  • Hate speech, fake news, and voter suppression were major drivers of election atrocities.
  • Electoral violence and impunity erode public trust and undermine democratic stability.
  • Global Rights recommends divesting INEC of prosecution responsibilities and implementing robust election monitoring.
  • Concrete steps are needed to address electoral violence and foster accountability before the 2027 general election.