Nigeria’s elections have historically been marred by violence and manipulations. In fact, reports suggest that these intrusions have always threatened national peace and security; creating an ugly image of Nigeria as a nation that takes one step forward while taking several steps backward in its march to nationhood and economic development.
As Nigerians prepare to exercise their civic duty for the 2023 General Elections, there are concerns about the current state of the nation and the impact it’s likely to have on the elections. Realistically. amidst a host of economic, environmental, and security challenges, over 90 million registered voters will vote in 176,846 polling units distributed across 774 local government areas, according to INEC. This marks a turning point and a critical election for the developing country.
Equal to the task, Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has given assurances of its capacity to ensure and deliver a free, fair, and credible election. Its guarantees are backed by its deployment of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and INEC Election Result Viewing Portal (IReV), two technological innovations the electoral umpire asserts are addressing the ten most pervasive weaknesses in Nigeria’s election result management process which include falsification of votes at polling units, falsification of the number of accredited voters, collation of false results, mutilation of results and computational errors, swapping of results sheets, forging of results sheets, snatching and destruction of results sheets, obtaining declaration and return involuntarily, making declaration and return while result collation is still in progress and poor recordkeeping.
However, despite the leaps made by INEC, stakeholders, and the observer’s group have set up timely interventions to address some of the gaps that are easily overlooked and capable of negatively impacting the elections.
As Africa’s leading civil society organisation, Connected Development (CODE) has successfully monitored several elections (Including the recently concluded 2022 Kenya elections) to ensure strict adherence to electoral guidelines and the rule of law.
Uzabe, is an Open Situation Awareness Room (OSAR) initiative that will provide real-time intelligence, mapping tools, and witness reports from 20,000 trained observers spread across various polling units in Nigeria. With the Uzabe observation tool, CODE is aiming to provide real-time information for citizens and stakeholders and drive adherence to electoral guidelines across polling stations, across the country.
Importantly, Uzabe, a geo-mapping tool, is also designed to keep citizens informed of happenings on election day. As an open-source tool, anyone with internet access and a smart device can stay up-to-date with incident reports from at least 20,000 polling units nationwide.
Some of the factors that allow for electoral violence have been noted to be limited coverage by observers groups and this in part is what Uzabe is designed to address. With eyes, ears, and boots on the ground, manipulations perpetrated by mischief makers and party loyalists/fanatics can be checkmated.
Using the UZABE platform, CODE actively participated in Nigeria’s 2015 and 2019 general elections and deployed over 10,000 observers in both polls, who reported in real-time, leveraging the geo-mapping technological tool.
For this project, CODE deployed 5000 field observers in 35 states out of the 36 states and FCT to provide situation reports from different polling units in their respective states with about 60 high-level situation room personnel that validated and published reports from the field observers; CODE actively participated and made inputs in the recently signed 2022 Electoral Act. CODE also partnered with Cross-check Nigeria which served as a new front to combat fake news during the 2019 general elections in the country. The online platform for the initiative served as a collaborative information verification project aimed at improving the quality of information for the unsuspecting general public by debunking misinformation and fake news and sanitizing the media space during the election.
For the 2023 elections, CODE will deploy the Uzabe technology with the support of 20,000 citizen-based election observers distributed across thousands of polling stations across the country.