Towards Success of Nigeria’s 2019 General Election

Towards Success of Nigeria’s 2019 General Election

Wednesday, October 10, 2018 2:58 pm


R-L- John Tomaszeeeski, Robert Benjamin and Anna Jones briefing journalists during the presentation of the statement in Abuja

The National Democratic Institute, NDI and International Republican Institute delegation suggested ways of making the 2019 general election free, fair and inclusive in a statement released after the second pre-election assessment of their joint delegation to Nigeria.     

FEMI IPAYE/Abuja

With 2019 general elections barely four months away, the National Democratic Institute, NDI and International Republican Institute, IRI have recommended series of measures that can be taken by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the Federal Government and other stakeholders to make the poll election credible, transparent and participatory.

The recommendations were contained in the report of NDI/IRI joint pre-election assessment mission delegation which visited Nigeria from September 19-28, 2018. The exercise, the second joint pre-election assessment mission to Nigeria by the two bodies was aimed at assessing the political and electoral environment in the lead-up to the 2019 general elections; assess preparations for the general elections and offer recommendations to enhance citizen confidence in the process, mitigate threats of violence in demonstration of international support for Nigeria’s democratization process, according to the delegation. Members of the delegation include Robert Benjamin, Senior Associate & Regional Director for Central and East Europe, NDI (USA); Mvemba Dizolele, Professorial Lecturer at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (Democratic Republic of the Congo); Sarah Jegede-Toe, Co-Chair, Liberia National Elections Commission (Liberia); Anna Jones, National Network Coordinator, WANEP-The Gambia (The Gambia); and John Tomaszewski, Africa Director, IRI (USA).

The delegation said it met with a wide array of election stakeholders, including the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), political party and religious leaders, civil society representatives, security forces, academics, and representatives of the international community during the second assessment mission.  In addition, the delegation also participated in the pre-election events of  Osun  gubernatorial election of September 22, 2018 and was also involved in monitoring of the election in Osogbo, Ilesa, Ede, and Ofatedo on the voting day.

While emphasizing that the pre-election environment is critical to the overall process of the general election, the delegation in the statement issued on 28 September noted that various stakeholders in the country’s electoral process have continued to work to enhance the electoral environment as they seek solutions to challenges and concerns over the 2019 general elections.

The delegation said, “Numerous positive developments have occurred since the 2015 elections that enhance today’s electoral environment in Nigeria. Some of these developments were noted in IRI/NDI’s first preelection statement. For example, the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) has improved the voting process, notably through the introduction of continuous voter registration, adoption of simultaneous accreditation and voting, improvements to the secrecy of the ballot, and advancement of the smart card reader technology.”

It also noted the move to encourage young Nigerians to participate in the electoral process through initiatives as the Not Too Young To Run campaign and increased participation of citizens in the electoral process through Civil society organisations.

However, the delegation also identified the challenges in the pre-election environment that may affect the credibility of the poll and capable of inducing pre/post-election violence in the report.

The delegation identified the challenges to include delays in finalizing legal framework  necessary for improvement of the credibility and transparency of elections in 2019, delay in release of funds, continuing security threats in the Middle Belt and North East part of the country, heightened political tensions,  failure to prosecute suspects arrested for vote buying , poor internal party democracy, inability of  women, youth, and PWDs to actively participate in the electoral process, incitement to violence and disinformation  by political parties, particularly through the social media among others.

While encouraging Nigerians to continue their efforts to enhance citizen confidence and participation in the election and mitigate violence before, during, and after the polls, the delegations made recommendations listed below for some of the key stakeholders to help enhance credibility and greater inclusion in the electoral process.

Recommendations for the Independent National Electoral Commission:

  • Take concrete measures to combat vote buying through voter education campaigns, enforcement of laws against voter inducement, and nationwide ban on cellphones in the voting cubicle.
  • Enhance as much as possible the physical space for voting to facilitate the processing of voters on election day. Prioritize training for polling officials on configuring polling units to enhance ballot secrecy while maintaining a transparent voting process.
  • Decentralize the Permanent Voter Card (PVC) collection process from the local government level to the ward and community levels and intensify voter sensitization to increase PVC collection rates.
  • Implement the PWD framework, including operationalizing the Braille Ballot Guide and Form EC30PWD nationwide for Election Day, conducting voter education to increase the participation of PWDs in the voting process, and improving accessibility of polling units.
  • Undertake measures to increase understanding of the vote collation process and ensure access of observers and party agents to collation centers.
  • Publish polling unit-level registration and results data on INEC’s website in a machine readable format.
  • Release specimen ballots well in advance of Election Day so that civil society and other electoral stakeholders can conduct sufficient voter education to orient voters.

Recommendations for political parties:

  • Engage, at the leadership level, in inter-party dialogue, such as the one facilitated by the National Peace Committee in 2015, and adhere to agreed provisions therein.
  • Proactively investigate and, where substantiated, take punitive action against party members and supporters who use hate speech and violence (including through gangs) or disseminate false information during the election cycle.
  • Demonstrate thorough adherence to campaign finance regulations and commit to the proper use of resources in engaging voters. Provide access to INEC auditors per applicable regulations.
  • Adhere to and enforce existing codes of conduct that commit parties to democratic electoral standards regarding campaign use of resources, engagement of voters, peaceful resolution of disputes, and acceptance of verified and credible results.
  • Empower the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) to perform its coordination and mediation functions effectively with a priority on state level engagement.
  • Upon conclusion of party primaries, promote party cohesion through equitable access to dispute resolution and reconciliation mechanisms.
  • Participate in public debates and otherwise enable candidates to reach out to citizens so that the latter are duly informed of party and candidate platforms and policy positions.

Devote time and attention to women and youth candidates in particular.

Recommendations for civil society:

  • Begin voter education as soon as feasible on ballot design, use and secrecy; vote buying and other illegal practices; the role of security forces in the voting process; and vote tabulation and collation procedures.
  • Begin to focus voter education in IDP camps or areas where IDPs have recently returned home so that they are afforded the same opportunities to participate in the voting process.
  • Promote the peaceful participation of citizens in the electoral process and draw on existing inter-religious and peace building bodies to enhance their efforts.
  • Disseminate information about citizen-based observation findings and analysis to increase public knowledge and understanding about the conduct of the elections.

Recommendations for state-owned and private media:

  • Provide balanced coverage of political activities and opinions during primetime television and radio shows, and in the print media.
  • Without infringing on freedoms of the press and expression, refrain from disseminating proven “fake news” or inciting language by electoral stakeholders that could inflame tensions around the elections.
  • Provide political parties with ample opportunities to share information on their policies and manifestos with voters.
  • Disseminate messages on the importance of peaceful participation in the electoral process.

Recommendations for the international community:

  • Support Nigerian civil society at the state level to implement creative and strategic programs around voter and civic education and conflict mitigation that target groups of voters most in need of information, including women, youth, PWDs rural populations, and IDPs.
  • Continue to regularly message to the main political actors and parties on the importance of respecting the rule of law and holding credible, meaningful polls.

The delegation promised it will continue to observe the electoral process and will issue additional statements as appropriate and will also field joint international election observation missions for the 2019 general elections.

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