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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

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.

+++++++++++++++++end summary/introduction+++++++++++++++++++++++


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 electoral terrain.

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 elections.

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 rule.

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 substantial discrepancies.

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:

  1. Inadequate preparation by INEC, resulting in logistic problems and inefficiency of its officials, especially on April 12, 2003
  2. 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.
  3. The display of voters' register for verification was not effectively done
  4. In essence, voters' registration exercises created room for electoral fraud.
  5. Inadequately trained INEC official
  6. Domineering influence of state governors on INEC officials in many states, including supplying personnel who served as INEC electoral officials
  7. Pre-election violence, such as assassinations,especially of members of opposition to the ruling party in many states.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. The use of members of the armed forces to intimidate the electorate and party agents, especially in the South East.
  11. Under-age and multiple voting
  12. Ballot snatching and ballot stuffing
  13. Falsification of results
  14. Employment of party faithful as INEC ad-hoc staff

The Disputes

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 observers
  • 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.

Signed by:

Olawale Fapohunda
Electoral Reform Nework (ERN)

Angela Odah
Transition Monitoring Group (TMG)

Chukwuma Ezeala
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 organization

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 months.

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 states.

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- party dominance.

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 Nigeria.

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 "grave irregularities".

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 appeal."

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Date distributed (ymd): 030513
Region: West Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +economy/development

The Africa Action E-Journal is a free information service provided by Africa Action, including both original commentary and reposted documents. Africa Action provides this information and analysis in order to promote U.S. and international policies toward Africa that advance economic, political and social justice and the full spectrum of human rights.

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