INEC And The 2019 Presidential Election In Nigeria: A Prognostication
The INEC, as an instrument of processing democratic ideals and structures, is hopefully, expected to be a truly independent body that personifies the ideals of transparency, impartiality, accountability and responsiveness. This worldwide trend known as democratization has made the issue of election a crucial political imperative. Nigeria’s experience with electoral politics has over the years been characterized by high incidence of electoral malaise manifesting in the prevalence of electoral rigging, violence and other forms of malpractices which tend to erode established electoral standards and defy the prospects of free, fair and credible elections in the country. The methodology and procedures used for this research is basically in description of the study areas, types and sources of data used in gathering information on the subject matter, techniques or instruments of data collection, sampling procedures as well as method of data analysis.
The findings, of this research agreed with assumptions upon which this study was premised that INEC and some political office holders in Nigeria engender circumstances which make the realization of free, and fair elections problematic, the character of people in government in Nigeria’s electoral politics detracts from democratic essence and merit as well as political office holders impacted negatively to predict whether INEC will conduct free, fair and credible elections in 2019. Lastly, the study was conducted to predict whether INEC will conduct free, fair and credible elections in 2019 with reference to the outcome of two elections which took place this 2018 in in Ekiti and Osun state. On the basis of the findings of this research, the following recommendations are proposed which will help to address some of the issues raised in the course of the research undertaking. Politicians in Nigeria should imbibe genuine democratic culture and learn to relegate their personal interests to supreme national interest which is peace, political stability and economic development by allowing popular expression to decide who should be in control of political leadership during conduct of elections.
1.1 Background of Study
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), is the institutionalized governmental body established, through the instrumentality of law, to manage the nation’s electoral process. The INEC, as an instrument of processing democratic ideals and structures, is hopefully, expected to be a truly independent body that personifies the ideals of transparency, impartiality, accountability and responsiveness (Udu, 2015). This perhaps, informed the popular perception that the body is insulated from partisan politics, and that, it is fully empowered to discharge its avowed duties devoid of any influence whatsoever (Nkwede et al., 2014).
Violence in elections, which is a major bane of politics in Nigeria, has become a basis for arriving at inconclusive results. Election-related casualties and communal violence in northern part of Nigeria sequel to the April 2011 presidential elections resulted in over 800 deaths according to the Human Rights Watch even when the poll was adjudged as one of the freest and fairest in the country. Soon after the presidential election, supposed supporters of president Mohammadu Buhari the then presidential candidate in the election, began demonstrations in most part of the north.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is an institution empowered by the 1999 constitution to conduct election in Nigeria and as an umpire, the institution is supposed to be truly independent in other to conduct a free and fair election. However, the commission over the years has shown to the public that is not capable of conducting a free and fair election and this is manifested in the series of election held in the forth republic. INEC has always jilted the electorates by playing the script of its employer. The commission cannot hold a credible election in the present circumstance if the mode of appointments and their funding is not changed.
Most of the problems we have with INEC is that, these people are members of the ruling party and their mandate is for them to protect the interest of their political party according to their party constitution and on the other hand to build confidence of loyalty to those who appointed them as members of the commission, nothing good can come out of a corrupt mind and as it were, a spade is always a spade.
The 2019 presidential elections in Nigeria will be the country’s sixth since 1999, when it shifted to democracy after a long period of military rule. Most of these elections have been tarnished by acts of violence – including attacks on politicians – and vote rigging that often influences the results.
In Nigeria, the issue of election has been a problematic endeavor over the years. Ironically, election in Nigeria has been bereft of democratic ideals, much as it has been characterized by untoward circumstances. According to Ibeanu, (2007:3);
The Electoral process as currently constituted in Nigeria is psychologically alienating for the vast majority of the people who are largely outsiders and are only periodically inserted in the process when they cast votes. At the same time this alienation is underscored by the fact that even when these vote casters have completed the ritual of voting, the outcome bears little semblance to what they chose in their ballots.
Besides, there have been problems of electoral violence and fraud, bulk of which may arise from the excesses of the politicians in their desperate bid to consolidate, capture or control state power. In the face of this therefore, electoral experiences in Nigeria so far have left much to be desired. It is against the above that this research work is focusing on the INEC and the 2019 Presidential elections.
1.2 Statement of Research Problem
Nigeria went to the polls in 2019 with the Electoral Act (2010) as the legal and institutional platform. After the election, however, it became obvious that the much desired free, fair and credible elections were not fully achieved going by the number of problems that dotted the electoral process. Firstly, despite Constitutional amendments to give INEC financial autonomy structural problems continue to confront it thereby hampering is ability to conduct free, free and credible elections. Thus it is over stressed due to multi task that both the Constitution and the Electoral Act have assigned to it.
Interlocutory appeal shall not operate as a stay of proceedings e.t.c. However, the most obvious lapses were in the area of Electoral fraud.
Secondly, the issue of electoral fraud and the lack of credibility of the electoral process have been with the Nigerian people for some time. It has more or less become a feature of Nigerian elections. It is rooted in the do or die‖ politics practiced by some Nigerian politicians and political parties. Unfortunately, as a large number of those that engage in electoral fraud and irregularities get away with it, it becomes the norm rather than the exception.
Despite the creation of these offences by the law and the sanctions provided for them, few offenders are apprehended and prosecuted by the various security agencies in Nigeria. The consequence is that the offences remain in the statute books as mere offences while candidates engage in competitive rigging. Consequently, the candidate who out-rigs the other is declared the winner while the opponent is forced to proceed to the election tribunal as the underdog to struggle with the person with the power of incumbency.
Although the law prescribes the processes and procedures for the legitimacy of elections, the same law also recognises that things may not always go as prescribed. In which case, candidates and political parties that participated in an election nay question the legitimacy and legality of such elections before the election tribunals set up for that purpose. The law also recognises the fact that some individuals and groups may attempt to subvert the electoral process and attempt to come to power through illegal means. It is on the basis of this that the law has created electoral offences and prescribed punishment for those that offend the rules of conduct.
The INEC which is the umpire of electioneering in Nigeria is being the discussed in this work with particular reference to the 2019 elections.
1.3 Objective of the Research
- To examine whether INEC, as constituted legally been able to manage the 2019 presidential elections in Nigeria.
- To appraise the Electoral Act, 2010 in order to determine the adequacy or otherwise of sanctions for electoral offences and fraud as provided in the Electoral Act 2010 during the 2019 presidential elections.
- To chart the way forward and future prospects of Nigerian elections.
1.4 Research Questions
- Is INEC, as constituted legally been able to manage the 2019 presidential elections in Nigeria?
- What is the way forward and future prospects of Nigerian elections.
1.5 Justification of the Study
The justification for this study is premised on three grounds
Firstly, the need to examine the desirability to further strengthen INEC by further amendments to Electoral Act in order to enhance its capacity, efficiency and efficacy to deliver free, fair and credible elections.
Secondly; INEC on electoral fraud are not effective in dealing with Electoral fraud in the 2019 presidential election.
The need to identify areas to improve the efficacy of the law with responds to reducing Electoral fraud provides justification for this work.
Thirdly, the need to consider enfranchising the Nigerian Diaspora in Elections (they did not participate in 2019 presidential elections) considering their contribution to the Gross Domestic product of Nigeria (GDP).
1.6 Scope of the Research
The scope of this work is focused mainly on INEC , as it relates to the conduct of free, fair and credible elections devoid of electoral fraud by a truly independent body. This is as it affects the conduct of the2019 presidential elections in Nigeria. The scope has been limited to INEC and the presidential Elections of 2019.
It did not cover election to local councils even though provided for in the Electoral Act 2010. It is also limited to the legal aspects of the elections as provided for in the CFRN 1999 and the Act. Thus historical or political issues though have bearing on the discourse on democracy and election would not be in direct focus.
Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations
The 2019 presidential elections in Nigeria was held in February 2019 under the legal regime of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 , the Electoral Act 2010,and guidelines regulating the conduct of institutions and agencies involved in elections. The National Assembly did a commendable job in 2010 in its amendment of the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act 2010 among which were: making the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) financially independent when it made its expenditure derivable directly from the Consolidated Revenue Fund; inclusion of time limitation for the hearing of election petition, appointment of secretary to INEC, IDP enfranchisement etc. The Electoral Act 2010 now contains provisions to address delayed hearing of election petition unlike the position under the repealed Electoral Act 2006. However, there is the need to further amend the Constitution as well as the extant Electoral Act to further guarantee and strengthen the independence of INEC by making the Commission not subject to the direction and control of any person or authority in the exercise of all its operation. Additionally, the constitution as well as the Electoral Act should be further amended to accommodate other recommendations of the Electoral Reform Committee such as independent candidacy, giving greater weight to the substance of the petition rather than mere technicalities among others. This is imperative to restore credibility in the electoral process in Nigeria and ensure the conduct of free, fair and credible elections in the country.
The need to enfranchise Nigerian Diaspora in subsequent elections is necessary giving their economic contribution thus the amendment of the Electoral Act 2010, to grant Voting rights for Nigerians in the Diaspora contravenes neither the Nigerian constitution nor any other known law in Nigeria. Rather, it revolves around and seeks to strengthen the following constitutional issues as provided for in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria;
- Franchise: Right to vote and be voted for;
- Rights of representation;
- Right to choose a candidate in an election;
- Right to be informed of what representatives are doing with your mandate
- Right to ascertain the level of constituency development; and
- Right of recall.
The reports of various independent observers of the 2011 general elections shows that Nigeria has made a major leap in its democratic development with the organization of elections that was rated as being credible, free, fair and conclusive. Massive political education of the citizenry and the political class, will to a large extent correct some of the identified anomalies, through discouragement of involvement in electoral irregularities.
The post-presidential election violence of 2011 revealed the major shortcoming of the National security system of the country, which despite reports of electoral violence in previous elections could not proactively work to avert such a very unfortunate occurrence, which led to loss of innocent lives and countless property. The Nigerian government needs to train and equip its security agencies to be able to forestall violent breakdown of law and order, either before, during and after elections, utilizing the instrumentality of community policing; with the enlightened participation of the citizenry.
The litmus test for democracy in Nigeria will be the extent to which the electoral process through the electoral law instituted is able to engender fair, participatory, and inclusive electoral participation by the people. If the electoral law is weak, deficient, or poorly enforced, the electoral process will be easily subverted. There is need, therefore, to reform and strengthen the electoral law to ensure full adherence to those laws.
Unfortunately, electoral process has always been faulty, skewed and manipulated in favour of one party or candidate at the expense of the others. This has been the practice from one election to the other, thereby making electoral management a daunting task since independence in Nigeria. In most cases, election results have been rejected by the electorates and followed up by violence. This has led to the collapse of the first and second republics as well as the aborted third republic in Nigeria. This is a great lesson to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Any attempt to skew or manipulate election results either in favour of a political party or candidate at the expense of others may spell a great doom for the fourth republic in Nigeria. Therefore, INEC must be truly independent, transparent and impartial in the performance of its functions as stipulated by the 1999 constitution and the 2010 electoral laws. It must carry out its operational activities in such a manner to be perceived in reality by all actors in the electoral process, to be neutral, objective and above board. Apart from this, INEC must be able to exhibit high-level of competence in the discharge of its constitutional assigned duties with minimal or no institutional, structural or financial hindrances. INEC must be seen to be truly independent in every sense of the world. It will be stressed here that without vibrant and competent people being appointed into INEC to strengthen it and manage elections there will be no strong INEC and the conduct of elections will be seriously flawed and the whole democratization process will be thrown into disrepute or grounded to a halt.
Electoral violence continues to be a recurring decimal in the polity. This is largely fuelled with the amount of money associated with elective offices. The just concluded elections in 2015 posed a different challenge considering the level of insecurity pervading the country. The Boko haram insurgency for once raised the bar as there were fears that elections will be impossible to conduct in several parts of the country while the insurgents can also exacerbate existing conflicts.
While the death tolls in the 2015 elections cannot compare to the post-election violence of 2011 that led to the death of hundred and displacement of thousands of people, the tolls in the elections still remained high.
Section 227 of the Constitution and section 81 of the Electoral Act prescribe punishment for the contravention of electoral offences. However, the adequacy of the provisions to fight electoral violence, remains in question, one is that the sentences is very light, secondly is the trial of election offences in regular court makes prosecution highly ineffective as INEC is hampered by the small size of its legal department and cannot effectively prosecute.
Elections are seen as the hallmark of democracy because it provides the legal framework through which the change in political office holders and legitimate government is established. For any government to be legitimate, the Electoral process must be in line with the dictates of the electoral laws as enshrined in the regulatory framework. There were gross violations of the 2010 Electoral Act by the ruling elite which has adversely affected the electoral process and democratic consolidation in Nigeria‘s Fourth Republic. Several sections of theElectoral Act 2010 were violated e.g. Section 91(2); 95(2); 99(1-3) etc also Section 221 etc of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The need to implement the Justice Uwais commission‘s recommendation of the setting up of an Electoral Offences Court in order to punish offenders; and for INEC to be strengthened and given the autonomy in order to enforce the laws as enshrined in the Act.
The paper concludes that the 2019 Presidential Election has similitude with the previous Presidential Elections in Nigeria from 1979 in terms of voting pattern and political behaviour. The electorates voted for their Presidents with much emphasis on ethnicity, religion and regionalism. The phenomenon seems to continue despite the development of democracy in the country. The paper also concludes that the 2019 Presidential Election differs in many ways from the previous Presidential Elections in the history of the country. One of the ways is the higher number of political parties with a total registered number of parties up to 91 and 71 of them fielded candidates for the Presidential contest. The work therefore recommends that for a voting pattern to change in Nigeria towards evaluation of performance instead of sentimental cleavages there must be parties with political ideology that can distribute power and resources based on equality and equity instead of clientelism. It is also recommended that there is a need for an intensive and aggressive enlightenment of the voters towards political socialisation.
Further to the above findings, the following recommendations are hereby proposed:
For the prompt prosecution of electoral offenses, the Electoral Act should be amended to accommodate the establishment of an Electoral Offences Tribunal to be composed and inaugurated on the year of elections to handle all pre-election and Election
Day Offences ranging from registration of voters, buying and selling of voter’s cards, violation of time of commencement of campaign, financial inducement of voters on Election Day, corruption of ad hoc election officials etc. The proposed tribunal should be manned by both serving judges and retired judicial officers that are still active to handle strictly electoral offence throughout all stages of elections in an election year and six months after the election.
In addition to the above, the Electoral Act should equally be amended to provide for an autonomous Electoral Offences Commission with the capacity to investigate all electoral fraud and related offences, coordinate enforcement and prosecution of all electoral offences. The Commission should have the capacity and legal instrument to set up Mobile Courts to try election offences on election days and adopt measures to prevent and eradicate the commission of electoral malpractices.
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