Connect with us


INEC and 25 years of directing Nigerian democracy



Established by the General Abdulsalami Abubakar government in 1998 following the announcement of a transition to democratic government, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has continued to grow, improving on its performance with each passing election.

From a completely analogue system, the commission is gradually becoming a digitalised institution, setting examples for several African countries.

Although it has consistently come under severe criticism from those who lost elections and Nigerians who felt that the right thing has not been done, the commission has no doubt made some giant strides in the last 25 years of conducting elections in Nigeria.

TONY AKOWE reports.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was established by the provisions of section 153 of the 1999 Constitution as one of the Executives with specific assigned functions which are contained in the Electoral Act 2022. What is today called INEC came into existence on the 5th of August, 1998.

The Commission is assigned its functions in section 15, Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution and Section 2 of the Electoral Act, 2022. Some of these functions include: organising, undertaking and supervising all elections to the offices of the President and Vice-President, the Governor and Deputy Governor of a State, and the membership of the Senate, the House of Representatives and the House of Assembly of each state of the federation; register political parties by the provisions of the constitution and Act of the National Assembly; Monitor the organization and operation of the political parties, including their finances; conventions, congresses and party primaries. It also has the responsibility to carry out an annual examination and audit of the funds and accounts of political parties, and publish a report on such examination and audit for public information, conduct voter registration, monitor campaigns, Conduct voter and civic education; promote knowledge of sound democratic election processes; and conduct any referendum required to be conducted pursuant to the provision of the 1999 Constitution or any other law or Act of the National Assembly. Apart from voter registration, conduct of elections, and registration of political parties among others, the commission has over the years failed to conduct a proper audit of the funds and accounts of political parties. Even when that is done, the result of such an audit has never been published in line with the provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act. Similarly, the commission has often not published the outcome of its monitoring of political campaigns and campaign funds. But there is no gainsaying the fact that the commission has continued to improve every year on the conduct of its activities.

The Independent National Electoral Commission has its history in the pre-independence era with the establishment of the Electoral Commission of Nigeria (ECN) which was established to conduct 1959 elections. The body was succeeded by the Federal Electoral Commission (FEC) which was established in 1960 and was responsible for the conduct of federal and regional elections of 1964 and 1965 respectively. With the coming of the military government in 1966, the commission was dissolved, while a new body, the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) was established in 1978 and was responsible for the conduct of the 1979 and 1983 general elections won by Alhaji Shehu Shagari. The Babangida government established the National Electoral Commission headed by Prof Humphrey Nwosu which was however dissolved by the Abacha government after the failed June 12 presidential elections. In its place, Abacha established the National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON), which conducted elections from Local Government councils to the National Assembly. However, those elected were not inaugurated before the death of Gen. Abacha in June 1998. Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar who took over from Abacha changed the name to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in 1998 and was saddled with the responsibility of organising all transitional elections that ushered in the 4th republic on May 29 1999.

Read Also: INEC extends CVR in Edo, Ondo by four days
Since the inception of the commission, it has had five different leaders with Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, the current Chairman, the only one that has served two terms of office. The others, Justice Ephraim Akpata (1998-2000); Dr. Abel Guobadia, Prof. Maurice Iwu and Prof. Attahiru Jega, all serving one term. However, Justice Akpata is the only one among the heads of the Commission who did not serve out his tenure as he died in January 2000, about one year after conducting the elections that ushered in the current democracy.

He was a retired Justice of the Supreme Court and was succeeded by Abel Guobadia (2000-2005), who held a PhD in Physics and conducted the 2003 general election. Maurice Iwu (2005-2010), a professor of Pharmacognosy who conducted only the 2007 general election, adjudged by even the declared winner, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua as the worst election in the history of the country. A professor of Political Science and former Vice Chancellor of Bayero University, Kano, Professor Attahiru Muhammadu Jega (2010-2015) who succeeded Iwu is the first of the electoral umpires to conduct two general elections, having conducted the 2011 and 2015 general elections. He is also the first to voluntarily leave office at the expiration of his first tenure and was succeeded by Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, a professor of Political History and International Relations who is also an expert in guerrilla warfare. Before his appointment, Yakubu had served as the Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund. He is however the first INEC Chairman to have been appointed for a second term in office and has conducted two general elections in the country and several governorship elections.

See also  EXCLUSIVE: Nigeria's police officers raise alarm over corruption, indiscriminate transfers, unrealistic working conditions under new police leadership

The commission has given birth to five Presidents (General Olusegun Obasanjo (1999 to 2007); Umaru Musa Yar’adua (2007 to 2010); Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (2010 to 2015); Muhammadu Buhari (2015 to 2023), and the current President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu (2023 to date), in seven successful elections. It has also conducted several governorships, and national and state assembly elections in seven successive elections and has continued to improve on the conduct of these elections on a year-by-year basis. One of the major achievements of the commission in this regard is the successful conduct of the 2015 elections which, against all odds, saw the emergence of an opposition candidate as the winner of the election with the declaration of Muhammadu Buhari who was the candidate of the All Progressives Congress as President-elect. Many believe that the courage of the Commission to announce Buhari as the winner of the election and the action of the then President, Goodluck Jonathan in accepting defeat even before the process was concluded greatly helped the survival of the democratic process in the country.

Executive Director of Peering Advocacy and Advancement Centre in Africa, Ezenwa Nwagwu, however, believes that the Commission remains the most improved public institution in Nigeria. He told The Nation that “unarguably, INEC is the most improved public institution in Nigeria. Its intentionality in innovations and adaptability to criticism. Over the period. It has strengthened its processes to organize more competitive elections and robust electoral infrastructure.”

He, however, believed that the commission has to improve on the perennial logistical challenges that paint a black patch on its operations and communicate clearly whatever challenges it has proactively and in real-time.

One of the major reforms that have been brought into the electoral space was delisting a large number of political parties that failed to win a single election from the councillorship to the Presidential level since they were registered after the 2019 general elections. This action reduced the number of political parties that contested the 2023 general election to 18. Even though the concerned parties contested the decision in court, it was the judgement of the court that they acted in accordance with the provisions of the law. The commission has however tightened the provision for the registration of political parties. Another aspect which political parties have been contesting and lobbying to restore is the funding of political parties by the commission.

At the inception of the current political dispensation, political parties were given subvention by the commission. But this idea was later to be removed from the Electoral Act and parties made to fund their activities. Interestingly, leaders of political parties have continued to rotate themselves from one party to the other while some others appear to have made the parties their retirement homes. Aside from the major parties of PDP, and APC, the other parties have failed to live up to expectations. Some chairmen of the parties have been in office for several years and many of them are not known to have conducted successful national conventions. What they have done is mere endorsement of candidates to continue in office. Also, several of these parties have been bogged down with one leadership crisis or the other without the commission being able to put down its feet and ensure that the issues of contention are resolved. The excuse has often been that the commission does not want to be seen taking sides with any of the contending parties. A case in point is the ongoing leadership crisis in the Labour Party. Section 83 of the Electoral Act empowers the commission to monitor the activities of the political parties, while section 86 empowers the commission to carry out an annual audit of the finances of the political parties and publish the report in at least two national dailies.

The Nation could not ascertain whether this provision as contained in section 86(4) has ever been complied with by the commission. The provision states that “The commission shall publish the report on such examination and audit in two national newspapers and the commission’s website within 30 days of the receipt of the result.” The section of the Electoral Act which limits election expenditure has also not been diligently implemented as there is no record of what the parties spent on each election. For example, section 88(2) pegged election expenditure for presidential election at N5 billion, and governorship at N1 billion. But over time, candidates contesting elections are known to have spent huge sums of money on elections, while the commission has done little to curtail these expenses in line with the provisions of the law.

While section 87 limits the amount of money any individual can contribute to a political party, however, the commission has over the years not been able to exercise its power over this.

Some of the challenges INEC confronts would be the attitude of the governing class that detests changes and always works to subvert reforms because they are always unwilling to embrace positive changes. Another major challenge is the appointment into the Commission of people with unhidden partisan leaning and inclination. This has been widely criticized as some Resident Electoral Commissioners are alleged to have had no knowledge of what they are supposed to do with the position assigned to them.

See also  Niger Republic Forces Arrest Nigerian Bandit Kingpin, Kachallah Mai Daji

During that last general election, the commission is known to have stripped some RECs of their responsibilities and given the same to the Administrative Secretaries for obvious reasons. For example, a Resident Electoral Commissioner was said to have been managing a hotel in Kano before his appointment and the Commission had to remove him from office for misconduct during the last elections. To get this right, some political analysts have suggested that a more robust way of appointing these Commissioners who serve as the conscience of the Commission in the various states should be more open and prudent, while the Senate, which has the constitutional power to confirm should be more diligent in the screening of candidates to work with the commission in accomplishing its mandate.

Dr. Kole Shettima, Director of MacArthur Foundation believes that elections, which is the primary function of the commission, are critical parts of every thriving democratic society as they serve as the process for choosing leaders in a democracy and must therefore guarantee and protect the rights of voters to choose.

Related News
Vote buying, fake news, others impeding our work, says INEC
Vote buying, fake new, hate speech working against us-INEC
INEC registers 269,992 voters in Edo, Ondo
He said that like in every democratic society; elections are contests among stakeholders. Shettima said “In Nigeria, organizing elections is a complex exercise involving a web of public institutions, agencies, and officials. It is further complicated by the unstable rules of the game, multiple institutional weaknesses, and an environment of widespread lack of trust and integrity which imposes significant financial and ethical costs on elections planning in Nigeria.”

Shettima believes that the 2023 general election in Nigeria was probably the best prepared for by the commission since the return to democracy in 1999. His argument is based on six indicators which include the early passage of the 2022 Electoral Act which he believes has several progressive provisions; a 47 percent increase in access to polling units, deployment of Technology such as IREV, and BVAS, even though he argued that the IREV was also the most disappointing issue during the elections. Other innovations in the countdown to the election, according to him, are new forms of training for electoral personnel, greater engagement with stakeholders and better inclusion, especially institutional reform. He argued that despite the best of plans, there were many challenges with the recruitment, deployment, and practice of election personnel, as illustrated in the reports of domestic and international observers and monitors and the INEC report of the 2023 elections.

Some of the challenges facing INEC in the conduct of general elections in Nigeria include: The delays in uploading results of the 2023 Presidential election as a result of technical glitches was one major challenge that almost marred the workings of the commission. Despite that, the 2023 general election was largely adjudged as one of the best in the history of the commission despite the challenges. However, opposition elements have refused to accept this submission. Some observers have also blamed the commission for poor operational capacity in the timely collation of results, while some people have continued to contest the credibility of the institution charged with the responsibility of conducting the election. Those who question the credibility of the commission also accused it of not putting in place an efficient electoral system and inability to conduct free, fair and credible elections among others.

However, there is no gainsaying the fact that activities of those who want to always frustrate the system have gone a long way in affecting the conduct of elections despite security measures put in place through the introduction of the Interagency Consultative Committee on Election Security at all levels.

Violence, bribery and fraud have become part of the electoral system despite provisions of the Electoral Act aimed at nipping these things in the bud. It is on record the commission has set in motion processes of prosecuting those found to have been involved in electoral fraud.

Successes recorded
Some of the successes of the Electoral body over the years include conducting seven successful presidential elections, contributing to the development of a pool of election administration professionals across Nigeria through the Electoral Institute, which was established in 2005, increasing transparency and public trust through openness and accountability, as seen in the successful conduct of elections and the establishing a dialogue mechanism for engaging with political parties and civil society groups, leading to 52 political parties signing the code of conduct ahead of the 2011 elections. Through this mechanism, the electoral body has in recent times held a series of stakeholders’ meetings with its state Commissioners, political party leaders, CSOs, security agencies and the media. Despite a series of attacks on electoral officers and facilities, there has been no doubt a marked improvement in electoral security through collaboration with security agencies, resulting in the successful conduct of elections and containment of post-election violence. For example, during the off-cycle governorship election in Bayelsa State in 2023, the quick action of the commission led to the immediate rescue of some electoral officers who were abducted on Election Day by unknown gunmen.

The commission has, to a large extent, enhanced the independence of the electoral process through financial autonomy and security of tenure for INEC members and staff, while expanding its administrative structure to include more departments and an Electoral Institute, leading to increased efficiency in election administration. The Commission has also built a large team of permanent and ad hoc staff, enabling the commission to conduct elections effectively.

See also  Nigerian airline begins Lagos-London flight operations

Rotimi Oyekunmi, Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman told The Nation that since 2011, the Commission began to embrace some technological innovations that have greatly improved the electoral system. These include the introduction of the biometric register of voters which paved the way for the use of the Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) and the Smart Card Reader (SCR) for the first time.

According to him, the SCR facilitated the verification and authentication of voters, preventing voting by proxy both in the 2015 and 2019 general elections. The commission has also customized ballot papers, ballot boxes and result sheets with special security features that made it difficult for familiar forces to produce fake versions. By 2015, he said the Commission introduced more pragmatic technological and policy innovations.

The introduction of continuous voter registration by the commission is one other innovation that has increased access to voting for Nigerians. At every election, especially the general and off-cycle elections, the commission carries out the process of registering new voters because in between two elections, more Nigerians would have attained the age of voting. It has also introduced a process that allows those who change their address to transfer their voter’s card to their new location. This, Oyekunmi said, was done in response to calls by stakeholders and based on the Commission’s determination to serve Nigerians better by reducing overcrowding at CVR centres.

Closely following the smart card reader was the introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System which has been seen by many Nigerians as a game changer. Speaking on the BVAS, Oyekunmi said “The BVAS replaced the SCR and has an additional voter accreditation capability. It authenticates a voter through both his fingerprint and face. This innovation, used for the 2023 general election, effectively eliminated voting by proxy in that only the genuine voter with a valid PVC could vote”. Following closely is the INEC Election viewing portal which was designed to receive snapped copies of election results from the BVAS. He said “the IReV, on the other hand, was introduced to improve openness, the credibility of elections and give Nigerians an opportunity to directly observe the result management system. Its job is to receive PU results uploaded by Presiding Officers at the various PUs, hold and display such results permanently, thereby providing Nigerians with login authorization the opportunity to view them. It is an improved version of the People’s Result Sheet (Form EC60E) that was introduced during the Anambra State Governorship Election in 2017, whereby a poster version of the PU Result Sheet (Form EC8A) was pasted at all PUs used in the election for public viewing.”

Oyekunmi admits that the commission has faced several challenges in executing and improving the electoral system. He identifies the behaviour of political parties regarding the choice of party candidates and flag bearers for competitive political offices as one of the major challenges. He said “Our review of the 2015 general election revealed that some election outcomes were nullified by the Election Tribunals and the Appellate Courts due to candidate disqualification. It is therefore important for political parties to abide by their constitution in the conduct of party primaries by entrenching the culture of internal democracy”.

As a result of the behaviour of political parties, the commission has more often than not been dragged into several court cases, most of which are pre-election cases. Between 2016 and 2017 alone, the Commission was involved in over 454 court cases, in addition to 680 cases determined by the Election Petition Tribunal arising from the outcome of the 2015 general election.

Another challenge, he said, is “the issue of electoral offenders and attacks on our facilities and personnel. Between 2019 and 2022, INEC offices and facilities suffered 50 attacks across 15 states, 20 of which were perpetrated by unknown gunmen. Although INEC is empowered by the Electoral Act 2022 to prosecute electoral offenders, it lacks the power to investigate or make arrests.

The Commission has been cooperating with law enforcement agencies for the arrest and prosecution of electoral offenders, but efforts at mitigating electoral violence can only become effective with the arrest, prosecution and sanctioning of the sponsors and godfathers behind these crimes.

It is for this reason that INEC proposed the establishment of the Electoral Offences Commission Tribunal which will have the responsibility of prosecuting electoral offenders to enable the Commission to focus on its core mandate of organizing and implementing elections.

Vote buying, hate speech, fake news, disinformation and misinformation are some of the other challenges that are militating against the Commission’s work.”

For Diaspora Digital Media Updates click on Whatsapp, or Telegram. For eyewitness accounts/ reports/ articles, write to: Follow us on X (Fomerly Twitter) or Facebook

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Updates

#EndSARS: Nigerian Govt Guilty Of Rights Abuses, Must Compensate Victims – ECOWAS Court

VIDEO: Nigerian Traders Thwart Re-Arrest Of Man Protesting Against Hardship, Hunger

Kenyans Demand President Ruto’s Resignation Despite Cabinet Shake-Up

Killing of Protesters: Kenya Police IG Resigns, Goes Into Hiding

Many killed, Trapped As 2-Storey School Building Collapses In Jos, Nigeria

Klopp Makes Surprise Liverpool Return, Gets New Appointment At LFC Foundation

Rejected By His Party: More Democratic MPs Intensify Calls For Biden To Quit Presidential Race

Days After Referring To VP Harris As Trump, Pres. Biden Makes Another Blunder,  Calls Ukrainian President Zelensky ‘President Putin’

Who will save Nigeria from NNPC?

Judges Top List Of Bribe Recipients In Nigeria

Subscribe to DDM Newsletter for Latest News