Friday, 26 December 2014

News Release: Credibility & Security Challenges Facing The National Register Of Voters & The 2015 General Elections In Nigeria

Elections are credible when they are premised on quantitative and qualitative National Register of Voters. The quantitative nature of the National Register of Voters fundamentally means a demographic and electoral arrangement whereby as many as grown up citizens notwithstanding their sex, tribe, religion or socio-economic status; particularly the active segment of the general population (18 to 65 years) are captured and documented using manual and ICT applications for the purpose of voting and electing their representatives in a general election in Nigeria or any part thereof on the basis of free representative democracy.

The qualitative nature of the National Register of Voters means making the arrangement recognizable by an existing law and setting out procedures for its effective management; which include periodic updating and revalidation of the registered voters as well as continuous registration of the non-registrants in the context of addition of eligible registrants and subtraction of dead and fictitious voters. Elections conducted on the basis of the foregoing become superbly credible if they are conducted under popular participation and citizen and ballot safety and securitization. In the United States, voting and immigration rights remain a major policy of its national government and they are used to measure fundamental performance indexes of successive and present governing authorities in the country.

General Information:  We (International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law) wish to inform authoritatively that out of 17, 500 top elective and appointive public offices in Nigeria, which spread across the three government tiers of Federal, State and Local Government and the three arms of executive, legislature and judiciary; 14, 483 are elective, while 3,017 are appointive. Out of these 14, 483 elective offices, 12, 788 are in the 774 constitutionally recognized Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Nigeria, while 1, 695 are at the States and Federal levels.

By the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, amended in 2011; the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is empowered to conduct elections into 1, 695 States and Federal elective seats. This is in accordance with Section 153 (1) (f) and sup Section 14 (1) of Third Schedule of the Part 1 of the Constitution under reference as well as the INEC Establishment Act of the Federation 2004 and the Electoral Act of the Federation 2010. By Section 197 (1) (b) and sup Sections 3 & 4 of the Part 11 of the Constitution, States Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs) are empowered to conduct elections into existing 12,788 LGA elective seats (chairmen, deputy chairmen and councilors).

According to the timetable for 2015 general elections released by INEC on 1st October 2014, out of a total of 1, 695 State and Federal elective seats, elections will take place in 1, 681 excluding governorship/deputy governorship elections in Anambra, Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun, Kogi and Bayelsa States (courtesy of Peter Obi v INEC & Ors 2007: SC). The forthcoming elections under reference are to be held on 14th February 2015 for Presidential & National Assembly (in accordance with Sections 132 (2) & 76 (2) of the 1999 Constitution) and 28th February 2015 for Governorship & State Assemblies (in accordance with Sections 178 (2) & 116 (2) of the Constitution). Despite bogus assurances steadily given to Nigerians by the INEC, the Federal Government and its security agencies to the effect that the 2015 general elections will be credible, credibility challenges facing the important exercise still extensively abound.

Code Provisions: Procedures for proper management of the National Register of Voters are clearly provided for in the Electoral Act of the Federation of Nigeria 2010. INEC’s power to issue notice for a general election is contained in Section 30. The Commission’s mandate to compile, maintain and update on continuous basis the National Register of Voters at National, State and LGA levels is contained in Section 9 (1) (2) (3). Section 10 (1) provides for continuous registration of voters. Section 10 (3) mandates the Commission to make available within 60 days after each year to every registered political party names and addresses of  persons registered the previous year. By Section 10 (4), INEC is mandated to certify the National Register of Voters for use in the general elections following issuance of notice for such polls.

Section 10(6) mandates the Commission to include and incorporate the Supplementary Voters List (derived from continuous voters’ registration exercises) in the National Register of Voters and certify same after resolving complaints and objections raised by registered voters within the stipulated time for its use in general elections. Section 13 (1) (2) (3) provides for right of a registered voter to transfer his or her voter’s card to his or her new abode. By Section 13 (4), it is the duty of the electoral officer working in the area where a registered voter is seeking for the transfer of his or her voter’s card to add him or her in the Transferred Voters’ List and transmit a copy of the entry to the electoral officer in the registrant’s previous polling area for the purpose of deleting his or her old data.

Further, INEC’s power to print and issue voters’ cards is contained in Section 16 (1) and Section 16 (2) forbids the Commission from issuing more than one voter’s card to a registered voter. INEC is empowered by Section 16 (4) to replace any or all voters’ cards for the time being held by voter(s). Right of a voter to apply in person to the Electoral Officer 30 days before the polling day for replacement of his or her lost voter’s card is contained in Section 18.

By Section 19, INEC is mandated to display voters’ register for public scrutiny in each of the 774 LGAs in Nigeria. This should be done between five and fourteen days. By Section 20 of the 2010 Electoral Act, INEC is mandated to integrate Supplementary Voters’ List with the National Register of Voters and cause same to be published not later than 30 days before the general elections. By Section 21, INEC is mandated to appoint Revision Officers for handling complaints and objections that may arise from registered voters and by Sections 23 and 24, penalties including jail terms with fines are provided against those that possess voters’ cards unlawfully and those that threaten eligible registrants to refrain from registering as voters.

Further Information: In the Presidential Election of 2011 held on 16th April 2011, according to the Nigerian Elections Coalition, out of total registered voters of 73, 528, 040 (seventy three million, five hundred & twenty eight thousand, forty) in the country, only 38, 199, 219 (thirty eight million, one hundred & ninety nine thousand, two hundred & nineteen) voted. In Lagos State, which has the highest number of registered voters in the country till date; out of total registered voters of 6, 108, 069, only 1, 945, 044 voted in the 2011 presidential election. In other words, 4, 163, 025 registered voters stayed away.

Geopolitically, out of 19, 803, 699 registered voters in Northwest with seven States, only 10, 585, 017 voted. In Southwest with six States, out of 14, 296, 163 registered voters, only 4,613,712 voted. In Northeast (now ravaged by Boko Haram insurgency), which has six States; out of 10, 749,059 registered voters, only 5, 826, 645 voted. In the North-central zone with six States, out of 10, 584, 017 registered voters, only 5,149, 057 voted.  In South-south zone with six States, out of 9, 474,404 registered voters,  6, 339,216 voted; and in Southeast zone with five States, out of 7, 577, 212 registered voters, 5, 082, 321 voted. In the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), out of total registered voters of 943, 474, only 398, 094 voted.

In all, out of total registered voters of 41, 136, 775 in the 19 northern States, only 21, 765, 797 voted in the presidential election of 2011. In the 17 southern States, out of total registered voters of 31, 347, 779; only 16, 034.581 voted. And in the FCT, out of total registered voters of 943, 474, only 398, 094 voted. From the above, the total registered voting population for 2011 general polls was 73, 427, 028 (post AFIS (figure)-automated finger-print identification software) as against 70, 383, 427 (post AFIS figure), which INEC claims to be the country’s total registered voters till date. They also show that out of 73, 427, 028 registered voters in 2011; only 38, 198, 472 voted in the presidential election held on 16th April 2011.

Further, according to INEC’s official information, dated 10th September 2014, which was communicated to the leadership of Intersociety, the existing total registered voters in the country remains “70, 383, 427”, while the total number of existing polling units (PUs) for the country is “119,973” ( real figure is 120, 596). The geopolitical zonal breakdown of the two figures is as follows: Northwest-Polling Units (PUs) 29, 552, Registered Voters 18, 616, 499; North-central-PUs 15, 042, Registered Voters 10, 572, 968; Northeast (troubled zone)-PUs 16,459, Registered Voters 9, 447, 510; Southwest-PUs 25, 672, Registered Voters 13, 188, 854; South-south-PUs 17, 760, Registered Voters 9, 492, 784; and Southeast-PUs 15, 549, Registered Voters 7, 175, 185. The FCT has 562 PUs and 892, 628 Registered Voters. In all, out of a total of 120, 596 existing polling units in Nigeria, the North (excluding FCT) has 61, 053, while the South has 58, 981. The FCT has 562. In the area of Registered Voters, out of 70, 383, 427 (real figure is 69, 386, 428) Registered Voters in the country, the North has 38, 636, 977, while the South has 29, 856, 823. The FCT has 892, 628 Registered Voters bringing the real total to 69, 386, 428(our re-calculated figure).

Challenges Facing INEC Over The National Register Of Voters: From the foregoing electoral code law and statistical analysis, grave loopholes exist in the INEC’s management of the National Register of Voters and compliance to the provisions of the Electoral Act of 2010. For instance, the 562 PUs given to the FCT with total registered voters of 892, 628 clearly shows that the Electoral Act of 2010 is in breach by way of allocating over 1000 registered voters per polling unit in the area as against legal requirement of 500 voters per polling unit.

The Commission has also continued to rely on the post automated finger-print software figure of “70, 383, 427” arising from the 2011 general voters registration exercise without letting Nigerians know how many people have been captured as new registered voters on continuous basis after the 2011 general voters registration exercise and the number of people that have been lost to natural and violence related death as well as those displaced by insurgency particularly in the Northeast zone. Nigerians also need to be told statistically via INEC’s national pronouncement how many registered voters that collected their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) State by State and LGA by LGA during the just concluded issuance and collection exercise and what number of PVCs have remained uncollected as well as their custody and fate.

The United Nations and INEC said recently that “over 1, 5million people have been displaced in the Northeast between 2013 and 2014 alone” in the form of refugees and IDPs following Boko Haram insurgency. Some have crossed borders to become refugees, while others moved out of the zone and became IDPs. In the same zone, which has 16, 459 PUs and 9, 447, 510 registered voters, where only 5, 826, 545 people voted in the 2011 presidential election under relative peaceful atmosphere, our question is; what is the rationale behind INEC’s botched attempt to allocate additional 5, 291 polling units to the area that is under population displacement, intense fear, threats and danger?  It is totally correct to say that INEC has failed woefully in its duties particularly in the management of the National Register of Voters, fundamentally, as it concerns continuous voters’ registration, revalidation, updating and voters cards management. These are grave violation of the Electoral Act of 2010 particularly its Sections 9, 10 and 13 including its sub 4.

There are also a lot of statistical discrepancies in the official figures used by the Commission particularly in the areas of existing PUs and registered voters. For instance, during the Anambra governorship poll of 2013, INEC gave total number of registered voters as 1,770, 127, yet on its other official records, another figure of “1, 784, 536” exists. Even the text of a press conference addressed by INEC’s Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega on 10th September 2014 contains such figure discrepancies.  In the said text, INEC’s total existing PUs for Nigeria was given as “119, 783” and registered voters as “70, 383, 427”. But when we re-calculated them, they were 120, 596 and 69, 386, 428 respectively.

In the 2011 presidential poll, the total number of registered voters cited by the Nigerian Elections Coalition on its website was 73, 427, 028 as against INEC’s “70, 383, 427”. Despite the fact that the Commission recently conducted and concluded the country-wide special issuance of permanent voters’ cards, registration of new voters as well as updating and revalidation of the registered voters; the exercise   still suffers a credibility problem unless Nigerians are put in the popular know of how many new voters have been captured; what remains of voting population in the Northeast zone devastated by insurgency and huge population displacement, what the current number of registered voting population in Nigeria is after subtraction of dead, displaced and fictitious voters and addition of the newly captured ones.

Security Challenges Facing The 2015 General Elections: With the loss of over 5, 500 Nigerian citizens to Boko Haram and Islamic Fulani insurgencies between January and November 2014 alone and displacement of millions of others particularly in the Northeast zone, the 2015 General Elections will certainly be marred by deepened fears leading to hyper voter apathy or acute low voter turnout. These may also provide opportunities for massive poll rigging particularly mass thumb-printing and filling of ballot papers (result sheets) with fake results.

Possibility of criminal indoors’ voting is also not ruled out particularly in the troubled zones owing to hyper desperation of some politicians and ethno-religious leaders to win power particularly presidency at all costs. Violence of unprecedented magnitude is also not ruled out owing to prevalence of ethno-religious divisions and promotion of politics of primordialism, intolerance, religiosity, thuggery, brigandage, mercantilism and poll rigging in Nigeria. Out of the two sets of election scheduled to be held on February 14, 2015 (Presidential & National Assembly) and February 28, 2015 (Governorship & State Assemblies); the former remains the most endangered and vulnerable.

Therefore, security and safety remain a critical challenge facing the said polls. This includes tangible or physical and intangible or psychological security and safety threats. Even where physical security is in place, traumas and fears will still have serious effects on registered voters particularly in the troubled zones. Fears of bomb-terrorism will shut tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of registered voters across the country behind doors on elections’ day.  These situations are worsened by mounting challenges facing the Nigerian security forces and their advisers in providing effective securitization and safety to the country and the citizenry particularly since intensification of insurgency terror in 2009.

Recommendations:  We challenge the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to proof us wrong over our firm position that it has failed woefully in its legal duties particularly in the management of the National Register of Voters leading to gross breaches of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and the Electoral Act of the Federation of Nigeria 2010.

Therefore, the Commission is by the foregoing called upon to do as follows:

1.      Tell Nigerians through a national pronouncement the number of existing registered voters in the country bearing in mind the recently conducted country-wide continuous voters registration, updating and revalidation exercises. This demand of ours is in accordance with Sections 9 of the Electoral Act and 22 of the 1999 Constitution (dissemination of public information through the mass media). This should also include national, State and LGA breakdown of the existing figures being demanded.

2.      Tell Nigerians through same medium the number of registered voters that collected their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) across the country and the uncollected ones as well as their custody and fate.

3.      Tell Nigerians how many registered voters that have been captured in the post 2011 general voters registration exercise and its post AFIS or during the various continuous voters registration exercises.

4.      Tell Nigerians how many registered voters that have been deleted from the National Register of Voters following their timely or untimely death as well disaster and violence related displacements that forced them out of Nigeria as refugees.

5.      Tell Nigerians how many registered voters that are known to the Commission to have relocated to other polling areas in the form of voter’s card transfer; in line with Section 13 of the 2010 Electoral Act. Nigerians will also wish to be told whether their previous data have been successfully deleted or quarantined in the Commission’ data system in line with Section 13 (4) of the Electoral Act of 2010.

6.      Tell Nigerians the number of existing registered voters in the Northeast zone and other troubled States of Kano, Kaduna and Plateau bearing in mind massive displacement of their populations as well as mass movements and relocations following insurgencies ravaging the areas. This public information under demand, should also include the number of PVCs collected in the areas and those left uncollected as well as those that successfully transferred theirs (if any).

7.      Tell Nigerians the voting status of the IDPs including the fate of their previous data for those that registered before in their former areas and the fate of those that have not been captured as registered voters bearing in mind the existing polling units in the country created in 1996 and suspension of the botched creation of the so called “30, 027” new polling units following stiff opposition from Nigerians because of their lopsided representation and ill-timing.

8.      How many IDPs camps are in Nigeria? Where are they located? Of estimated 1.5million IDPs of the Northeast zone, how many are of the voting age? How many have crossed borders as refugees? How secured are their camps for the purpose of the referenced polls in view of recent alleged arrest of suspected Boko Haram elements in some IDPs camps? What will be the status of polling units being proposed for the IDPs? Will they be permanent or temporary? Are the IDPs camps to be converted to permanent communities in Nigeria?

9.      Tell Nigerians the number of double or multiple registrants as well as under-age registered voters in Nigeria detected by the Commission in the National Register of Voters and other electoral offenders; and sanctions meted out to them (if any); in accordance with Sections 23 and 24 of the Electoral Act 2010 or other punitive provisions of the Act.

As for the security and safety challenges facing the 2015 General Elections, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces and officials and members of the Nigerian security forces must maintain law and order at all times in all parts of the country or any part thereof, particularly in highly vulnerable areas of Kaduna, Kano, Plateau, Benue, Niger, Nasarawa, Kogi, and the entire Northeast zone. Prompt and proper attentions should be paid to early warning signals as well.  Members of the Nigerian security forces commissioned for election duties should be given adequate electoral security training grounded in human rights and public safety.

In addition to voters’ register accountability under demand, INEC should commit all registered political parties participating in the coming polls under reference and all candidates cleared for the 1, 681 seats being contested including President Goodluck Jonathan to sign  undertakings for peaceful and non-violence conducts before, during and after the general elections particularly the presidential poll. Triggers of violence such as poll rigging must be avoided and adequate security measures put in place to tame excesses of bad losers and their violent followers.

While we vehemently oppose the postponement of the general elections across the country as being canvassed in some quarters, we may most likely support putting such polls on hold in the entire or any of the troubled zone(s) or States particularly in the Northeast zone, which is made up of six States; if public order and public safety are suicidally threatened or broken down.

In view of this, it is important to remind that Mr. President is empowered by Section 305 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 in the context of State of emergency bearing in mind conditions provided in the said Constitution upon which it can be declared such as (a) If the Federation is at war. (b) If the Federation is in imminent danger of invasion or involvement in a State of war. (c) There is actual breakdown of public order and public safety in the Federation or any part thereof requiring extra ordinary measures to avert such danger.  (d) There is a clear and present danger of an actual breakdown of public order and public safety in the Federation or any part thereof. (e) There is any other public danger, which clearly constitutes a threat to the existence of the Federation.

In exercising this extra ordinary constitutional power, Mr. President must de-civilianize his current emergency rule style in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States and revert to original diarchic emergency rule if the need arises so as to keep the political structures oiling the public disorder and public unsafe conditions in any troubled area out of power as well as denying them access to materials used to oil violence. It is important to inform that civilianize emergency rule is best applied in an area or territory devastated by a natural disaster, while a diarchic form of it is used to tame man-made social disorders.

Emeka Umeagbalasi (Criminologist & Graduate of Security Studies, M.SC Candidate in Peace Studies & Conflict Resolution & Alumnus of IVLP of the US State Dept, class of June 2013)
+2348174090052, +2348100755939 (office)
Board Chairman, International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law

Barr Obianuju Igboeli(LL.B, BL), Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program of Intersociety

Barr Uzochukwu Oguejiofor (LL.B, BL), Head, Campaign & Publicity Dept of Intersociety

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