Ceo forum 2023

Election flaws seen as threat to Nigeria’s investment drive

There are fears that the issues, including violence and voter suppression, that dogged the 2023 polls could be a major threat to Nigeria’s ability to attract the much-needed investments.

Experts who spoke to BusinessDay said the presidential and National Assembly elections held on February 25 as well as the governorship and State House of Assembly on March 18 were poorly conducted with disregard for the electoral law.

They said this could be a disincentive for investors who keenly watched the election process and outcomes, adding that they would prefer to commit their monies in places where rules, regulations and laws are made and obeyed to the letter.

“The public show of disrespect for rule of law will certainly affect investors’ perspective of our country,” Eze Onyekpere, lead director at Centre for Social Justice, told BusinessDay.

“The videos and reports of people being disenfranchised in their own country is a big minus to us; it shows that we are being governed by thugs and no investor in his right sense will want to invest in such a country.”

Many say the concerns being raised at the end of the elections are germane, especially as investment inflows into Nigeria continue to dwindle amid tight economic conditions, including high inflation, tepid growth and poor jobs.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the total value of capital importation into Nigeria has steadily declined for three consecutive quarters, settling at $1.535 billion by the second quarter of 2022.

The bureau’s data indicated that capital importation dropped from $2.187 billion in the last quarter of 2021, and then by 20.86 percent decline in Q1 2022 to $1.731 billion.

The largest amount of capital importation in Q2 2022, which is the most recent from the NBS, was received through portfolio investment, which accounted for 49.33 percent at $757.32 million.

This was followed by other investments with 41.09 percent at $630.87 million and foreign direct investment accounted for 9.58 percent at $147.16 million of total capital imported in during the period.

Speaking further on the negative impact of the flawed polls on the economy, Onyekpere said there are a lot of matters arising from the elections, “including a national feeling of injustice as it appears the votes may not have been properly counted.”

He particularly decried the late arrival of officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) during the election, which, according to him, is a sanctionable offence since the election date and details had been fixed over six months ago.

He said: “INEC deliberately violated binding rules of engagement for organising presidential elections.

“The result of the presidential election has been vitiated by the deliberate mischief of the leadership of INEC. This leadership needs to be prosecuted, to be asked to step aside and prevented from further harm to the national interest.”

Barry Andrews, chief observer, EU Election Observation Mission, had in the preliminary statement of the EU EOM on the governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections noted that Nigerians who had hungered for democracy and were ready to be involved in the voting process lost their excitement due to failures by INEC.

Andrews said, “Throughout the mission, we saw that Nigerians have a great appetite for democracy and are keen to engage in various civic activities. However, in many parts of the country, their expectations were not met. Many were disappointed and we witnessed voter apathy that is in part, a clear consequence of failures by political elites and, unfortunately, also by INEC.

“Public confidence and trust in INEC were severely damaged on 25 February due to lack of transparency and operational failures in the conduct of the federal level polls.

“Up until the postponement, INEC continued to abstain from providing information, limiting its communication to a few press releases and ceremonial statements and hence failing to address public grievances and rebuild confidence in the electoral process.

“Positively, INEC introduced some corrective measures ahead of Saturday’s polls, allowing a timely delivery of sensitive materials and improved use of election technologies, yet the institution continued to lack transparency.”

Read also: 2023 fractured elections: Where INEC got it wrong

Andrews said polling on March 18 “was disrupted by multiple incidents of thuggery and intimidation of voters, polling officials, observers, and journalists. “Lagos, Kano, and other states in the southern and central parts were the most affected. Unfortunately, there were many casualties and fatalities. Vote-buying, also directly observed by EU EOM observers, further detracted from the appropriate conduct of the elections.”

Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, executive director at Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, expressed worry that Nigeria may be treated in isolation as leaders deny reports of electoral theft and misconduct.

“If these misconduct and illegality are properly addressed, there is the possibility of gaining investors’ confidence which will boost our economic growth. But if we continue to pretend as if nothing is wrong, then the country may face isolation which may not be good for us,” Rafsanjani told Businessday.

“International observers witnessed the elections and, according to their report, the Independent National Electoral Commission has failed to live up to expectations in Nigeria’s electoral process.”