The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD-West Africa) has renewed its call on the National Assembly to yield to the yearnings of Nigerians and finally deliver an electoral law that will secure our hard-earned democracy and deliver an electoral ecosystem that respects the choices of Nigerians.
In a position paper titled Still Work To Do On Nigeria’s Electoral Bill, 2021, while acknowledging positive changes reflected in the Bill, CDD-West Africa has highlighted some amendments proposed that are capable of reversing gains recorded in the past decades.
Of particular concern is the prohibition on the transmission of votes electronically. Electronic transmission of votes is a core component of the recommendations for full digitization of the electoral process that we made ahead of this amendment. As a long-standing election monitor, CDD-West Africa has documented the chaos associated with manual elections collating, which are “often messy, incoherent and susceptible to manipulations by individuals and political parties”. Choosing chaos over order does not help our democracy.
Again, the proposed Bill gives Returning Officers (RO) powers to correct unit results. While CDD acknowledges that there are occasions where unit results genuinely need to be changed, there is a need to include provisos that will prevent abuse of these powers. A 2019 survey by CDD-West Africa that sampled respondents from all geopolitical zones in the country and the Federal Capital Territory, 41% of respondents concluded that INEC staff often favored candidates of the ruling party.
The position paper also highlights the drastic increase in the campaign spending limits in the new Bill. While acknowledging that elections are expensive to run and that the naira’s declining value has made previous campaign funding limits unfeasible, the proposed limits in the Bill are disproportionate with inflation levels and, if sustained, are capable of favouring big spenders, particularly incumbents while preventing vulnerable constituencies like women and youths from contesting for public office. The paper notes that Nigeria’s democracy is not a commodity for sale to the highest bidder.
While commending the full financial autonomy that the bill proposes for INEC, the position paper points out that without clearly making provisions for a three-year rolling plan and twice yearly disbursement of budgeted funds to INEC as recommended by ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions, the electoral body would still struggle to meet the logistical requirements of delivering credible elections. This concern is not conjecture – the last three general elections were postponed as a result of the ad hoc nature of election funding in the country.
A final matter of concern is that the Bill denies INEC powers to review already declared results in situations where there is evidence that an RO declared results and returned the wrong candidate as winner under duress. This was a key recommendation by election observers after an RO stated that he declared a winner under duress in the 2019 elections following threats to his life. CDD-West Africa believes that ignoring this provision puts the lives of ROs at risk, as there is a likelihood that politicians will further explore this method of rigging.
Based on the foregoing, CDD-West Africa makes the following recommendations:
- Full use of digital technology across the electoral spectrum to enhance the efficiency of elections and credibility of outcomes
- To prevent abuse, there should be clear provisos on how ROs should proceed with the correction of unit results.
- The increase in the limit on campaign spending should be proportionate to the percentage of inflation and sensitive to wealth distribution to keep our democracy representative of vulnerable constituencies like women and youths.
- The recommendation of ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions for a three year rolling plan for elections should be reflected in the amendment to guarantee timely logistical needs ahead of elections.
- INEC should have powers to review already declared election results, where there is clear evidence that the RO was forced to declare a false election result.
Download a copy of the paper below: