The rerun elections held in parts of three of Nigeria’s 36 states have amplified some of the inherent defects in Nigeria’s electoral system, civic groups have said.
The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room in its report of the elections conducted in Abia, Imo and Taraba states on Saturday identified some of the defects observed in the elections. Some of the problems identified by the groups include ‘perennial’ late arrival of electoral materials, lack of professionalism by some security operatives, and improper acts by electoral officials.
The group, made up of about 6o civil society groups in Nigeria, then made five recommendations which it said would help improve the conduct of elections in the country.
“The appointment, control and oversight over the activities of RECs including their relationship with the national headquarters of INEC must be reviewed with a view to finding a smart balance that enhances oversight without undermining state effectiveness,” it said in one of the recommendations.
“The current arrangement has proved to be problematic. A lot is still left to the discretion of RECs and that discretion has been abused. The provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act in this regard will need to be reviewed and reformed.”
Read the full statement below.
STATEMENT BY THE NIGERIA CIVIL SOCIETY SITUATION ROOM ON THE SUPPLEMENTARY GUBERNATORIAL ELECTIONS HELD ON SATURDAY, 25TH APRIL 2015
Issued Sunday, April 26, 2015
Following from the April 11, 2015 governorship elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, declared the governorship elections in Abia, Imo and Taraba States as inconclusive and scheduled supplementary elections to hold on Saturday, April 25, 2015.
INEC conducted supplementary governorship elections in the affected States as well as Senatorial and States Assembly elections in several of the States were elections did not take place due to irregularities.
In Abia State, supplementary governorship elections were conducted in 276 polling units across 9 Local Government Areas. In Taraba State, elections were conducted across 159 polling units in 10 Local Government Areas. Imo State also had elections in 259 polling units across 23 Local Government Areas.
The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room (Situation Room) observed the said elections and received field reports from its deployed observers and other election observer networks from Abia, Taraba and Imo States. In this regard, we wish to make the following observations:
1.Situation Room wishes to commend voters in Abia, Imo and Taraba States for their effort in participating in the supplementary elections and reiterates that the dedication and resilience which has been the hallmark of citizen’s participation in the 2015 general elections continued even in the supplementary elections.
2.We note that there was generally low voter turnout in Imo and Abia States. The voter turnout in Taraba State was relatively average.
3. We also note the inability of INEC to adequately communicate to the public the exact polling units where supplementary elections were being held due to its late release of the lists of polling units.
4. Across the three States, our observers reported late opening of polls and significant delays in the deployment of election workers and materials. However, accreditation started earlier in Taraba State in comparison to Imo and Abia States according to reports.
5. Situation Room’s observations indicate that the Card Readers functioned relatively better in most polling units across the three states than in previous elections, although there were also many reported cases of inability of Card Readers to authenticate voters, including attempts by INEC ad hoc staff in PU001, REG Area: 07 Uvuru II, Umuokehie hall, Aboh Mbaise in Imo State to sabotage the Card Readers by not giving incident forms to people whose finger prints could not be verified and insisting to fill on behalf of the persons.
6. There was sufficient security presence in Abia, Taraba and Imo States. The military personnel deployed in Imo State were overly aggressive. They detained and restricted the access of domestic accredited observers and media personnel to polling unit across the three Senatorial zones. It is important to note that military personnel across the three Senatorial zones where the elections held in Imo State had no name tags making it difficult to identify officers. One of the cars used by these officers had the following registration details NA 02234.
7. INEC deployed three National Commissioners and three Resident Electoral Commissioners to each of the three States as part of its commitment and effort to ensure credible elections. However the reliance on National commissioners to rectify election challenges underscores the latent inadequacies in the appointment of RECs and the operational framework within which the States offices of INEC operate.
8. Specific reports from Abia State indicate that there was a general atmosphere of fear, anxiety and discouragement.
In the light of the above, the Situation Room wishes to recommend:
1. That the perennial challenge of logistics management and late opening of polls have sadly become a permanent feature of our electoral system. There is an urgent need to review the logistics management of INEC and explore the possibility of partnership between INEC and logistics management companies as hybrid system to manage deployment of human and material resources during elections.
2. As earlier emphasized by the Situation Room, the involvement of the military in policing elections in Nigeria must be situated within a strict protocol of rules of engagement. The behavior of the military in Imo State supplementary election was brutish and unprofessional and the development of election protocols and training of military personnel is urgent for subsequent elections.
3. The Card Readers continue to elicit a lot of resistance from politicians who are constantly looking for ways to undermine the Card Readers. It is our view that the Card Readers must become a permanent feature of our elections but would require additional effort from INEC to address some of the lingering technical challenges with the Card Readers and to also optimize the benefit of the Card Reader as a tool for ensuring credible elections.
4. The appointment, control and oversight over the activities of RECs including their relationship with the national headquarters of INEC must be reviewed with a view to finding a smart balance that enhances oversight without undermining state effectiveness. The current arrangement has proved to be problematic. A lot is still left to the discretion of RECs and that discretion has been abused. The provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act in this regard will need to be reviewed and reformed.
5. There is need to improve the capacity of returning and collation officers to understand and implement the provisions of the Electoral Act, including the rules on the collation and cancellation of elections.
6. We conclude by again recognizing the commendable role of citizens in the election process and call on all stakeholders to invest significantly in civic education as a recurrent process rather than ad hoc event around elections. That way, the momentum built up around these elections can be transformed into a desire for citizens’ engagement with the governance process.
7. Overall, Situation Room commends INEC for improving on the earlier conduct of the elections in the three affected areas.
The Situation Room is made up of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working in support of credible and transparent elections in Nigeria and includes such groups as Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), CLEEN Foundation, Action Aid Nigeria, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Enough is Enough Nigeria, Wangonet, Partners for Electoral Reform, JDPC and Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA), CWAE. Others are Development Dynamics, Human Rights Monitor, Election Monitor, Reclaim NaijaNaija, Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Centre LSD, CITAD, Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN), CISLAC, WREP, Proactive Gender Initiative and several other CSOs numbering more than Sixty.