Namibians will vote in a general election on Wednesday with the incumbent president facing discontent over the ailing economy despite the nation being one of the most mineral-rich in Africa.
An entrenched recession in the southwest African nation has overshadowed President Hage Geingob’s first term in office.
As Geingob, whose South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) has ruled Namibia since independence from South Africa in 1990, seeks re-election, his popularity has waned among frustrated youth who have borne the brunt of the downturn.
The disaffection has fuelled support for ex-dentist Panduleni Itula, 62, a SWAPO member standing as an independent candidate.
Analysts say that Itula could attract votes from both the opposition and SWAPO loyalists displeased with 78-year-old Geingob.
“The Namibian people are living in dire straits,” tweeted Itula last week.
‘Don’t Need Friends’
Observers say the president is still likely to secure a second five-year mandate, but his score is predicted to drop from the 87 percent he garnered in 2014.
His runner-up McHenry Venaani of the opposition Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), had won less than five percent of the votes cast.
SWAPO has enjoyed a two-thirds parliamentary majority since 1994.
“We are now in the second phase of the struggle, that of economic emancipation, that of provision of basic necessities,” Geingob told supporters at SWAPO’s final rally in the capital Windhoek on Saturday, speaking at a stadium that was less than half full.
Around 2,500 people clad in green, red and blue party colours joined in singing liberation struggle songs.
Even fewer attended Venaani’s final rally on Sunday.
His PDM party is haunted by the legacy of its affiliation with apartheid South Africa before independence, which continues to deter voters. The rest of Namibia’s opposition is ethnically divided.
“You have no meaningful alternative to SWAPO,” analyst Henning Melber told AFP.
“With a weak opposition like that you don’t need friends,” he added.
Tough First Term
And Geingob has made very few, with the economy slumping in his first term.
Despite World Bank predictions of recovery this year, growth remained negative for the first two quarters of 2019.
“People are not getting jobs,” said 18-year-old high school graduate Ndeshihafea Nghipandulwa, hawking eyewear on the side of the road.
“We want a new president so that we can see change.”
Namibia’s economic slide was triggered by a combination of low commodity prices and one of the worst droughts in history.
Public debt ballooned as the cash-strapped government sought international support.
But Geingob has continued to pump money into his administration and hired a disproportionate number of civil servants.
“You have six or seven ministries doing the same thing,” complained another opposition candidate, Esther Muinjangue, accusing SWAPO of creating “jobs for its comrades”.
‘Disappointed’ Freedom Fighters
“I fought for the country, but today I am very disappointed,” said 77-year-old SWAPO war veteran Naftali Ngiyalwa, who sells flip-flops on Windhoek’s Independence Avenue.
“We were not fighting to be well off, but just to be okay and not homeless,” he told AFP, while adding that he would still support Geingob.
Namibia is one of Africa’s richest countries in terms of resources. Vast uranium and diamond reserves sit along a 1,500 kilometre (930-mile) coastline, which is home to a vibrant fishing industry.
Nearly a million tourists visit each year, drawn to its wildlife and desert landscapes.
That wealth, however, does not trickle down to many.
Namibia is the world’s second most unequal country after South Africa, according to the World Bank.
Around 40 percent of urban dwellers lived in shacks in 2016, according to the government.
Geingob’s credibility took another hit this month after WikiLeaks published evidence of government officials taking bribes from an Icelandic fishing company and two ministers resigned.
The president claims the timing of the leaks was calculated to damage his campaign.
Meanwhile, the opposition is concerned over the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs), claiming the absence of paper records raises prospects of fraud.
The electoral tribunal on Monday threw out an application by opposition leader Itula seeking to bar the use of EVMs.
Reports that a number of EVMs went missing after they were used for a local election in 2017 have stoked further suspicion over the poll’s credibility.
But the court said there was no evidence that the missing machines “have any relevant bearing” on Wednesday’s elections.
Namibia was the first African country to use EVMs in 2014.
With a population of 2.45 million, around 1.4 million Namibians are registered to vote.
Eleven candidates and 15 parties are contesting the presidential and parliamentary polls.
President of the Senate, Senator Ahmed Lawan says the 9th National Assembly will commence immediate action on some of the recommendations of the European Union Elections Observation Mission concerning the recently concluded General Elections.
Specifically, he said the National Assembly would prioritize working on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill to ensure more credible and acceptable electoral processes in the future.
“I am sure that this time around, we will start considering those issues that we feel require urgent legislative intervention,” he said during a meeting with the EU EOM delegation at his office on Tuesday.
The group was at his office to present its final report on elections, in which it had made 30 recommendations.
“Of these 30 recommendations, the majority of them involve legal reforms, therefore, of course, we look to the National Assembly to take the initiative of having an inclusive debate and conversation and moving these recommendations forward and what we see from around the world is that it is critical that this starts early,” one of the EU officials said.
After a similar visit to the House of Representatives, the Speaker, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, promised that the House will work on the recommendations to improve on the electoral process in the next four years.
The group also commended INEC for implementing some of its recommendations after the 2015 elections.
The #EU Election Observation Mission has released its final report on Nigeria’s 2019 elections, stressing an urgent need to improve the electoral process and restore faith in the system. The report contains 30 recommendations for improved future elections. pic.twitter.com/b00eZjfvWW
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said it will meet with stakeholders to address the conduct of politicians during the just concluded general elections.
Chairman of the commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, stated this on Tuesday at a meeting with the Resident Electoral Commissioners in Abuja.
He said “We need a conversation around the personal conduct of especially the political actors.
“The “do-or-die” attitude of some politicians and the inability to penalise electoral offenders incentivise bad behaviour”.
Read Full Statement Below:
REMARKS BY HONOURABLE CHAIRMAN, INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION (INEC), PROF. MAHMOOD YAKUBU, AT A MEETING WITH THE RESIDENT ELECTORAL COMMISSIONERS, CONFERENCE ROOM, INEC HEADQUARTERS, ABUJA, TUESDAY 28TH MAY 2019
Honourable National Commissioners Resident Electoral Commissioners Senior officials of the Commission Ladies and Gentlemen
1. It is my pleasure to welcome you to yet another meeting. At the last meeting, we reviewed our preparations for the 2019 general elections. Today, we are meeting for the first time since the conclusion of the elections. General elections in Nigeria are always the biggest activities the nation undertakes every four years, involving the participation of millions of our citizens as voters, election duty staff, security officials, the civil society, faith-based organisations, traditional leaders, socio-cultural organisations, the National Peace Committee and the media. General elections also attract intense international attention from observers, the diplomatic corps and the media.
2. Many observers have already submitted their interim and final reports on the elections. Many civil society organisations appraised various aspects of the exercise.
The judiciary in Nigeria is also adjudicating many petitions challenging the conduct of primary elections by political parties as well as the outcome of the general elections. On behalf of the Commission, I wish to express our appreciation to all the individuals and organisations that observed the elections and submitted reports on the outcome to the Commission. We shall dutifully study these reports and take into consideration the actionable recommendations in planning for future elections.
3. You may recall that the Commission had earlier assured the nation that we shall review all aspects of our processes and procedures for the 2019 general elections in full consultation with stakeholders. We are convinced that there should be a major national conversation on the management of our electoral process.
This process must be qualitatively different from what was done in the past and benefit from all previous efforts at reform. Today’s meeting with the Resident Electoral Commissioners is the first in the series of engagements within the Commission and with all stakeholders. We are convinced that until we get our electoral process on the right, consistent and progressively positive trajectory, our efforts at nation-building and promoting peace and progress shall remain epileptic. No doubt we have made progress since 1999 but a lot of work still lies ahead.
4. Over the next two months, the Commission plans to engage with all stakeholders, beginning with a root and branch review involving our own officials at Local Government and State levels, ranging from Electoral Officers (EOs), Administrative Secretaries (ASs), Heads of Department (HoDs) and representatives of ad hoc officials engaged for elections from Presiding Officers at Polling Unit level to collation and returning officers.
We shall then follow it up with consultations at the national level with political parties, the security agencies, civil society organisations, the media, development partners, traditional and religious organisations, the national and local peace committees and professional groups accredited to observe elections. Details of the series of activities and timelines will be finalised at this meeting and made public immediately.
5. We intend to structure the conversation around the following critical issues:
i. Preparations for the 2019 general elections, looking in particular at some of the critical materials, staging posts such as the RACs and super RACs, storage facilities, the collation/declaration centres etc. ii. Voter registration and collection of Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs).
iii. Communication issues: voter education and publicity.
iv. Political parties: number, mode of registration, internal democracy, accreditation of party agents etc. v. Recruitment, training and deployment of election personnel.
vi. Logistics: movement and security of personnel and materials.
vii. ICT related issues ranging from the configuration and deployment of technology, including the recruitment, training and deployment of technical support. We also need an informed conversion on the use of technology to deepen the electoral process.
viii. Procurement and deployment of sensitive and non-sensitive materials.
ix. Election day processes, including polling unit administration, accreditation of voters, voting procedure and result management, particularly the collation and transmission of results.
x. Reverse logistics for personnel and materials, including an audit of materials used as well as the storage and retrieval of election statistics.
xi. Election security focusing on the relationship between INEC and the security agencies, the effectiveness and impact of election risk assessment methods, deployment and conduct of security personnel.
xii. The electoral legal framework and the necessity for a comprehensive, dispassionate and early conclusion as well as the passage of any constitutional and electoral act amendments.
xiii. The extensive responsibilities of INEC, which has become not just an election management body but a manager of the democratic process in general.
This often leaves the Commission little time to plan for elections and simultaneously and effectively address other extensive and more complex responsibilities such as constituency delimitation and prosecution of electoral offenders. The Commission now conducts elections all-year round (court-ordered rerun elections, bye-elections and seven off-season Governorship elections).
xiv. Inclusivity issues, involving the participation of women, youths and persons living with disabilities in elective offices in particular and the electoral process in general.
xv. The plethora of election observers, their accreditation, responsibilities and behaviour during and after elections.
xvi. Funding issues: Elections are not only becoming increasingly expensive with an increased number of voters, personnel and materials requiring huge logistics and deployment of new technology. We need a deep conversation around the cost of elections.
xvii. Above all, we need a conversation around the personal conduct of especially the political actors. The “do-or-die” attitude of some politicians and the inability to penalise electoral offenders incentivise bad behaviour.
6. The Commission hopes that the recommendations arising from the national conversation will feed into an enduring reform of our electoral process. For it to be robust, we also need to take into consideration the reports of previous committees on electoral reform.
Over the last 40 years, virtually all our elections have been accompanied by the report of one committee or another on electoral reform, among them the Babalakin Commission of Inquiry into the affairs of the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO in 1986), the Uwais report on electoral reform (2008), the Lemu Committee on post-election violence (2011), the Ken Nnamani Committee on constitutional and electoral reform (2017), the various administrative reports by INEC, investigation reports by the security agencies (the Nigeria Police and the Nigerian Army), the independent studies by the National Human Right Commission (2015 and 2017), the judgements of the various election petition tribunals, the reports of domestic and international observers, record of public hearing for the amendment of the electoral legal framework by the National Assembly and even confessional statements by some political actors.
There is value in revisiting all these reports. The Commission will work with stakeholders in undertaking such a comprehensive review in earnest.
7. Once again, I welcome all our RECs to this meeting. I thank you for your attention and the meeting now goes into the working session.
Consequently, following a unanimous judgment of a five-man panel led by the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, the apex court declared that the party with the highest number of votes cast at the election outside the appellants is the winner of the election.
The Court of Appeal in Sokoto State had earlier nullified the APC primary for the governorship election in the state.
The development followed an appeal filed by the lawmaker representing Zamfara Central district and Senate Committee Chairman on Petroleum (Downstream), Senator Kabiru Marafa, and 129 others.
Subsequently, the APC Governorship candidate and state governor, Abdul’Aziz Yari, took the case to the Supreme Court.
The President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, has disclosed that the tribunal has received over 700 petitions from the just concluded General Elections with Imo State having 78 petitions which are the highest numbers.
Justice Bulkachuwa while opening the session on Wednesday vowed that the tribunal will act in strict adherence of the rule of law.
The Court of Appeal President who is heading the five man-panel said the hearing will be on a day to day basis.
Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, and others three petitioners are seeking the nullification of Buhari’s victory at the February 23 presidential poll on allegations of widespread rigging, violations of the Electoral Act, suppression of voters, violence amongst other electoral malpractices.
The others include the Hope Democratic Party and its presidential candidate, Ambrose Owuru; Peoples Democratic Movement and its presidential candidate, Pastor Aminchi Habu and the Coalition for Change (C4C) and it’s presidential candidate Jeff Ojinka.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, believes Nigeria needs serious electoral reform in order for things to work well.
The senior lawyer said this during an interview on the latest edition of Roadmap 2019 which aired Monday, the second episode after the general elections.
“No nation can continue to toy with its destiny as we are doing,” he told Channels Television’s Ladi Akeredolu-Ale.
Falana accused the previous governments of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as well as the present administration of the All Progressives Congress (APC) of ignoring the call to reform the nation’s electoral system.
He said, “Unfortunately, for 16 years under the PDP government, the democratic forces in Nigeria, the progressive forces in Nigeria, the human rights community and other stakeholders, tried to impress it on the government to change the electoral jurisprudence to embark on serious fundamental electoral reforms; those pleas were ignored.”
“We are also in that era now, where the ruling party has also refused to embark on genuine electoral reforms and, of course, if for any reason the ruling party is defeated in an election in the future, you will have the same allegations raised by the PDP now (being raised) by the APC then,” the activist added.
He was, however, hopeful that some new democratic forces would have taken over the process, stressing that the country cannot afford to continue in such manner.
The SAN recalled a committee on electoral reform, set up by late former President Umar Yar’Adua, which submitted its report in December 2008.
According to him, the panel led by a former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Mohammed Uwais, made profound recommendations but they were ignored.
He noted that former President Goodluck Jonathan also constituted a post-election violence panel in 2011 and “very serious recommendations” were made but also ignored.
“President (Muhammadu) Buhari set up the Ken Nnamani committee which reviewed all the previous recommendations and added new ones to reflect the current situation. Again, the report has not been debated at all,” Falana decried.
He faulted the failure of the government to embark on genuine electoral reform when recommendations were gathering dust in its archives rather than being put to use.
The lawyer said several court judgments have indicted the nation’s electoral process while the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was making attempt to turn a few of the recommendations into guidelines.
“That is not sufficient and that is why we are in a mess,” he stated.
In this exclusive interview with Channels Television’s Ladi Akeredolu-Ale, Senior Advocate of Nigeria and human rights lawyer Femi Falana, talks about major issues arising from Nigeria’s general election.
From the menace of ballot snatching, through the role of the military in the electoral process and the number of political parties in the country, the debate over electronic voting and more, Mr Falana explains what should be and what should not be. Excerpts.
What is your general impression about what has happened in 2019 with the general elections; what has been your impression about the process?
Well, you know there are many actors and many actors are involved in the process. At the level of the political parties, the use of thugs across board, the attempt to derail and manipulate the electoral process, the illegal deployment of troops, as well as bombing of INEC offices, destruction of election materials, snatching of ballot boxes and general terrorisation of voters… we thought we had gone past this level.
For INEC, apart from the postponement of the presidential elections, which was avoidable if we were more organised and if election materials are printed in Nigeria – shamefully, we either had to go to South Africa or Belgium to print the materials that’s why we are in this kind of embarrassing situation – I think INEC discharged its statutory duties to a large extent commendably, but there were saboteurs, electoral officers that were compromised.
At the end of the day, INEC has been able to operate independently and, happily, the two leading parties have been accusing INEC of bias either in Rivers or Bauchi or whatever, so I think that’s okay for INEC.
Unlike in the past when election results were taken to Abuja when the local situation resisted rigging, and that was the practice for 16 years under the PDP, now, with the innovation of technological methodology in conducting elections, it is no longer possible to go to Abuja to announce results of elections. Results are now announced at the unit level. We still have problems in a few areas where the collation was hijacked, but generally, what happened in 2019 was some improvement, except that we are too forgetful.
What bothers me as a Nigerian is the fact that the political leaders and some of my colleagues in the human rights community who were pressuring President Jonathan to deploy troops for the 2015 elections, now believe it is illegal to deploy troops for elections. Those who engaged in ballot snatching, now pontificate to some of us on how not to rig elections. They now come around to teach us about the beauty of democracy. Those of us who were asking INEC to conduct a do or die election, are now the heroes of democracy, the teachers of democracy. But the Nigerian people are the victims of electoral manipulation, of electoral violence. Attempts can be made but Nigerians have refused to be provoked into a major catastrophe. In some countries where the degree of provocation was not as serious, people have gone to wars. People have fought wars in defence of their franchise so the Nigerian electorate have tried not to be provoked but we could have done much better.
I understand the desperation in accessing power in Nigeria and, particularly in a bourgeoisie environment, there isn’t anything so strange in what we have witnessed. Where the law has not been allowed to deal with thuggery, violence, (and) ballot snatching, we couldn’t afford anything better.
Nobody is in jail for engaging in the manipulation of the electoral process in 2015, nobody has been jailed in any of the states where local government elections were rigged and, by the way, the state electoral bodies in majority of the states conduct the worst elections in Africa. It is so bad now that opposition parties no longer waste their funds and resources on local government elections in Nigeria.
So, we are talking about general elections. The 2019 general elections with all the shortcomings, for me, is an improvement in many areas on the part of INEC and the electorates. Where we have continued to have problems, to be honest with you, is the desperation on the path of the political class to hold on to power so tenaciously, most of the time, illegally.
Now we have 91 political parties and when I last spoke to the electoral body’s authorities, they did point out that there are more than 100 associations just waiting for the elections to end to be registered. Do you think we’ve gone from too little to too many?
There is no way you are going to constrict the political space particularly to two political parties that are neither ideological nor principled. Hence you could be in one party in the morning, change to another one in the afternoon and before you go to bed, return to your original base so it was very necessary. And I would say, with profound respect and having regards to the fact that we are talking of a population of about 200 million people, having a hundred political parties or 200 is not the problem. The problem is the content of the manifesto and programmes of those parties. Are they parties that the Nigerian people can vest their hope in? Are they parties that can guarantee the future of your children and mine? Are they parties that can turn our poverty to prosperity?
If you just set up political parties to endorse other candidates and collect money, or you turn it to family affairs, there are problems. But in terms of the number, if you go round the whole world, we do not have any political parties here, it is the quality of the parties that should bother us.
There may be a political party that will say, ‘Sorry, we just want to defend the environment’; Green parties in Europe. There are parties that will say, ‘We want to promote education in Nigeria’. Others will say, ‘We want to ensure that every Nigerian has access to basic health facilities. And political parties could simply say, ‘Our interest is to ensure that the economy of our country is dominated by Nigerians to promote prosperity’.
When you have such political parties that are addressing issues, the number becomes irrelevant. And when you get to that stage when parties transcend the individuality of the founders, or the big guys there or godfathers as we call them, then they are likely to say, ‘Since our programmes and manifestos are similar, why don’t we work together?’ I am not talking about adoption on the eve of elections. So, it is a process where parties will merge on the basis of similarity of ideologies or philosophy.
I mean the National Assembly has amended the Constitution, through alteration four of the Constitution, to say if you fail to win 25 percent of the votes cast in a presidential election or a governorship election or you fail to produce a legislator thou shall be banned. That won’t advance the cause of democracy in the country. And while you have brought out that law, you haven’t presented other political associations from registering as political parties. So, we still have to go back to the drawing table. What manner of political parties do we expect? What type of political parties will really expand the democratic space, advance democracy in our country (and) defend popular interest? That is the way I look at it.
The elections are now over and attention will now shift to the temple of justice because a lot of people will be heading in that direction. Do you think the judiciary itself, having been under a great deal of scrutiny, … is actually ready to attend to this issues that will come up before it in a way that people can expect that they were better served by going to the judiciary than heading to the streets?
Your question is loaded. I will go about it this way; our courts are already dealing with disputes arising from the electoral process. Over 600 cases have been filed challenging the lack of internal democracy in the parties whereby godfathers impose candidates on political parties and the electorates. Those cases are in court and our courts are dealing with them, although by now quite a number of them would have been overtaken by events. With respect to the tribunals, again, our courts are going to dispense justice within the limited ambits of our electoral jurisprudence, which is one of the most backward in the world.
Will those tribunals not be challenged since they were set up by the Acting Chief Justice?
No. Again, that is not correct. The members of the election petitions tribunal are constituted by the President of the Court of Appeal. The Chief Justice or the Acting Chief Justice merely performs the oath of office on them. No more, no less.
You talked about the backwardness of this system…
I can tell you, in the majority of African countries, there are Constitutional Courts to deal with election disputes and those matters are dealt with speedily – 14 days, 21 days. In our own country, we used to have a limitless period; sometimes up to four years. By the time we are having another election, some of the election petitions are still in court. That is number one. Number two, unlike in the past whereby election petition tribunals and judges trying disputes arising from elections will recommend the trial or the discipline of officers who engage in electoral malpractice, these days, our courts simply behave like Pontius Pilate.
Furthermore, we have imported very reactionary doctrines into our electoral jurisprudence such as ‘prove beyond reasonable doubt’. ‘You are saying that the election has not been properly conducted and these allegations are said to be criminal in nature, so you must prove beyond reasonable doubt; not on the balance of probability – who won the election, who lost the election’. They ask you to come and prove it like a criminal offence.
Furthermore, you are not just going to allege failure or refusal on the part of the electoral body to conduct elections in accordance to the electoral law, the onus is on you to show that non-compliance with the law has materially affected you. Apart from those who contested the elections, every Nigerian including thousands that may have been disenfranchised lack the locus standi to challenge that election. You can’t say, ‘Oh, I wasn’t allowed to vote; I am challenging that election or you must pay me compensation’. They say, ‘Sorry, you have no locus standi to challenge the election.
Furthermore, when you allege that figures have been inflated, you have to bring the actual figure and what has been inflated.
So, whichever way you look at it, there are insurmountable legal hurdles for petitioners. I know colleagues, very respected colleagues who will never handle cases for the petitioner. They will rather handle (cases) for the respondent so that they just go to court and raise technical objections to the petition. We have cases where the courts have held that ‘Yes, you have alleged that the elections were manipulated, violence took place. You have to prove how such violence, how such manipulation has affected the election’. And our courts always end up with the theory of substantial compliance; that, ‘when you look at the totality of the election, oh, (of) 120,000 polling units, you are only challenging, maybe, elections in about 500 or 1,000 units, that cannot materially affect the result of the election’. These are the problems with our electoral jurisprudence.
Unfortunately, for 16 years under the PDP government, the democratic forces in Nigeria, the progressive forces in Nigeria, the human rights community and other stakeholders, tried to impress it on the government to change the electoral jurisprudence to embark on serious fundamental electoral reforms. Those pleas were ignored.
We are also in that era now, where the ruling party has also refused to embark on genuine electoral reforms. And of course, if for any reason, the ruling party is defeated in an election in the future, you will have the same allegations raised by the PDP now (being raised) by the APC then, but, hopefully, some new democratic forces should have taken over the process. We can’t go on like this, indefinitely. No nation can continue to toy with its destiny as we are doing.
Of course, the Uwais Panel made a profound recommendation; they were ignored. President Jonathan set up the post-election violence (panel) in 2011. Again, very serious recommendations were made, and all the recommendations were ignored. President Buhari set up the Ken Nnamani committee which reviewed all the previous recommendations and added new ones to reflect the current situation. Again, the report has not been debated at all. So, it is not about looking for new ideas, those recommendations are on the ground, gathering dust in the archives of the government. Not to talk of several judgments of our court, that has indicted the electoral process and called for reforms. So what has happened over the years has been an attempt by INEC to update, take a few of the recommendations, turn them into guidelines, but that is not sufficient, and that is why we are in a mess.
Can you talk about the militarisation of the process, the involvement of military or people in military uniforms?
The denial was an afterthought and it was contradictory. Before the denial by the Chief of Army Staff, the army authorities had set up a panel to investigate the role of its own men in the election in Rivers State, where allegations were made. If you now say, these guys that were being investigated are not members of the armed forces, there is a problem there. In 2015, the tragedy of it all is that the Chief of Army Staff, General (Tukur) Yusuf Buratai, set up a panel of enquiry, headed by Major General (Adeniyi) Oyebade, to investigate the militarisation of the Ekiti governorship elections in 2014, where the candidate of the PDP, Ayodele Fayose, was alleged to have been commanding a general in the army. All the military personnel indicted in that probe, were flushed out by the Nigerian Army.
There are not less than five judgments of our courts, which have declared that the armed forces have no role in our elections. Curiously, these cases were filed, either by the candidate of the APC, Muhammadu Buhari, or individual members of the APC. One of the cases was filed in Lagos by Femi Gbajabiamila of the APC, where the Federal High Court held that it is illegal to deploy troops in the conduct of the election. In fact, in one of the Buhari/Obasanjo cases, a former president of the court of appeal, Honourable Justice Ayo Salami said; our political class may be intolerant but have eased out the military from our politics, we should try to keep them at bay, they shouldn’t get involved in our electoral process.
The major pronouncement of our courts influenced the NASS to amend the Electoral Act on March 27, 2015, to the effect that the INEC shall assume the power of deploying the security forces during elections in Nigeria, provided that the armed forces shall be restricted to the transportation and delivery of election materials and protection of electoral officers. There is no law that allows any member of the armed forces to take command or guard a collation centre; it is not part of our law. It is contentious. But militarisation does not end with armed soldiers. When you also use police and thugs to terrorise voters, you are also militarising the electoral process and armed thugs commit offences during our elections, but they are all protected by godfathers in the political party.
Why was there so much brouhaha when Buhari asked security forces to deal ruthlessly with ballot box snatchers?
I think it was the way the president spoke if it is about invoking the law or saying that the full weight of the law would descend heavily on electoral offenders or ballot box snatchers; there shouldn’t have been any problem, but where it was said that … those who snatch ballot boxes may lose their lives, which was a presidential license for extra-judicial killings by our overzealous security forces. Nobody criticised the intent to deal with ballot box snatchers and other electoral offenders. The law is very clear on it; there are provisions of law to deal with all categories of all electoral offenders but our problem is the impunity and the fact that those who commit these offences are granted immunity by the government. I do hope this time around, since the electoral offences tribunal has not been allowed to be created, the INEC will invoke its power under section 150 of the electoral act to prosecute all the electoral offenders arrested by the police and other security forces.
During the process of the election, a lot of people got worried, and a lot of people are usually worried, when results take so long in coming out but as the INEC Chairman told me, the legal framework that currently guides the conduct and collation exercise specifically stipulates that it be manual and therefore for any change to occur, there needs to be an amendment to the law. But then, so many people have mentioned the issue of electronic voting and others have also urged caution on the issue of electronic voting. Where do you stand on the issue?
Well, again let me react to the position of INEC on manual collation and compilation of result, I do not agree (with it). Just like when the Supreme Court held that the use of card readers was illegal. How could they believe that, to say that using a technological device to perform a duty is illegal? I can’t understand it and that was why I reacted to the judgment by bringing out the provision of the law. Section 52 of the Electoral Act as amended in 2015 to the effect that INEC has been empowered to use any device to adopt any measure to conduct a credible election in Nigeria and that provision was amending the provision that had banned the use of any form of electronic system in our election. So it was replaced.
With that amendment, we can’t go back to the past. So that is the law today. Even if you want to have electronic voting now, it is covered under the law. But I have my fears and this I have expressed; as long as you have the culture of impunity that has become the order of the day in our country, no system will work. We saw it in Kenya where the system was hacked into and that is what is going on in the US. America has been investigating their own electoral manipulation since 2016. Here, two leading professional bodies, ICAN and the NBA, tried to introduce e-voting. Both of the decisions have ended up in court where the leaders have been accused of sitting down in the secretariat to manipulate results using emails to generate results for chosen candidates.
Based on our experiences, we need to guide against the hijacking of the machines if you want to introduce electronic voting. Again, we need to educate our people. And that is possible. In the space of four years, we can wipe out illiteracy in this country if the political will is there. But you are not going to succeed in introducing electronic voting if the culture of the manipulating the electoral process continues. Some people will just hijack the machine as you have seen in the case of the card readers. They will demobilise the card readers and there is nothing you can do about that.
Roadmap 2019 airs at 9pm on Mondays… only on Channels TV.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has condemned what it described as the role played by some soldiers and armed gangs in Rivers State which it said led to the disruption of the electoral process.
In a statement dated March 15, the National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said the action was an attempt to subvert the will of the people.
According to the statement, this was part of the submissions made after the Commission set up a fact-finding committee to assess the situation in the state.
Following reports of widespread violence and other forms of intimidation in the state, collation of results and other activities for the governorship and state assembly elections were suspended on March 10.
In the run up to the elections, Governor Wike had consistently accused the army in Rivers State of bias and being used to interfere in the state’s politics and ultimately influence the outcome of the 2019 General Elections in the state.
At a time, the governor alleged that soldiers from 6 Division, Nigerian Army, trailed him in Port Harcourt while on his way to see some people, with the intention of assassinating him.
“Yesterday, I was shocked when I left here to go and see some political leaders, soldiers were following me. Anybody who knows me would know that I have never gone out with any soldier but the soldiers were following me,” said Wike.
The allegation by Governor Wike was, however, dismissed by the army. In a statement, the Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, Col. Aminu Iliyasu described the claim as “lies and cheap blackmail against the 6 Division, Nigerian Army”.
While the collation of the March 9 Governorship and House of Assembly elections was underway, soldiers and policemen clashed at the INEC Collation Centre in the Rivers State capital, an incident that ultimately hampered the collation exercise, in addition to other infractions recorded at various polling units. This prompted INEC to suspend the electoral processes in the state.
The Nigerian Army has set up a committee to investigate the reported assassination attempt on Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, as well as allegations of misconduct against its personnel during the general elections.
Acting Director of Army Public Relations, Sagir Musa, disclosed this in a statement on Friday.
He explained that the committee was constituted as part of the measure to ensure that troops deployed for election security duties conducted themselves within laid-down Rules of Engagement and the Code of Conduct.
The Chief of Administration (Army), Major General Kay Isiyaku, inaugurated the committee on behalf of the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, and has already commenced investigation.
Major General Isiyaku asked the committee chairman, Major General T.A. Gagariga, and other members to carry out their duties objectively, fairly and transparently, in line with its Terms of Reference.
On his part, Major General Gagariga promised that his committee would be objective and professional in addressing the major issues raised.
Among the Terms of Reference is a thorough investigation of the activities, actions and inactions of army personnel in all the states where there were alleged infractions.
The committee was also directed to collate and thoroughly analyse all reports to determine the veracity of the allegations, including the alleged assassination attempt on Governor Wike and the circumstances that led to the shooting to death of Lt. Luka Kurmi, as well as that leading to serious injuries to an officer and some soldiers in the state.
The army spokesperson added, “The committee is further mandated to visit all states where issues have been raised about the conduct of NA during and after the elections and also interact with Civil Society Organisations, sister security agencies and state governors with claims against the Army,” the statement said.
“It would be recalled that the COAS, Lt. Gen. T.Y. Buratai has on many fora, consistently (both in words and actions), soundly indicated that, under his watch, NA personnel must remain apolitical, respect human rights and abide by the rule of law in all its official engagements within or outside Nigeria and in or out of conflict situation.”
Army troops were deployed for the elections under Operation Safe Conduct that was set up to provide support to the Nigerian Police and other security agencies to ensure hitch-free and successful elections in the country.
The committee has Lieutenant Colonel Paj Ebuk as its secretary and is expected to submit its report not later than March 31, 2019.
Days after the conclusion of the general elections, the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) has said there is a real need for serious reforms in Nigeria.
Chief Observer, Maria Arena MEP, said this during a press conference in Abuja on Monday.
According to her, the need for the reforms is as a result of the “systemic failings and electoral security problems of the last few weeks and months”.
While Arena noted that compared to the Presidential election, there were operational improvements in the governorship and state assembly elections of March 9, she believes it was still overshadowed by a “troubling electoral security environment, abuse of incumbency and institutional failings”.
This, according to her, may have resulted in the low voter turnout witnessed during the elections.
She described it as disappointing that only a small portion of “what is by far and away Africa’s largest electorate actually cast a vote on both election days”.
She, therefore, stated that the EU backs the call by civil society organisations that there is an urgent need to restore faith in the electoral process.
Read Full statement below.
Speech of Chief Observer, Maria Arena MEP EU Election Observation Mission to Nigeria Press conference: Monday 11 March February, 14.00 hours, Hilton Hotel, Abuja
(Chief Observer) Good afternoon, Your Excellencies, members of the media, election observers, ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you very much for attending this press conference on the European Union Election Observation Mission’s preliminary assessment of the 9th of March governorship and State House of Assembly elections.
It is preliminary because vital parts of the process are ongoing, including the collation of results. As you know, this is our second preliminary assessment of Nigeria’s general elections. Our first, on the 25th of February, was about the presidential and National Assembly elections.
The collation of results was ongoing at this point, so, in this preliminary statement of the statelevel elections, we will also give our findings and conclusions on the collation of results for the 23rd of February elections.
First, some words of thanks: to INEC, to political parties and candidates, election officials, security agencies, journalists and civil society organisations, who have taken time to meet with us over the last nine weeks. And to colleagues at the EU Delegation, EU member state embassies, and those of Canada, Norway and Switzerland for their cooperation. Second, a brief reminder of our mandate: we are here because INEC invited the EU to deploy an election observation mission.
Our mandate is to observe the electoral process, to offer an independent and impartial assessment, and to make recommendations for future elections. The mission is independent in its findings from the EU delegation, EU member states and EU institutions. So, as I said two weeks ago, we are here to serve the people of Nigeria, not the politics of the day.
On the 9th of March, we had 73 observers following voting, counting and the collation of results in 22 states, in all six geopolitical zones. We observed in 223 polling units and, so far, in 81 collation centres. We are still observing the collation of results. And so to our assessment of the 9th of March elections. ASSESSMENT OF THE 9 MARCH ELECTIONS Although election operations improved, the elections were also marked by an overall low turnout and violence, including against election officials and voters.
Elections should be occasions of peaceful participation when voters are able to freely choose who they would like to represent them in office. It is with both great sorrow and with condolences to those who’ve lost loved ones that we note that election-related violence has led to the deaths of far too many Nigerians. It is deeply troubling and those responsible must be held to account. On election day on the 9th of March, polling procedures were assessed by our observers more positively than during the presidential and National Assembly elections. Most polling units visited opened on time, or less than 30 minutes late, and the procedures for the accreditation of voters were significantly improved.
However, at eight polling units observed, we saw indications of vote-buying. Eight cases of obvious underage voting were also observed. Our observers saw that the counting of ballots was transparent overall. Positively, in almost all cases, party agents received copies of the results forms, although they were often not displayed.
The environment for these elections has been difficult, with cases of violence and intimidation, including attacks on election administration officials.
Security agencies have an important role to play in helping safeguard voters and all involved in an election. However citizen observers reported being obstructed by military and security agents. Observers, including EU observers, were denied access to collation centres in Rivers, apparently by military personnel.
This lack of access for observers compromises transparency and trust in the process. In Rivers, INEC yesterday suspended until further notice the elections due to violence in polling units and collation centres, staff being taken hostage and election materials, including results sheets, seized or destroyed by unauthorised persons.
There is no doubt that the electoral process there was severely compromised. On election day, in five states, journalists from respected media houses were obstructed from reporting in areas with a history of electoral problems, including parts of Rivers, or were attacked while trying to report on electoral malpractices.
Such incidents limit scrutiny and therefore transparency of the process. Going back to the campaign environment: the elections were competitive with overall freedom to campaign.
However, there was misuse of incumbency, including on state-owned state media, which prevented a level playing field. In the two weeks leading up to the state elections, EU observers saw some misuse of state offices and institutional websites being used for campaigning by both APC and PDP incumbent governors. There was also pressure on local media outlets and journalists before election day. State-level media broadcast political debates in 21 states, giving voters the opportunity to directly compare candidates.
However in 12 states, incumbents or their main challengers refused to participate. All nine state-owned radio stations monitored by the EU Election Observation Mission served the interests of incumbent governors.
This limited voters’ access to impartial information and is not consistent with international standards for access to information and political pluralism in the media.
In the fortnight before the state elections, one journalist was arrested, and the regulator closed one commercial radio station and issued fines to 45 others, which can lead to self-censorship. On inclusion of vulnerable groups in the electoral process: although INEC and civil society made efforts to promote inclusion of persons with disabilities, out of more than 20,000 candidates, only six persons with disabilities apparently contested the federal and state-level elections.
On the 9th of March, we saw that INEC’s initiatives aimed at facilitating the participation of voters with disabilities, such as priority queues and assistive devices, were not consistently implemented in the states visited by EU observers.
Civil society, through its scrutiny of the electoral process, has enhanced the transparency and accountability of the elections. We support the views of civil society organisations that have called for reform in order to bring greater integrity to the electoral process in Nigeria. I will come back to this point in a moment. COLLATION OF PRESIDENTIAL RESULTS But first, the collation of results is one of the most crucial aspects of any electoral process. And collation for the presidential and National Assembly elections was ongoing when we held our last press conference.
So if I may ask the EU’s Deputy Chief Observer, Hannah Roberts, to now give our main conclusions. (Deputy Chief Observer) While the national collation centre for the presidential election was open to party agents and observers, and the process was continuously televised, our conclusion is that the collation of results process had many problems.
Overall, the process was not in line with international standards for access to information and public accountability. Polling for the federal elections was cancelled in a large number of polling units across the country, covering nearly 2.8 million registered voters.
This was four times more than in 2015. While this number did not affect the outcome given the margin of win, this was not a good process. INEC did not provide sufficient information on these cancellations, the specific reasons for them, and the precise local government areas affected. This undermines public confidence in the process.
There were also some inconsistent numbers in relation to collation, specifically, a large difference between the number of registered voters INEC had announced back in January and the lower number then announced by returning officers at state level during the collation of the presidential results. Nearly one point seven (1.7) million less in total.
Unfortunately, INEC has not properly explained this discrepancy. Since this is something that also happened in 2015, it really shows the need for better data management in future elections. Collation also showed an increase in the number of invalid ballots compared to 2015, four and a half (4.5) per cent of the total. In some states or local government areas, the number was particularly high.
For example, in one constituency it was nearly 13 per cent. So what collation of the federal elections demonstrates is a greater need for better training of collation staff, improved data management and, in particular, more information and explanation from INEC so as not to undermine the integrity of this important phase of the election process.
This is particularly important now that there are cancellations of polling in state elections. Full specific information and explanation needs to be given on these. I’d be very happy to talk more about this, or indeed any aspect of the voting, counting and collation processes over both election days, but first if I could hand the floor back to the Chief Observer who will conclude our assessment of the 9th of March elections.
BACK TO 9 MARCH ELECTIONS AND CONCLUSION
(Chief Observer) Thank you, Hannah. Let me emphasise that during any supplementary elections, the election administration needs to be able to do its work freely, security personnel need to work neutrally, and parties need to call their supporters to be calm and to respect the process.
It takes all of these different people to make a good election. If I may now come to our main conclusion: It is this: that the systemic failings and electoral security problems of the last few weeks and months show that there is real need for serious reform in Nigeria.
While there were operational improvements in the 9th March elections, these were overshadowed by a troubling electoral security environment, abuse of incumbency and institutional failings. We echo the view of leading civil society organisations that say that there is an urgent need to restore faith in the electoral process.
While there can be many reasons for a low turnout, and it is not for me to speculate, it is surely disappointing that, overall, only a relatively small portion of what is by far and away Africa’s largest electorate actually cast a vote on both election days.
We hope that after these elections, parties and institutions look at what is needed to make voters want to take part in elections. As the 2019 elections in Nigeria have demonstrated, there are important improvements to be made. Elections can always be better.
The systemic problems evident in the 2019 electoral process show the need for an inclusive national discussion on reform for greater electoral integrity and participation. This is not a novel idea, of course. The suggestion of a national conversation or dialogue is one that comes from INEC itself. It is one that the European Union would support. Our long-term observers across the country will remain in Nigeria for another week.
They will continue to observe the collation of results and the election petitions process.
A core team of experts will remain for some additional weeks. Some of us will then return in June with a final report on the elections with recommendations for reform. As an election observation mission, our work finishes after this report is produced.
After that, it will be the EU Delegation that stands ready to support Nigeria in the implementation of the recommendations put forward for consideration. Although they are still to be finalised, one very clear recommendation would be for Nigeria to revisit the electoral laws and to agree on key reforms long before the next general elections Change and improvement does not happen overnight.
Reforms should neither be rushed nor left to the last moment. We encourage a national conversation on electoral reform and strongly believe that it would meaningfully contribute to Nigeria’s democratic development. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for listening. And thank you to the Nigerian authorities and Nigerian people for your warm welcome. Hannah and I would now be very happy to answer some of your questions.
The Police in Oyo State have arrested 38 people over an alleged electoral offence regarding the recently held general elections in the state.
In an interview with Channels Television at the Command Headquarters in Eleyele area of Ibadan, the State Commissioner of Police, Shina Olukolu stated the suspects are being processed for further action.
According to the police boss, an investigation is ongoing to unravel those behind the killings which took place in Ibadan South-East Local Government Area of the state.