Wednesday 2 July 2014

Security Threat Assessment: Towards 2015 Elections

Key Risk Factors:
·         Persisting insurgency and the proliferation of terrorist camps into new areas
·         Communal conflicts and the increasing activities of armed groups
·         Alleged use of federal might to crush or restrict opposition
·         Inadequate logistics and welfare for security agents on electoral duty
·         Inability of electorate to obtain Permanent Voters Card ahead of the general election

Key Mitigating Factors:
·         Sustained engagements through the Inter-Agency Coordinating Committee on Election Security;
·         Settlement of inter-ethnic/communal disputes
·         Intensified effort to end the insurgency and dislodge the new camps
·         Proper funding for INEC and Security agencies
·         Collaborating between security agencies and early response to identified threats
·         Massive and sustained voter education, especially peace education

Political Context
The quest for peace and stability has become one of the dominant concerns in the run up to the 2015 elections in Nigeria. The last few months have witnessed increasing tension and violence in some states in the country. The security situation in most of Northern Nigeria, and some parts of Southern Nigeria, has been dominated by cases of cattle rustling, communal clashes, banditry, assassinations, kidnappings, ritual killings, political skirmishes, insurgency and rape.  Recent violence in places like Kaduna state has killed more than 200 people, creating tension and possibility of reprisal killing in the state. The unaddressed challenge posed by the proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALWs) across the country remains a major security threat that can shape public perception of insecurity. Despite the heavy involvement of the military in the management of internal security across the country, violence and insecurity still persists. This remains a worry going into the 2015 elections.

In most states, one issue that is generating tension is the plan by Governors that are completing their second term in office to contest the Senatorial elections. Another issue is the zoning of the governorship amongst the senatorial districts in the state. Also, as candidates indicate interest for different positions in the parties, there is palpable tension everywhere as the political landscape continues to witness defection and counter defection from the two major parties.

Preparations for the Elections
Political activities across the country are gradually heightening.  The two major political parties (PDP and APC) are raising their game. The APC has had its state and national congresses. Some of the congresses, like that of Kaduna state, was contentious and have been attracting protest by disgruntled members. The Independent National Electoral Commission had a good outing in the Ekiti State gubernatorial election on 21 June 2014. There are hopes that it will replicate this in Osun on 9 August 2015 and boost public confidence in its preparedness for the 2015 election. However, it still has to surmount the challenge of Continuous Voters Registration and the distribution of Permanent Voters Card in several states of the federation.

Gender Dimension
There is as usual a low participation of women vying for elected political offices with little change to be expected. Only a few women are holding leadership positions at the state and national level. Women are not currently featuring prominently in most of the permutations, neither are they strategically involved in most of the political parties. Nevertheless, as we run towards the third quarter of the year, more of these candidates could emerge. On the other hand, the growing participation of women in the insurgency as evidenced by the recent foiled attempt by a woman to attack an army barrack in Gombe State portends the greatest gender based threat ahead of the 2015 general elections.

Presence and Activities of Non-State Actors
The activities of non-state actors in Nigeria remain very prominent. It has evolved over the years such that there are non - state actors operating across different layers from the communities to the states and at the regional level. Some of these groups have become organised themselves to serve very useful purposes, for example the Vigilante Group of Nigeria (VGN). Some States  have also set up Neighborhood Watch Schemes backed by State Laws. There is a dire need to understand the operations, recruitment, financing and accountability processes of these different groups particularly the ones operating at the national and state levels. The patronage and effectiveness of these groups need to be understood as the country gets closer to the 2015 general elections.

However, in some states local militia and youth groups are used to fuel communal conflicts. This can be seen in the communal feud between the Tiv and Jukun in Taraba which has now been extended to affect the Hausa/Fulani and has already taken a religious dimension with increasing casualties across all divides. This is also likely to affect the smooth conduct of the 2015 elections since all the warring parties may be fielding candidates for the election. The proliferation of Boko Haram’s base in the region is of great concern too. The recent identification of Boko Haram base in three contiguous local governments of Bauchi State - Darazo, Ningi and Ganjuwa needs to be closely watched. The sect’s open air preaching and recruitment of members through monetary benefits to youths from the immediate communities no doubt presents serious threat. With the recent bombing incidents in Abuja and Kano, and the discovery of IEDs in a church in Owerri and a mosque in Kano, concerns about how widespread the insecurity may become in 2015 continues to loom large.

Migration and Internal Displacement
According to a recent report issued by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), an estimated 15.5million people have been affected by conflict and natural disasters in Nigeria. Of this number, 646,993 persons have been internally displaced by insecurity (both communal conflict and insurgency). The conflict has also resulted in an escalation of Sexual and Gender based Violence in the NorthEast. A significant number of persons in the IDP camps are women and they are vulnerable. The rights of victims whose limbs have been affected by the security crisis should also be taken into consideration ahead of the elections.

While all the three states of Adamawa, Yobe and Borno are affected by the insurgency, it is in Borno and Adamawa that internal displacement of people is highest. The continued attack on villages has led to massive in-migration to the urban areas principally Maiduguri and Yola. Apart from the immediate humanitarian crisis created by this influx, there is possible disenfranchisement of these people because of their unwillingness to return back to the villages. The number of displaced persons and communities might also have increased especially on and around the Mandara mountains in Gwoza (Borno), Madagali and Michika LGAs (Adamawa) that represent black spots of insurgency within the region. If these IDP camps re not well managed and catered for in plans for the 2015 elections, it could also reinforce feelings of estrangement and disenfranchisement amongs the IDPs and make them ready recruitment grounds for the insurgency.

Recent Developments within the State Houses of Assembly
In Adamawa State Governor Nyako’s executive, belonging to APC has recently become troubled by the PDP controlled legislature which threatened to impeach him. Defections and counter defections has thrown the House of Assembly in Edo state into chaos. However, the South West region is not experiencing similar turmoil. But with the pendulum of the June 21 gubernatorial election swinging in favour of PDP, some defections may happen ahead of the 2015 elections in Ekiti State in particular and in the South West in general, more so if PDP manage to get Osun State come 9 August.

Presence and impact of the activities of the military, police and other security agencies
The insurgency in the North East persists in spite of the state of emergency. The greatest fear being expressed in the South West region now is that having successfully used the military to cow opposition element in Ekiti State, similar template might be used in Osun State during the August 9 gubernatorial election. Alleged police excesses in controlling recent protests and even peaceful demonstrations (such as the #BringBackOurGirls gatherings in Abuja and the protests by students in Lagos) have been underscored as a significant challenge going into the 2015 election.

In the South East, the presence of the military in some states has helped to restore some sense of public safety among the populace. The noticeable impact of the huge presence of the military is felt in the area of significant reduction in the incidences of kidnapping. More so, the recent interception of over 460 suspected Boko Haram insurgents along the Enugu–Port Harcourt by military forces reinforces the utility of military presence in the region. What is needed is for the military and security forces in the region to continue to discharge their responsibility in professional manner. In this way, a culture of healthy civil-military relation will help in the promotion of security both before and during the forthcoming elections.

Violent Hot Spots
We categorized the states according to the perceived level of threat using traffic light signals (green, amber and red); green indicating stability/lowest threat states and red indicating the highest threat level/ most volatile states. The measures used for the categorization include history of violence, degree of control by incumbent and relationship with the federal government, stability of internal state party politics, existence of terrorist/militant activity, state of emergency or communal/religious conflict, bid for second term by incumbent governor, zoning arrangement, jostle for federal and state legislative positions etc. Most states fit into various categories based on comparism within their region and not on the scale of risks nationally.

·         RED: NC – Benue, Nasarawa and Plateau; NE – Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and Taraba; NW – Kano and Kaduna SS – Rivers;  SE – Enugu and Imo; SW – Osun and Ekiti

·         AMBER: NC – Kogi and Niger (and FCT); NE – Bauchi and Gombe; NW – Kastina, Sokoto and Zamfara; SE –Abia, Anambra and Ebonyi; SS – Akwa Ibom, Delta and Edo; SW – Lagos, Ogun, Ondo and Oyo

·         GREEN: NC – Kwara; NW – Jigawa and Kebbi; SS – Cross River and Bayelsa; SW –(None for NE, SW and SE)

Regional Analysis
North Central: The climate of fear and insecurity that pervades the North Central zone is pervasive in the light of the challenges posed by criminality and rural banditry, cattle rustling and communal conflicts, as experienced in States such as Benue, Nasarawa and Plateau. Also, the bomb explosion that was witnessed in the city of Jos, Tuesday, 20th May, 2014 constitutes real threats to security and stability. These states remain hotspots to watch in the run up to the 2015 elections.

North East: Despite the problems of insecurity affecting the region, political parties and their candidates in the northeast, like other parts of the country, are busy getting set for 2015 elections. INEC has put elections in the northeast as a probable exercise due to the growing level of insecurity; it therefore appears least prepared in that regard. The attempt to impeach Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State is likely to have serious security implications for the state when viewed against the backdrop of Awwal Bamanga Tukur’s backing from Abuja to succeed Nyako. The ongoing feud between the former Borno State governor, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and the incumbent Governor Kasim Shettima will likely lead to a showdown especially towards the governorship and Borno Central Senatorial seat elections come 2015 with immense security implications. There is also a renewed commitment in Taraba to scuttle the governorship ambition of Acting Governor.

North West: The rising political tension in Kano and Kaduna states are undoubtedly some of the states to watch. It appears southern Kaduna, Kaduna city and Kano city will be major flashpoints. The nature of violence may not necessarily be partisan; it could take different dimension including ethnic or religion. Southern Kaduna has been experiencing ranging spate of banditry and violence with strong possibility of escalating reprisals attacks in other parts of the state. As the country moves closer to the 2015 election the internal contradictions of the two major parties have begun to manifest in Kano and Kaduna state. These contradictions have strong potential for violence. These political tension coupled with identity based historical grievances could degenerate into violence. Although membership registration and congresses have been concluded in APC, it left in its wake discontent among members in Kaduna. This disgruntlement may draw into primary elections and possibly result into violent skirmishes. Thus threat level is high in Kano, Kaduna and Katsina state.

South East: Enugu, Abia and Ebonyi are firmly PDP states but contestation over zoning to senatorial district and fights as to who succeeds the exiting governors make them states rto watch. Defecting of the Imo governor to APC and efforts by candidates from other senatorial districts and parties to unseat him makes Imo a place to watch also. Though there is no gubernatorial election in Anambra in 2015, contestation by serving senators and new-comers will make the election one to also watch.

South South: The ongoing crisis in Rivers State keeps it in the red. Inter and intra party tension and succession contestation amongst zoning arrangements make Delta and Akwa Ibom states. Edo is not up for gubernatorial election and the senatorial elections may not throw up significant security threats. However, the ongoing crisis in the State house of Assembly makes it one to watch. There are intra party tensions in Bayelsa and Cross River but these are not likely to spill over.

South West: The looming August 9 gubernatorial election in Osun state makes it on to watch. PDP will want to consolidate its recent success in Ekiti State by also upstaging the incumbent from APC.  APC will want to prove to Nigerians that PDP victory in Ekiti State is a fluke.  Envisaged period of violence are during the PVC distribution and CVR exercises (which has been previously reported), party primaries, campaigns, Election Day and post-election day. Developments in Ogun, Oyo, Ondo and Lagos States indicate that the threat levels might become very high as the time for candidate nomination draws near.

Synthesis of Key Risk Factors
a.       Insurgency: The proliferation of terrorist camps into new areas represents the greatest risk factor towards 2015 elections;
b.      Communal Conflict: Inter ethnic conflict between hitherto peaceful groups and communities pose danger to the conduct of elections;
c.       The alleged use of federal might in crushing opposition by the Federal Government may affect peaceful conduct of elections;
d.      Increasing activities of armed groups. In the last two months more than 200 people have been killed and thousand others displaced in southern Kaduna.
e.      Inability of electorates to obtain their Permanent Voters Card is a tinder box that could cause violence during the forthcoming gubernatorial election in Osun States as well as in the general elections.
f.        Inadequate logistics and welfare for security agents on election duties pose a serious danger to the electoral process as this will make them susceptible to political influence.
g.       The corruptive use of money during the electioneering period is worrisome. In the just concluded elections, observers reported widespread vote-buying through distribution of raw cash, food and Recharge Cards to prospective voters.

Mitigating Factors and Recommendations
a.      INEC should sustain its engagements through the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) which provides opportunity for synergy and collaboration among the security agencies.
b.      There should be increased and sustained engagement among key institutions and organizations such as INEC, security agencies, civil society, media, community and religious leaders towards restoring public confidence on the electoral process;
c.       Governments at all level should pay attention to, and track violence hotspots or flashpoints for effective preparedness and response to emergencies;
d.      Settlement of inter-ethnic disputes between warring groups is vital for peaceful conduct of 2015 elections;
e.       Effort should be made to deal with the ranging violence in southern Kaduna before it escalates into state wide violence.
f.        The federal and state governments should intensify effort in addressing the Boko Haram insurgences to avoid disruption of election activities.
g.      INEC must be properly funded and should ensure proper distribution of PVCs to all the old and new registrants ahead of the general elections in 2015.
h.      The federal government and its allies need to properly fund security agents that will be deployed on election duties so that they will not be beholden to politicians for their comfort and survival while on official election duty.
i.        INEC, National Orientation Agency, media and Civil Society Organisations need to embark on massive and sustained voter education, peace education and general civic education aimed at ensuring that there is violence free election in Osun and during the February 2015 General Elections. The May 16 launch of National Inter-Agency Advisory Committee on Voter Education and Publicity (NICVEP) and subsequent launches of same in the states is commendable.

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