Friday, February 22, 2019

Video - Curbing fake news during elections in Nigeria

In the run up to the Nigerian elections, the country has witnessed instances of fake news aimed at tarnishing the names of candidates, parties or even INEC. Negative use of social media has largely propagated the spread of fake news in Nigeria. But how can Nigerians tackle this?

Video - Campaigns close at midnight as Nigeria gears up for national poll

Campaign activities in Nigeria are expected to end at 12 midnight local time on Thursday. Nigeria's Independent National Electoral Commission set the extended deadline after elections due last weekend were postponed. Rescheduled polls are due to take place on Saturday, February 23rd.

Dozens killed in clashes between villagers and 'bandits' in Nigeria

At least 59 "bandits" were killed by a civilian defence force when they attacked a village in northwest Nigeria, security officials and locals said.

Local reports said the death toll could be even higher, after a local government official said 15 other bandits were killed in the nearby village of Danmarke, the AFP news agency reported on Thursday.

"We killed 59 of the bandits and we lost seven men in the fight, which lasted for almost four hours," Bube Shehu, a resident of Danjibga village in Zamfara state, said of the clashes on Wednesday.

Shehu's account was backed by a military officer in the state but there was no immediate corroboration from police.

The worsening security situation in the northwest, President Muhammadu Buhari's strongest regional support base, is one of a number of challenges to his re-election, as voters go to the polls on Saturday.

Farming and herding communities in the region have suffered increasing attacks from criminal gangs who raid villages, steal cattle and kidnap for ransom.

The local official in Danmarke said villagers were frustrated at the lack of protection from security forces and had been forced to take matters into their own hands.

"It is high time people stand up against criminals who attack their villages instead of succumbing to them," he said on condition of anonymity.

Danjibga is a commercial hub 35km south of the state capital Gusau and has been repeatedly attacked.

Threat to security

The attacks have led to a mass exodus of residents to the town of Tsafe, and even across into Buhari's home state of Katsina, which neighbours Zamfara.

Earlier this month bandits killed 26 people when they raided seven villages in the Mada district, according to police.

Last July, Amnesty International said Zamfara state was "at the mercy" of armed bandits who had killed at least 371 people in the first six months of 2018.

In December, an influential traditional chief in the state urged authorities to allow vigilantes to carry assault rifles to defend themselves against bandits.

Last month, Information Minister Lai Mohammed said bandits were mobilised to carry out attacks and "provoke massive chaos before, during and after the elections".

Security is an election issue given Buhari's pledge in 2015 to improve safety across the country, not least end Boko Haram's armed campaign.

Al Jazeera

Nigeria rallies disillusioned voters after postponed elections

Nigerian politicians and businesses have begun introducing measures to encourage people to vote in this weekend's rescheduled presidential and parliamentary elections.

The country's electoral commission delayed the vote just five hours before polls were due to open across Nigeria last Saturday, citing "logistical reasons."

Nigerians can only cast their ballots at polling units in the area where they initially registered, and as a result, there have been concerns over low voter turnout because people who traveled last week may be unwilling (or able to afford) to make another trip to their polling unit after a wasted journey last week.

The Nigerian government has declared the eve of the elections a public holiday, with the exception of bankers and essential service providers.

The holiday is to enable citizens prepare for the election, the Ministry of Interior said in a statement Wednesday, according to local media reports.

"The work-free day is to enable citizens return to their polling units for the rescheduled Presidential and National Assembly elections," the statement read.

Reno Omokri, an aide to former President Goodluck Jonathan and a stalwart of the main opposition party, People's Democratic Party (PDP), said he is offering free transportation to Nigerians in buses called "Buses for Democracy."

The buses will ferry Nigerians to their various destinations regardless of their political affiliations, Omokri said in Twitter post.

There have been additional reports of efforts made to help in the effort to rally voters ahead of the polls.

Two local airlines have offered discounts to voters to boost turnout at the polls.

Arik Air, a domestic carrier to several destinations around the country, introduced a "Fly to Vote" promotion with one-way tickets pegged at N16,000 (about $45).

The airline says the initiative is to encourage people to vote in Saturday's elections and the state elections scheduled for March 9.

Aero Contractors is offering a similar reduction in flight tickets on all its routes across the country.
Reuters news agency also reported that fuel suppliers would cut the price of petrol, quoting the country's Information Minister, Lai Mohammed.

However, local media reports say the various stakeholders involved in reducing fuel prices have yet to make such decision or indicate they are willing to.

CNN was not immediately able to reach Mohammed for a comment to clarify.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, 76, is standing for re-election and will be running against 71 other candidates for the country's highest office.

His main challenger is Atiku Abubakar, 72, a business tycoon and former vice president.

By Aanu Adeoye


Is Nigeria now prepared for 2019 elections

Last Saturday, 16 February, elections in Nigeria were halted just hours before polling had been due to get under way.

It was a huge inconvenience for millions of Nigerians, many of whom had traveled long distances to vote.

The poll will now be held a week later, on Saturday, 23 February.

With the extra time to prepare, are things now in place for the vote?

Why was the poll postponed?

Both the main parties, the governing All Peoples Congress (APC) and the People's Democratic Party (PDP), condemned the delay and blamed each other for meddling in the elections.

This isn't the first time voters in Nigeria have been left in the lurch. It happened in the two previous presidential elections, in 2011 and 2015, and has led many to question the competence of the organising body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec).

This time the commission cited various reasons for the delay:

. delays in delivering election materials and deploying staff
. poor weather conditions 
. unresolved candidate registration issues
. the destruction of election materials and suspected sabotage

Some of the issues cited are not within the powers of the electoral commission to control, such as the unpredictable nature of Nigeria's weather.

But there are clearly other logistical factors that do need to be addressed if the election is to proceed smoothly.

Voter registration problems

Each of the 84 millions registered voters in Nigeria is required to bring a Permanent Voting Card (PVC), which is then verified at the polling station using a smart card reader.

However, many potential voters haven't got PVCs - and the electoral commission itself says 11 million of the cards printed haven't been collected.

That's a big shortfall and won't be rectified by polling day - meaning millions of registered voters won't be able to cast ballots.

Reprogramming card readers

Then there are the machines used to verify voters - 180,000 smart card readers have been deployed to polling stations across the country.

All these machines were initially programmed to work on the originally planned voting day only, so they have all needed to be reprogrammed.

Inec says this process has been completed and the machines are ready for use.

It also says it has made up for 4,600 smart card readers destroyed in a fire in Anambra State, by redistributing devices from other states - although that may leave fewer back-up machines for polling stations in other regions.

Keeping voting materials safe

Organising elections in Nigeria is a huge logistical challenge.

It's a large country, with an estimated 200 million people, and many regions lack proper roads and infrastructure.

The electoral commission says ballot papers and election staff will be in place across the country.

Sensitive election materials such as ballot papers and result sheets are being held in local central banks, Inec has told BBC News.

However, reports from local media have highlighted further logistical mishaps and the destruction of election materials and resources.

Some election material has even been found in the wrong states.

Security challenges

Election officials are working with security forces to prevent disruption to the election.

Inec maintains voting will take place in all 774 local government areas.

And international election observers say it has been moving in the right direction..

"I think Inec have definitely picked up their game," says John Tomaszewski, the International Republican Institute's regional director for Africa.

But some concerns around security remain, especially over:

. Islamist insurgency in the North East

. herder-farmer clashes in the Middle Belt

. various threats from bandits and criminal gangs in northern regions and oil-producing states in the South

In Borno State, in north-eastern Nigeria, the state most affected by Boko Haram Islamist militants, eight local government areas have prepared satellite polling stations in camps for internally displaced people.

But last week, in the run-up to the originally planned election day, Boko Haram coordinated a series of attacks and suicide bombings on military bases and a neighbourhood in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri.

And Idayat Hassan, from Abuja-based think tank the Centre for Democracy and Development, says: "The likelihood of Boko Haram attacking during the elections is high - the insurgents have consistently express aversion towards democracy and elections."

Meanwhile, in other states, such as Zamfara, in northern-most Nigeria, kidnappings, killings and general lawlessness are also raising voters' fears.

By Christopher Giles and Peter Mwai