Monday, August 2, 2010

After much delay, Nigeria's Electoral Act is practically amended as all that remains is the President's stamp of approval. The changes to the law mostly reflect the suggestions of the Uwais-led Electoral Reform Committee (ERC). And the electoral body, INEC, got most of the changes it's new leader, Attahiru Jega, pled for. While this new law means that the 2011 elections are one step closer to becoming a reality, certain additional factors could hamper the effective roll out of polls. In fact Jega already noted that there is not enough time to conduct proper elections.

After the 2007 elections, then-president Yar'adua acknowledged the fraud and corruption involved and eventually created a committee to review the election, the nation's electoral law and make suggestions on how to improve future elections. Unfortunately, there was little progress in the adoption of the ERC's recommendations during the Yar'adua administration. However, once Goodluck Jonathan became acting president, he announced his support for the ERC's suggestions and eventually sent those suggestions, unchallenged, to the national assembly for review and adoption.

The Senate and House went back and forth debating the electoral act suggestions. As required by the constitution, all 36 state legislative bodies also weighed in on the amended law. Despite a missed deadline and a missed deadline extension, some states delayed, extending the process of enacting a new electoral act that could come into effect in time to guide elections which must be completed in order for a new president to be sworn in, as required, on May 29th 2011. Nevertheless, the states' votes were submitted to the Senate and the harmonized version of the act was voted on on July 30th.

Per the recommendation of the ERC, elections will be divided into federal government and state government elections. The election sequence will see the National Assembly and presidential elections going before state governor and state assembly elections. Northern legislators preferred the reverse sequence but their Southern counterparts won out on the issue. However, Senate members have stated that the sequence was not intended to benefit Goodluck Jonathan if and when he announces a run for office.

Under Section 78 of the amended law, parties that fail to win a seat in either the National Assembly of state legislative bodies can be unregistered. Based on this new law, at least 50 political parties can be removed from the official list of political parties. In addition, Section 91 places a cap on how much money can be spent on an individual campaign. All presidential aspirants are limited to N1 billion while gubernatorial candidates can only spend N200 million. Those seeking a position in the National Assembly must spend no more than N40 million while State Assembly aspirants can only spend N20 million.

Section 92(3) requires all political parties to submit their expenses to the commission six months after elections. These expense reports must be signed by the political party’s auditors and chairman. All signatories must include notification swearing to the validity of the report. Failure to observe this law will result in conviction and/or a N1 million fine.

According to INEC's chairman, the body needs between N74 billion to N84 billion to conduct elections. That money must be received by August 11th or else elections will not take place. President Jonathan allegedly informed the Minister of Finance, Segun Aganga, to make the money available for INEC's purposes. However, a definite announcement on whether INEC will get the money it needs is yet to be made as at publication. 

Specifically, new polling machines must be purchased as the old ones have been found to be deficient. Additionally, a review of the voter's register of 19 states indicated that a new register is needed for credible elections. Jega aims to register at least 70 million voters and because of how late the Electoral Act was completed, his agency must register these individuals, procure all necessary materials, train electoral staff and much more in approximately 3 months so as to have a chance of conducting well organized elections that will be considered credible.

These and other issue must be tackled in order to give INEC and indeed Nigerians a fighting chance at conducting elections that are much better than those from 2007. The 2007 elections were lambasted for fraud by domestic and international observers and many results were eventually overthrown in the courts. For Nigeria to get closer to the establishment of a political system that works within the local context, the 2011 elections must, despite problems, not be seen to be overly corrupt. In Jonathan's own words while in Kampala, Uganda for the 15th African Union Summit, 
"I would not also want to conduct an election in which people would raise issues. I want a situation where at the end of the elections nobody will go to court because there should be no reason for people to go to court."
Post election disputes have been a shackle on democratic development and indeed, it would be a great day if Jonathan's wish came to pass. For now, all Nigeria must do is create an environment were fair elections can take place. Hopefully, the new electoral act and the solution of certain other problems will get Nigeria closer to the free, fair and credible elections it needs.

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Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why there was disagreement over sequencing; all at once?

- Opemipok from Twitter


@ opemipok: it seems the disagreement was on what elections would happen first. Some northern senators thought if pres. polls went first Jonathan would have the advantage. I'm still trying to get a better perspective on the matter, frankly. Hope that helps.

helm seat said...

How on earth are we not going to be having thieves as leaders. how can a man spend 1billion naira on elections when an average man cannot even afford to feed himself with #500 daily?

modular log homes said...

There is a girl running for an ASB office that wins EVERY year. I really want the position she's running for! I won't know if you lose unless you try but that doesn't always work. I need strategy tips on how to win against a girl who wins everything. Thanks!

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