“With Nigeria’s presidential elections just weeks away, it looks increasingly likely that the elections will go to a second round, in what would be the first runoff election since the restoration of democracy in 1999. This should be embraced as an exciting new phase in Nigeria’s democratic development. However, in the shadow of pernicious election violence, the prospect of an extended electoral period raises concerns about prolonged instability.

“Most of the presidential candidates signed a peace accord in September, yet election-related violence has escalated dramatically since that time, with more than 170 separate incidents reported across 34 states and in more than 100 local government areas (LGAs). January was the worst month for election violence so far, with at least 65 reported cases, including assaults on candidates, violent disruptions at campaign rallies, assassinations of party officials, attacks on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) facilities, and daytime shootouts between rival political thugs.

“There has been little accountability for these incidents and it is hard to escape the conclusion that election violence is fueled by a sense of impunity. Organizations such as Yiaga Africa and Kimpact Development Initiative are monitoring election violence risks and trends in sophisticated ways so that Nigeria’s civil society can prevent and mitigate election violence at the community level. Although these efforts are valuable, a significant reduction in election violence will require changing the incentives contributing to it. 

To begin with, security forces must fully investigate incidents of election violence and arrest party officials, operatives and supporters who are involved in organizing and funding election violence at the local level. High-level statements by security force chiefs are helpful but do not go far enough. …”

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