In a little over 100 days from today, Nigerians will head to the polls to decide who their new president would be. And while it is campaign season now, it is easy to forget that Nigeria is caught in one of its worst flooding crises ever.
As at October 24, 2022, 612 lives had been lost, 3.2 million people directly affected, 123,807 houses totally damaged and over 392 thousand hectares of farmland destroyed.
The government’s response has sadly been largely inadequate. We hate to add to the piling list of things the flood has affected but can we talk about the pending impacts on the 2023 elections for a minute?
You should be worried about these things ahead of the elections:
20 INEC offices damaged by the flood
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), led by its chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, appeared recently before the House of Representatives. He disclosed that the floods had already destroyed at least 20 of its offices across the country.
INEC office in Edo State [Image source: Eagle Online]
He said, “We have office rent and residential rent. So many of our offices were attacked and some actually flooded after the recent floods. We have 20 offices in that situation.
“For others, we just have to look for a facility to rent. From Jigawa, there was a request for us to look for three offices, following the damage caused by flooding of the offices that we occupied.”
Inaccessible road networks
Last month, the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, lamented that the full extent of the flood’s damage on road infrastructure cannot yet be known. He said it would have to recede before they could make any meaningful assessment.
Flooding in Lokoja [Image source: NAN]
Still, it’s not difficult to imagine how severe the damage is, with the floods having affected 34 out of 36 states. It is also unlikely that any large-scale repairs can take place between now and the 2023 elections. This could mean that some major road networks might remain in a bad state even when the flood abates.
This might discourage voters from traveling long distances to vote ahead of election day.
Disconnected communities and difficulty in transporting election materials
Flooded community in Nigeria [Image source: Abraham Achirga/UNICEF]
Beyond major roads, the road networks in many remote communities in Nigeria may pose challenges. The INEC chairman has already voiced this concern.
At an event hosted by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), he said one of the greatest problems it faces in the conduct of elections is poor transportation systems. This can hamper the distribution of election materials, create delays and affect the integrity of the elections.
Displacement and disenfranchisement of voters
While INEC promised in early September that three million Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) will be able to vote, the flooding emergency may make it difficult to live up to that promise.
Voters at an IDP camp in Borno [Image source NAN]
Many more people have been displaced, with their polling units no longer accessible. Also, INEC has closed all registration for the 2023 election meaning that the newly displaced may unfortunately get disenfranchised.
What can be done?
For the electoral body, they’re in a tough position. Despite their best intentions, many people will find it difficult to vote. Unless a fast-tracked bill is passed by the national assembly making special allowance for newly displaced voters.
Also, the government needs to commit more to ensuring that more roads are fixed before 2023 to encourage higher voter turnouts than in 2019. And on the individual end, just try to stay alive. Only the living can vote.