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Nigeria: Civil Society on Elections
Africa Policy E-Journal
May 13, 2003 (030513)
Nigeria: Civil Society on Elections
(Reposted from sources cited below)
This posting contains a statement by civil society groups in
Nigeria issued after the first two rounds of election in Nigeria
last month, and a summary article from the UN's Integrated Regional
Information Network (IRIN) reporting on additional reactions
followiing the final round on May 3.
For additional background on the issues involved see the E-Journal
posting of a pre-election background article by the Centre for
Democracy and Development (CDD) at
The CDD will be issuing its own analysis of the election period
after the inauguration of the new administration at the end of May.
NIGERIAN CIVIL SOCIETY STATEMENT ON THE GENERAL ELECTIONS OF APRIL
12TH AND 19TH 2003
May 1, 2003
As Nigerians prepare to vote in the state legislative elections
scheduled for Saturday, May 3, 2003, it has become necessary to
review the political situation following the conduct of the
National Assembly Elections held on Saturday, April 12, 2003 and
the Presidential/ Gubernatorial Elections held on Saturday, April
19, 2003. This intervention is issued based on observations on the
controversy surrounding the elections, especially the reports of
the monitoring groups, grievances by some parties, responses by
government officials and the mass media.
This review is being conducted by members of civil society
organizations involved in election monitoring activities during the
last elections. Representatives of 45 organisations1, met in Abuja
on Tuesday, April 29 and Wednesday, April 30, 2003 under the
auspices of the Electoral Reform Network (ERN) to deliberate on
matters arising from the series of elections conducted so far.
The deliberations took into consideration the preliminary reports
issued by election observer groups, including the Transition
Monitoring Group (TMG), the Catholic Justice, Development and Peace
Commission (JDPC), the Labour Election Monitoring Team (LEMT) and
the Federation of Muslim Women Associations of Nigeria (FOMWAN) and
the Muslim League for Accountability (MULAC). These report were
supported by direct evidence of observers who saw events in the
Collectively, these groups deployed a total of 46,000 observers to
cover the 120,000 polling stations in the country. This represent
about 31 per cent of the polling stations. In actual fact, our
observers covered more polling stations than the total number of
monitors because in many communities, between 4 and 8 polling
stations are located in the same vicinity. When these units are
taken into consideration, Nigerian civil society organizations
covered more than one third of the polling stations. Our monitors/
observers reports, therefore, a true reflection of events that went
on in a substantial numbers of the polling stations.
All these observers/monitors were accredited by the Independent
National Electoral Commission (INEC) to observe the elections. We
believe that the reports of these Nigerians performing a civic duty
of election observation must be taken into consideration by the
election authorities in determining the success or otherwise of the
Summary of Findings
The evidence available to us confirms that elections/voting took
place in some parts of the country voters had the opportunity to
turn up at polling stations, cast their ballots for the candidates
of their choice and had results declared reflecting their choice.
This ideal situation was actually the exception rather than the
We have evidence that in many polling stations across the country,
voters voted, results were declared at some polling stations, while
in other there was a conscious decision by electoral personnel not
to declare the results. Whether declared or not, these results were
manipulated by electoral officers and party officials at collation
centers. This was the situation in many local government areas in
Anambra State Njikoka, Aguata, Onitsha and Nnewi; Imo State Owerri
North East, Orlu; and widespread in Rivers, Enugu and Delta States.
But a comparision of these results declared at polling stations and
recorded by both domestic and international observers, show
The third case scenarios are places where voters were
disenfranchised because they did not have the opportunity to vote.
Our observers' report show that elections did not take place in
Ughelli North, Ughelli South, Okpe, Patani and some parts of Bomadi
and Burutu Local Government Areas of Delta State.
While in some areas, these malpractices were isolated, in other
areas, they were part of a systematic plan to either disenfranchise
the voters or distort the votes.
In summary, the following represent various forms of malpractices
and inadequacies which afflicted the elections, based on the
reports of the various monitoring groups:
- Inadequate preparation by INEC, resulting in logistic problems
and inefficiency of its officials, especially on April 12, 2003
- Pre-election activities, such as voters' registration and
education, were hurriedly carried out by INEC. In particular, the
voters' registration exercise were not effectively done.
- The display of voters' register for verification was not
- In essence, voters' registration exercises created room for
- Inadequately trained INEC official
- Domineering influence of state governors on INEC officials in
many states, including supplying personnel who served as INEC
- Pre-election violence, such as assassinations,especially of
members of opposition to the ruling party in many states.
- Intimidation of opposition by the government, for example reply
by President Olusegun Obasanjo and the Inspector-General of Police
to General Muhammadu Buhari's letter of complaint about the
management of the April 12, 2003 elections.
- Violence in many parts of the country resulting in disruption or
abortion of elections in many polling stations, especially in the
south-South and South-East zones.
- The use of members of the armed forces to intimidate the
electorate and party agents, especially in the South East.
- Under-age and multiple voting
- Ballot snatching and ballot stuffing
- Falsification of results
- Employment of party faithful as INEC ad-hoc staff
Following the announcement of election results, there were
disputes, claims and counter-claims of the circumstances
surrounding the elections. We have no doubt, based on our
observers' reports, that in some areas, the elections were
conducted and results reflect the will of people. There are also
circumstances where cases of electoral malpractices can be left to
Election Tribunals to make the determination, whether or not these
malpractices substantially affected the outcome of the elections.
The responses of government officials to these reports have been
unsatisfactory and, in many cases, undemocratic. The demonisation
of aggrieved parties and international observers is unacceptable.
The use of government mass media at the Federal and State levels,
especially the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and the Federal
Radio Corporation of Nigerian (FRCN), to malign aggrieved persons,
demonise foreign observers and as tool of propaganda to distort the
nature and extent of electoral fraud constitute abuse of power.
The resort to falsehood by the Minister of Information and National
Orientation, Professor Jerry Gana, during his world press
conference, to the effect that the National Orientation Agency
deployed 120,000 monitors is unacceptable.
Conclusions and Recommendations
INEC must acknowledge that although it may have set out to conduct
free and fair elections, not everything went according to plan.
INEC should be bold and honest enough to admit its errors and
successes. The INEC cannot seriously claims that elections have
been successfully conducted in states such as Rivers, Enugu and
Delta. In some other states, including Anambra, Abia, Benue, Imo
and Plateau, where the election results have been willfully
falsified, INEC must quickly review the process and restore the
legitimate votes recorded.
Even in some of these cases, the INEC could reduce the tension in
the land by taking a second look at evidence of independent
domestic and international observers.
Based on the above, we wish to make the following recommendations:
- In states where elections were not held, INEC should urgently
make arrangements to conduct elections there
- The Election Petition Tribunals should not succumb to corrupt
inducement, threat or intimidation from any quarters. They should
not give priorities to technicalities over substantive issues and
must aim to do substantial justice
- The demonisation of aggrieved parties and observers should stop
- The use of government-controlled mass media, especially the NTA
and the FRCN, to distort the nature and extent of electoral fraud
should stop. This constitutes an abuse of power.
- Government officials should desist from using derogatory
statements that do not reflect reality against opposition and
- Nigerians should learn to let people express their democratic
rights and freedoms without ethnic,religious and regional prejudice
- The phenomenon of rented crowds of associations, professions,
unions visiting state houses and the presidency has emerged again
as was the case during the Abacha regime to congratulate "winners":
and condemn opposition. This is a shameful exhibition of
corruption, opportunism and lack of principles by both parties
involved government and the "crowd" of visitors.
- The Constitution needs to be amended and Electoral Act reviewed
to make INEC truly independent and not mere appointees of the
President. There is also a need to prohibit the use of government
facilities and funds to prosecute the election campaign of
incumbent office holders.
We hope that the May 3, 2003 elections will be free from the
malpractices and fraud recorded in the previous elections. We
commend the electorate for their commitment to democracy and their
perseverance so far and urge them to continue to believe in the
democratic process and turn out in large numbers to vote on May 3.
Electoral Reform Nework (ERN)
Transition Monitoring Group (TMG)
Justice Development and Peace Commission (JDPC)
John A. Kolawole
Labour Election Monitoring Team (LEMT)
Rekiya Momoh Federation of Muslim Women Associations of Nigeria
(FOMWAN) and the Muslim League for Accountability (MULAC).
The Election Review Meeting and this publication is made possible
by the Electoral Reform Network (ERN)
(1) Some of the organizations represented at the meeting are
coalitions and networks representing scores of other organizations.
These include: Transition Monitoring Group which has 170 affiliate
organizations; the Electoral Reform Network (ERN), with 73 member
organizations; the Labour Election Monitoring Team, representing
member unions of the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union
Congress; the Muslim League for Accountability and the Federation
of Muslim Women's Association of Nigeria, both with about 50 member
NIGERIA: Obasanjo's official landslide has hollow ring
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
13 May 2003
[This is from IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not
necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its
agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post any item on
this site, please retain this credit and disclaimer.]
LAGOS, 12 May 2003 (IRIN) - The triumph of President Olusegun
Obasanjo and his ruling party in Nigeria's general elections was as
sweeping as it was unprecedented. But given widespread accusations
of electoral fraud on a massive scale, their resounding victory
has a hollow ring.
"I doubt the results reflect the mood of the electorate," Chima
Ubani, the head of Nigeria's prominent human rights group, the
Civil Liberties Organisation, told IRIN. "It's not the actual wish
of the electorate but some machinery that has churned out
unbelievable outcomes. We've seen a landslide that does not seem
sufficiently explained by any available factor."
Most of Nigeria's 29 opposition parties have denounced plans for
Obasanjo to be sworn in for a second four-year term on May 29.
Instead they are demanding that Nigeria's chief justice over as
interim head of state to organise fresh elections within three
Obasanjo, a former military ruler in the 1970's, officially won 62
percent of total votes cast in the presidential ballot on April 19
as he sought a second term as an elected civilian president. And in
separate polls during April and early May, his People's Democratic
Party (PDP) won an absolute majority in the national parliament and
governorships and legislative majorities in 28 of Nigeria's 36
Under previous democratic governments, Nigeria's ruling party
always had to reach a pact with an opposition party to function
effectively. But the PDP has surpassed even the comfortable
majority it won in 1999, to arrive at the threshold of total one-
However, Muhammadu Buhari, Obasanjo's main rival in the
presidential election and leader of the country's biggest
opposition party, the All Nigeria People's Party (ANPP) said the
elections as "the most flagrantly rigged in Nigeria's history".
Several other influential opposition parties agree.
Their strident condemnation would have seemed like sour grapes if
local and international observers had not picked large holes in the
conduct of the elections.
The most weight opinions from local observers came from the
Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), a coalition of 170 human rights
and civic organisations which had 10,000 election observers on the
ground, and the Justice Development and Peace Commission of the
Roman Catholic Church, which deployed 30,000 observers across
The TMG said it found cases of multiple and underage voting,
snatching of ballot boxes by armed thugs and falsification of
results. It said that while several parties were involved in fraud,
the major beneficiary was Obasanjo and ruling PDP. They control
the police and other security agencies, which were found to have
been active in perpetrating electoral fraud.
The JDPC made similar observations, but also pointed an accusing
finger at Nigeria's electoral commission. In many parts of the
country the results which it announced did not reflect trends
observed at the polling stations, the church monitoring group
said. "Someone was fiddling with the figures," Ifeanyi Enwerem, the
head of the JDPC told IRIN.
Similar cases of widespread electoral fraud and other premeditated
malpractices were also reported by international monitors,
including those from the European Union, the U.S-based National
Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute.
Only the Commonwealth observer group, while noting cases of fraud,
said it was convinced that the results did indeed reflect the will
of the electorate.
The JDPC described as "incredible" official results showing nearly
100 percent turnout in southern Rivers State, with 2.1 million of
2.2 million registered voters casting their ballot for the ruling
party on a day when observers reported a low turnout.
And in the volatile oil-rich Niger Delta, ethnic Ijaw militants
questioned electoral commission figures showing an 98 percent
turnout near the oil town of Warri. Weeks of fighting between Ijaws
and people from the rival Itsekiri and a boycott organised by Ijaw
militants ensured there was practically no voting in the area. An
electoral official assigned to work in the area told IRIN that top
politicians in Obasanjo's PDP had taken home electoral materials
and ballot boxes which they filled and returned.
Nigeria's lower chamber of parliament last week weighed in on the
side of the critics by passing a motion asking for fresh elections
in the entire south of the country and parts of the north, alleging
The House of Representatives also called for the dismissal of the
country's police chief, Tafa Balogun and chairman of the
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Abel Guobadia,
blaming their agencies for the alleged disenfranchisement of
millions of citizens.
Despite initially ignoring the criticism and commending INEC for
its conduct of the polls, Obasanjo subsequently urged the electoral
body to investigate some of the issues raised, particularly in
Enugu and Rivers states in the southeast.
INEC said last Friday it had started an "exhaustive" investigation
of its own officials for their alleged involvement in electoral
fraud. However, political analysts said this is unlikely to satisfy
opposition groups who have vowed to prevent Obasanjo's
inauguration for a second term and have threatened "mass action" if
fresh elections are not held.
Most of the aggrieved opposition parties are also preparing to
challenge the results before electoral tribunals which are expected
to begin sitting in the coming days. However, Nigeria's leading
constitutional lawyer, Professor Ben Nwabuaeze, said these
tribunals would not address the main avenues through which fraud
had been committed.
"There is the right of the millions of voters whose votes had been
rendered useless and their wishes thereby thwarted," he said.
"These millions cannot go to the election tribunals or the court of
Date distributed (ymd): 030513
Region: West Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +economy/development
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