Nigeria faces “dangerous abyss” after dubious elections, bishops warn

Nigeria’s Catholic bishops have warned the nation could plunge into a “preventable crisis” if confidence in the electoral process is not restored after this week’s dodgy elections.

On Wednesday, Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Bola Ahmed Tinubu the winner of a disputed presidential election, amid allegations of rigged elections and calls for a return to voting.

According to INEC, Tinubu, who represents the ruling All Progressives Congress party, received nearly 8.8 million votes, or 36.6 percent of the total vote, defeating Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the popular third-force candidates, Peter Obi.

Caritas Nigeria deployed more than 6,000 election observers to Nigeria’s 36 states and reported widespread interference in the electoral process, including brutal beatings of voters and observers, ballot burning, roadblocks, underage voting, and collusion by police and INEC officials to tamper with the elections.

“In some cases, sensitive and non-sensitive materials have been burned by thugs; Voters and observers were beaten to death in full splendor by security personnel who not only observed but also participated in the charade,” the statement said.

Nigerian President-elect Bola Tinubu (R) walks to receive his certificate of return to President-elect from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Abuja March 1, 2023. (KOLA SULAIMON/AFP via Getty)

We recommend, effective immediately, “that election reviews, new elections in areas of overwhelming violence and the seamless overhaul of most INEC commissioners must happen to avert civil disobedience,” Caritas said.

For its part, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) said INEC had not kept its promise to ensure that “the sovereign will of the people is accurately expressed in the conduct of the elections”.

“Notable tensions” over electoral rigging hang across the country “not just among some political parties, but among a cross-section of the Nigerian population,” said CBCN President Archbishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji of Owerri.

“We therefore urge INEC to immediately take appropriate steps to address the troubling issues, in order to (sic) diffuse tensions and in the interests of the common good,” Archbishop Ugorji said.

“No matter how long it takes, INEC must ensure that it is doing the right thing now to ensure the sanctity of voters’ collective will is not violated in order to restore citizens’ trust in our government and its institutions.”

Bishops have urged Nigerians to remain calm and prayerful and “to give INEC time to prove that it is still worthy of our trust”.

“At this point Nigeria is on the brink of a dangerous precipice, INEC must live decently lest the nation plunge into a preventable crisis,” they warned.

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