During the interactive sessions of the trainings, potential challenges towards having a free and fair electoral process in Rivers. State were discussed and deliberated. The project team noted these key areas of the electoral process that were of particular concern to most of the training participants. They are itemized as follows
- There is still the notion that electorate votes won’t count regardless of whether they vote or not. There was a general consensus that votes had already been manipulated even before the results of the elections are announced. Hence the very low confidence in the authenticity of the election results.
- Due to high militarization of the Niger Delta, and the ongoing political tussle between the two major political parties (APC & PDP) in Rivers State, there is a high tendency for armed violence during the elections fueled by party politics and the scramble for power.
- The low levels of awareness and sensitization in rural communities of the state were also cited as another major challenge. The participants indicated awareness building and sensitization at the grassroots level and in most cases, the local dialect will go a long way in contributing to fair, and violence free elections.
- The use of the social media in sharing of hate speeches, fake news, and violence inducing posts should be checked, removed and the violators punished. They cited this as one of the main reasons for increased violence during the party congress elections during in May 2018.
- Most of the participants expressed concern on the role of the security agencies during the elections. They were of the opinion that they might be used to subvert the will of the voting masses. As identified in Ekiti state, governorship elections the participants are questioning the neutrality and non-partisan nature of security agencies
The collection of the Personal Voters Card (PVC) for already registered voters was also identified as a major challenge to the voting process during the elections. The participants noted that most rural people don’t know where or how to collect their PVCs and this might create a barrier for those who will want to cast their votes