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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 Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.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: Election Monitoring, 2

Nigeria: Election Monitoring, 2
Date distributed (ymd): 990218
Document reposted by APIC

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

Region: West Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains the interim report of the Transition Monitoring Group on the state-level elections held in Nigeria on January 9, 1999. A previous posting contains several announcements from groups planning to monitor the Feb. 27 presidential election.

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Interim Report Of the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG)
On the Gubernatorial and State House of Assembly Held on Saturday, January 9th 1999

Distributed by the Constitutional Rights Project, CRP, a non governmental organisation established in November 1990 to promote and protect respect for human rights and the rule of law in Nigeria.

Please send enquries to
Constitutional Rights Project, CRP
5 Abiona Close, Off Falolu Rd,
P. O. Box 4447 Surulere, Lagos, Nigeria

Tel: 234-1-5848498; 5843041
Fax: 234-1-5848571
E-mail: crplagos@crp.org.ng

This is a preliminary report issued by the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), a coalition of 56 human rights and other civil society organisations that monitored the Gubernatorial and State House of Assembly elections held in Nigeria on Saturday, January 9th 1999.

This report is based on the observation of the polls in various constituencies by TMG monitors across the country. TMG monitors observed the polls in all six zones of the country: South East, South-South, South West, North East, North Central and North West.

TMG was formally accredited by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to monitor the elections nationwide, and deployed over 3,000 observers to monitor the elections nationwide, made up of 800observers who had formal accreditation from INEC, and other observers under the aegis of the TMG.

The level of co-operation between INEC and local NGOs is to be commended,and in the circumstances, the TMG calls upon INEC to accredit more local observers to cover the 10,000 observers which TMG is proposing to deploy for subsequent elections.

Preliminary

In general, the TMG observed a better state of logistical preparedness for this set of elections than at the previous election held on December 5th 1998. It was also noticed that the election officials were better trained and more aware of the regulations governing the conduct of the elections.

However, several reports indicate that there is still a worrying level of arbitrariness in the application of the voting regulations.

Although the elections were held in a generally peaceful atmosphere, the security situation across the country indicated that a lot still remains to be done in this area. It should also be noted that elections did not hold in some parts of the country, in particular, Bayelsa State, where no elections were held at all.

Across the country, it was noted that there was a lower turnout of voters compared with the December 5, 1998 Local Government elections. State of Preparedness of INEC

TMG notes that INEC was responsive to several of the recommendations made by the independent local and international observers after the December 5, 1998 Local Government election. However, there remains much room for improvement. 1. Electoral Materials

There was a general improvement in this regard across the country. However, lapses were still widespread. In some cases no election could be held due to lack of ballot papers (Aba South LGA), lack of voters' register or incomplete registers

b. Training of Electoral Officials

An improvement was noticed in this regard, as election officers appeared to be better informed about the procedure for voting.

c. Time-keeping

There was a greater adherence to the times specified by INEC for the commencement of the voting exercise. However, this improvement was not uniform, as for example, in some areas of Abia, Ebonyi and Kaduna States,election officials arrived late, and this led to late commencement of accreditation

d. Privacy of Voting

Improvements in this area were noticed, particularly with regard to the provision of collapsible voter's booths that provided a measure of privacy for voters. However, a very large percentage of polling stations remained without booths, and it was left to improvisation by polling officers to make alternative provision for privacy, and where this was not done, the vote remained virtually open. It should also be noted that while the transparency of the ballot box has many advantages, it is possible to see the vote cast by any individual as the individual ballots are dropped into the ballot box. Electoral officials may take care of this by advising each voter to fold his ballot paper before dropping it into the box.

e. Transportation

INEC appears to have made improvements in this area, and this no doubt, largely accounted for the prompt arrival of voting materials in many cases. However, again, the improvement was by no means universal. In Ebonyi State, there was a serious problem of mobility which in turn led to late arrival of election officers with the relevant materials.

f. Voters' Registers

There was no display of the voter's register, nor has there been any rectification, or opportunity for those who were unable to register during the initial exercise, to do so before the last election.

In some cases it was observed that the voters' registers were either incomplete in that whole pages were missing, or appeared to have been altered in that some registered voters with registration cards found either that their names were missing, or that the names on the cards did not correspond with those against the relevant number in the register. This was widespread. In Maikwanda in Maiduguri, Borno State, a whole register containing over 600 names was missing, and as a result, voting could not take place. Equally disturbing was the case of those who had been able to vote during the local government elections but were now unable to find their names on the register, as happened in Abia State.

It was observed that INEC officials were using voters' registers which were still in manuscript form. Although these ought to have been photocopies of originals kept in a master list, it was observed in some places that the copy actually being used at the polling station had been altered with correcting fluid. It is not clear whether these corrections appeared on the originals (and if not, why were the election officials not given photocopies of the corrected original), but this practice raises doubts about the authenticity of the register, and also creates room for manipulation by politicians and electoral officials.

In some cases, it was observed that problems of lack of any polling station whatsoever for some registered voters, which had been remarked upon during the local government elections, had still not been rectified. For example, in Umuahia North LGA of Abia State no polling station had been provided for hundreds of voters who had registered in Urban Ward III.

g. Uniformity of application of regulations

It was noted that the INEC regulation requiring that accredited voters remain at the polling station until voting commences was widely ignored.

In most cases across the country -- particularly where voting took place in non-enclosed spaces -- voters were either not told to remain on the spot, or were actively encouraged to go away and return at the appointed time for voting. In some places it was noted that INEC officials did not insist on voters being personally present for the purpose of accreditation, which involved only the marking of the individual's voter's card. This was particularly noticed in some areas -- e.g. in Igabi LGA of Kaduna State -- where some men were allowed to get voters' cards marked as accredited on the excuse that they belonged to their wives who were in purdah.

h. Civic Education

As noted in the TMG's last report, the pre-election education and information about voting procedure by INEC remained poor. Simply putting jingles on radio and television telling people to "go out and vote" hardly meets the requirement of specific information about the actual voting procedure, which was still missing. The TMG wishes to emphasize that comparatively few Nigerians have access to the print media.

The regulations regarding restriction on movement were equally unclear to many citizens and to those in authority. For example, in Bama town in Borno State, the State Administrator ordered the closure of the market, but it appeared that this was because of the low turnout of voters, rather than any violation on the restriction of movement. In Sagamu LGA of Ogun State, commercial activities were equally proceeding, with markets open and okada commercial motor-cycles plying their trade.

The late clearance of candidates in many places meant that there was very limited time for campaigns and presentation of programmes to the public, and as a result, many voters expressed ignorance about the candidates (particularly for the State Houses of Assembly) with resulting apathy about the voting exercise.

i. Gender Pattern of Voting

The turnout of women voters remained generally poor, as a percentage of total voters. In Ogun State, for example, observers noted that women voters made up less than 20% of those who voted. Although in Katsina State, an impressive turnout of women voters in some areas such as Batagarawa, Bindawa and Kafur was reported, the issue of women in purdah not coming out to vote remained a problem.

2. Security Situation

The TMG notes that although the elections took place in an atmosphere that was generally peaceful, (where elections took place at all), there was nonetheless a sufficient number of violent incidents to warrant much more attention to security on the part of INEC and the Nigeria Police.

In Ogun, Oyo and Ondo States, it was noticed that students who, it was alleged, were members of secret cults, were used as political thugs.

Apart from actual physical violence (attacks with guns, machetes, axes etc.) there were widespread reports of intimidation and harassment, and attempted seizure of ballot boxes, as happened for example in Ward 12 of Aba North LGA where fighting followed the attempt of a councillor-elect to seize the ballot box, although order was later restored. In Lagos Island, a ballot box was seized, and although it was abandoned by the thugs, it broke open and the ballot papers were scattered. In Epe LGA of Lagos State, inter-party violence led to the death of one person. In Kaduna North LGA at Ungwan Shanu, an INEC official was beaten up over his resistance to an attempt by a party official to force some ballot papers into the ballot box.

3. Conduct of the Political Parties

Primaries were conducted by each of the three parties before the elections. In several cases, the primaries were marred by allegations of improper conduct, especially allegations of attempts to impose favoured candidates on the part of some of the party chiefs. The TMG calls on the political class to eschew such undemocratic behaviour so that the military is not give further excuse to intervene in our polity.

4. Conduct of the Election

Low Turnout The low turn-out of voters which was noticed across the country appears to have given rise for some incidents of disregard of the rules for the conduct of the elections, or for outright electoral malpractices. In some areas, this took the form of allowing voters to get accredited well after the official closing time of 11.00 a.m., or allowing accreditation and voting to take place at the same time. In Aniocha South LGA and Oshimili North LGA of Delta State, the bizarre response of election officials and party agents was to share out the ballot papers amongst the three parties proportionately, thumb print and insert the same inside the ballot boxes, "to make up for the low turn out of voters"!

Perhaps the most poignant example of the frustration which resulted from low voter turn-out is the report received from Bama in Borno State where most people, rather than vote, went to the local market to do business. It took the intervention of the State Military Administrator to close the market at 2.00 p.m. and force the people to go and vote.

Under-Aged Voting The INEC chairman himself was reported to have arrested underaged voters at Unguwar Yari ward of Katsina State. Similar reports of voting by underaged persons were reported in Igabi LGA and Railway Quarters of Kaduna State.

Multiple Voting Several cases of multiple voting were reported from areas as widespread as Umuahia South LGA of Abia State, Igabi LGA of Kaduna State,

Bribery Allegations of bribery were equally widespread, but TMG monitors also made actual reports of bribery. In Oshimili North LGA in Delta State, a party gave out the money that facilitated the sharing of the ballot papers among the three parties, and as a result, that party had 75% to thumb-print, while the other two parties shared the remaining ballot papers. In Ekiti State, the wife of one of the parties' gubernatorial candidate was arrested with a large sum of money and indeed, a pot of charms. It was alleged that she had been using money to bribe voters.

5. Conclusion

The conduct of the election was successful. It was clear that INEC's performance improved. It can still do better in the coming elections, just as the security agencies and the political parties.

6. Recommendations

  • Between now and the next elections, there should be a review and display of voters' register, to allow for rectification, and for those who have been deprived of their right to vote to exercise that right in the remaining elections. A copy of the Voters' Register should be pasted at particular polling stations prior to elections to enable voters to identify where they will vote.
  • INEC should be assisted by the Federal Government and the international community in computing capacity. It is also recommended that the Voters'Register should be computerised, and printed copies made available for use at the remaining elections.
  • The regulation requiring voters to remain at the polling centre after accreditation has been much more honoured in the breach than the observance and should be abolished for all remaining elections. The regulation not only places undue strain upon the voters, but is generally impossible for election officials to enforce.
  • There remains a high need for security for ballot boxes and election officers after the close of polling, to ensure that cases of seizure of ballot boxes or results are eliminated.
  • There is need for increased efforts with regard to the issue of secrecy of voting. The situation where voters still do not have adequate privacy to cast their votes, or where the votes cast are apparent as the ballot is placed in the ballot box, should be urgently rectified.
  • With regard to Bayelsa State, the TMG advises that urgent steps should be taken by the Federal and State governments to restore normalcy so that elections can be conducted, as it would be unfortunate in the extreme were Bayelsa State to enter upon the forthcoming republic without an elected legislature or executive. INEC should hold itself ready to conduct such elections at any time that the situation improves.
  • INEC and non-governmental organisations should redouble their efforts in the area of voter education to ensure that people are persuaded that it is worthwhile to vote and also that they understand the voting procedure.

For: Transition Monitoring Group
Clement Nwankwo Chair, Coordinating Committee


This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.

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