Electoral Malpractices refer to all forms of illegal and fraudulent activities that interfere with the democratic nature of elections. An election is part of the democratic process of Nigeria; electorates vote and decide who their next leaders will be for a period of four years. But can elections be without malpractices? Of course not, but they can be curbed. Some of these malpractices prevalent in Nigeria include the following:
- Interfering with INEC logistics
- Threatening and compromising INEC officials/staff
- Snatching and burning ballot papers
- Threatening voters with thugs
- Manipulating election results
- Vote buying and lots more
As an adult today, you will agree that you must have attempted one exam or the other, whether you ended your education at a primary or secondary school. And in an exam hall, a lot may be going on behind the scenes with or without the examiner’s consent.
If illegal activities occur without the examiner’s consent, that is indeed malpractice but with the full examiner’s approval is another level of malpractice, bribery and corruption. But what if that classroom was Nigeria and that examiner was the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)? How then can we solve corrupt practices? With the 2023 general election a few months away, I have highlighted eight (8) solutions to electoral malpractices below:
1. Logistics: Timely delivery of election materials
INEC needs to review its logistical modus operandi. Before and on election day, INEC always runs into one problem or the other in the timely delivery of essential and sensitive election materials in time – nationwide. If INEC can improve this, the Nigerian electoral processes and systems will be better for it.
2. Ensure Card Readers Work
The introduction of the electronic voters’ authentication system, aka card reader, to the Nigerian electoral process was to prevent election rigging. Only accredited voters are allowed to vote during elections. It was first deployed in the 2015 general elections, where Card Readers only read Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) issued by INEC. This meant that people who showed up at the polling unit without a PVC or fake cards not issued by INEC were not allowed to vote.
Therefore, card readers are essential to the whole voting process. However, If it isn’t working as it’s supposed to, wouldn’t that breed chaos? Wouldn’t that bring all these years of electoral advancement back to zero?
Yes, anyone planning to execute electoral fraud will have a field day if card readers don’t work effectively.
Proper technicians and backup card readers should always be available to avert this catastrophe. Also, there should be mobile batteries or power banks to ensure that the card readers have power throughout the day.
3. Limiting the use of Adhoc/Temporary Staff
It’s no secret that INEC uses a lot of temporary or adhoc staff during elections, many of which are NYSC Corp members. This isn’t initially a bad idea for including the youths in the electoral processes, but sometimes it can backfire. Some of these youths may not be adequately trained or have enough practical experience, leading to mishandling of materials and equipment, which can frustrate the entire process.
Moreover, if proper training is not done, it could cause a break or cog in the process chain. Also, these temporary staff can be compromised by politicians to do their bidding. Truthfully speaking, they are just temp staff; they don’t really work for INEC and don’t really see the harm they cause in a one day job.
4. Forensic analysis of ballot papers
The ballot paper is a paper slip individuals use to cast their vote on election day. After authenticating voters, they use the ballot paper by thumbprinting on the party/candidate they are voting for. And yes, they are the primary source of electoral fraud.
It is the major form of rigging allowed by compromised election staff or illegal access to ballot papers. Once, a popular video of someone thumbprinting for an entire polling unit by himself surfaced on social media. Ballot papers can be used to rig in favor of candidates even after authenticating accredited voters.
A way to prevent this from continuously happening is to conduct a forensic analysis on ballot papers Samples from a polling unit can be collected and taken to the lab for tests to confirm if it has been rigged or not. Suppose a person thumb-printed 50 ballot papers for a particular electoral position/candidate; forensics analysis will flag the person whose fingerprints appeared more than once for one candidate. The perpetrator should be traced and prosecuted. Candidates who get these kinds of dubious votes can also be punished, especially if they had won the election in that particular polling unit.
5. Setting age restrictions to limit vote buying
Yes, you might think this is impossible to accomplish but never say never. Educating the masses may or may not yield anything positive because of the sufferable economic conditions they are currently facing. People are more likely to side with politicians who would make their lives a living hell for a one-time payment of ₦500 to ₦1000 (or less).
Well, you may say that we had it wrong from the beginning. It’s just 60 years after independence; where did all these corrupt leaders emerge? I can tell you that they didn’t come from Ghana, Chad or Niger. They sprouted from Nigeria, but this article is about proffering solutions, not judgement so let’s skip to the chase.
It would be better if an age restriction is set to limit vote-buying and recycling of it. Eligibility for voting should have an end just like it has a beginning. Voting starts at age 18, so anyone younger than that should not be allowed to vote. Also, it should end by 81 because people beyond this age should not be allowed to vote or be voted for. Yes, we said it for many reasons.
People above this age bracket are those who line up ready to sell their votes for corrupt officials. And the worst part is that most of them don’t live up to seeing the tyrants they put into power oppress their children’s future. It’s not cruel to set an age limit for voting; instead, it’s natural. For instance, the human body develops a limit called menopause for women to relax from the pains of menstruation and birthing. The Nigerian voting process should do well to exclude aged individuals just as they do minors.
6. Militarizing polling units
Some people believe that militarising polling units will frighten voters into not performing their fundamental voting rights, but we think that is not true. Adequate security must be provided to create a sense of security and a relaxed atmosphere. The presence of the military can hinder political thugs from stealing ballot papers or burning votes.
Besides, the military is not only meant to fight external wars but internal conflicts. Let them fulfill their military duty by protecting and safeguarding the lives of civilians who are also performing their civic responsibilities.
7. Immediate counting of votes
Polling units should implement immediate counting of votes to discourage election rigging. Vote counting should be done quickly and immediately for the apparent reason; therefore, any stalling should be regarded as highly suspicious. Results from such centers should not be considered; instead, they should serve as a pointer to compromised officials or electoral malpractice.
It will also be great if INEC can implement a solution to ensure that the results are transmitted to its servers immediately after the party representatives sign the result sheets.
8. Instituting a complete e-voting system
The PVC and card readers system of voting implemented was incredibly brilliant, but we should not stop there. Nigeria has begun her glorious ascent into the e-voting process, and Nigeria should review her electoral act to accommodate e-voting. This will allow INEC to commit to its full implementation.
An e-voting system is an entirely electronic voting system; there is no use of ballot papers that can be rigged or stolen, or burnt. After authenticating accredited voters by the card reader, voters pick their candidates online, and their choices are swiftly recorded in a database. It’s fast, easy, cheap and hard to manipulate.
We can also create electronic polling stations built like an Automated Teller Machine (ATM), where voters can be authenticated and vote for their preferred candidates. This will be the ultimate solution for electoral malpractice in Nigeria. Politicians would have to hire top hackers to compromise INEC’s servers to rig elections. I do not think Nigerian politicians will go to that extent because anyone caught could be charged with a felony.
Free and fair elections will return to Nigeria if one of these solutions is strictly administered and implemented. If you don’t have a permanent voters’ card, click here to find out how to get it.
You can read our previous posts on the series Electoral malpractice in Nigeria with the links below.