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Africa Last Updated: Feb 7, 2024 - 1:42:03 PM

Nigeria’s politicians adapt new vote-buying tactics amidst cash shortage
By  Ben Ezeamalu, Africa Report, 21/3/23
Mar 22, 2023 - 3:16:07 PM

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After the Central Bank of Nigeria launched a Naira redesign policy a few weeks before the 2023 general election aimed partly at making cash unavailable for vote-buying on polls day, politicians adopted new tactics on election day: electronic transfers and distribution of gifts. 
The electronic transfers involved the politician or his party’s agent identifying an influential figure at a polling unit and transferring money to his bank account for onward disbursement to those who voted for the party. Alternatively, a list of the voters and their bank details was compiled, and the money was sent to their respective accounts.

In a few cases, the politicians or their agents arrived with POS (Point of Sale) machines and immediately credited the bank account of any voter who showed proof of voting for their party. 

“One of the politicians came this morning, before voting started, and gave N50,000 ($110) to people in each of the four streets here,” Emmanuel Ewenike, a voter in Amukoko, Lagos, tells The Africa Report. “For my street, we will meet the man who collected on our behalf and get our money.”

These methods of buying votes were rampant across Nigeria as citizens went to the polls on 18 March to elect governors and state lawmakers.

In its midday report on election day, civic group YIAGA Africa said it received 15 confirmed reports of vote-buying and bribery across eight states. By Sunday, the incidents had increased to 44 and were mostly through cash inducement and distribution of food items.

Another group, CDD West Africa, noted that there was “increased violence and vote-buying” in the elections. 

Money for votes
Vote-buying or voter inducement is not new to Nigerian politics. The practice of offering voters money or gifts in exchange for their votes is almost as old as the country’s democracy. But in recent years, it has taken a frightening dimension, analysts say, as political parties become more desperate to win elections in the face of INEC’s improved technology.

At the governorship election in Ekiti State, southwest Nigeria, in 2018, vote-buying was so blatant that the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) had to sue INEC for its failure to put “vote-buyers on trial and do something about the allegations of vote-buying by both the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).”

In the 2018 Osun governorship election, agents of one of the political parties were paying up to N20,000 (about $50) to get people to vote for their party.

Ahead of the 2023 general election, Mahmood Yakubu, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), expressed worry about the practice.

“It is not only illegal within the electoral legal framework, but also affects election administration. In the past, vote-buying has been linked to disruption of elections at the polling units and even violent conduct,” Yakubu, a professor, said while speaking at Chatham House in January.In order to solve that problem, the CBN introduced a Naira redesign policy late last year, withdrawing a vast quantity of the old notes in circulation and introducing a few of the redesigned ones. The Bank said limited cash in circulation would discourage vote-buying. But has that been the case?

Although the policy reduced vote trading during the presidential election, the effect was relative “considering that it’s not possible for any candidate to buy the whole country,” says Idayat Hassan, director of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) West Africa.

“In the sub-national elections, it was extremely predominant as a strategy to actually win the votes,” Hassan tells The Africa Report.


Cashless policy
As a result of the CBN policy, Nigerians experienced untold hardship caused by the scarcity of the new Naira notes. There were long queues at Automated Teller Machines and inside banking halls as citizens attempted, without success, to withdraw cash from their bank accounts.

Last month, tempers boiled over as angry bank customers, who were no longer able to access their money, launched attacks on bank facilities in several parts of Nigeria. The CBN initially stuck to its guns, but later capitulated after a Supreme Court decision reversed some aspects of the policy.

During the elections, scarcity of cash led to a reduction in the price of the votes. As a result, politicians resorted to the distribution of foodstuffs or other personal items in exchange for votes. For instance, at a polling unit in Zuru local government in Kebbi State, northwestern Nigeria, All Progressives Congress (APC) agents distributed fabric and rice to women. The men received bags of fertiliser.

According to civil society group YIAGA Africa’s report, at several polling units in Bauchi, also in the northwest, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) agents were seen bribing accredited voters with between N1,000 ($2.20) and N2,000 ($4.40), wrappers, and packs of spaghetti. “The voters hand over their ballot papers to party agents in exchange for the bribe,” according to the report.

In some parts of north-central Nigeria, party agents distributed food and alcoholic drinks in exchange for votes.

A CDD West Africa initial report on the election identified all the major political parties – APC, PDP, Labour Party – as culpable in vote trading. In the northwest, in addition to the gifts, voters also received credit vouchers to be redeemed after results were announced. In Taraba, in the northeast, party agents in multiple polling units infiltrated voting queues, pretending to be voters and offered cash for votes.

In the southeast, there were reports of agents of LP and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) using items such as mobile phones to entice voters.


Arresting suspects
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said it arrested at least 65 people on Saturday for alleged vote-buying. The officials arrested one of the suspects with ‘voter coupons’, which he allegedly confessed would be used to trace and pay those who voted for his party. The EFCC also arrested two other suspects who had in their possession a list containing names of voters with their voter’s card numbers and bank account details.

“Investigation so far revealed that the major modus operandi of the suspects is to give cash, transfer money, coupons and send recharge cards to eligible voters in order to induce them to vote for their candidates,” the commission said in a statement.

The EFCC officials, however, came under attack in Kaduna while trying to arrest a suspect for vote-buying. The agency said the suspect screamed to attract the attention of his colleagues who attacked the EFCC officials with “all manner of weapons.”


Hassan says the solution to the vote trading menace would require an institutional as well as a behavioural approach. She suggested the unbundling of INEC, equipping security officials on election duties, and adopting a workable legal framework.

“You have to find the answer to most of the challenges that were raised in this election. It’s not just about the legal framework, it is about making the law in books to become the law in action,” she says.

Source:Ocnus.net 2023

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