Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room: Supplementary Gubernatorial Elections

STATEMENT BY THE NIGERIA CIVIL SOCIETY SITUATION ROOM ON THE SUPPLEMENTARY GUBERNATORIAL ELECTIONS HELD ON SATURDAY, 25TH APRIL 2015

Issued Sunday, 26th April 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 nametags 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 Naija, 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.

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