Association of Nigerian Scholars for Dialogue
Preliminary Report of the
TRANSITION MONITORING GROUP (TMG)
LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS
Held on Saturday, December 5, 1998
This is a preliminary report issued by the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), a coalition of [Nigerian] human rights organisations that monitored the local council elections held in Nigeria on Saturday, December 5, 1998.
The TMG's report is based on our observations of the polling in various constituencies across the country. The observation covered 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.
TMG deployed over 1,000 observers to monitor the elections nationwide. These were made up of 326 observers from within member organisations of the TMG accredited by INEC and other observers recruited by the TMG.
A final report will be issued
the next elections scheduled for January 9, 1999.
1. State of Preparedness of INEC
There were complaints of serious administrative lapses by INEC in its preparations for the elections. Some of these lapses include:
a. Lack of Electoral Materials
In some polling stations, there were reports of lack of electoral materials, ballot papers, boxes, forms, etc. This affected voting.
b. Insufficient Training of Electoral Officials
Numerous electoral officials did not seem to have sufficient skills or knowledge to enable them tackle problems or complaints arising from the voting process. In some cases, party agents and independent observers were being relied on to resolve confusing situations and voters protests and complaints.
Mix up in Voters Registers
In some constituencies, the voters register was muddled up. Registers meant for particular wards or constituencies were taken to different areas thus disenfranchising voters who had turned up to vote. In other instances, peoples names were simply missing from the voters register.
c. Lateness of Officials
There were several reports of
reporting late for electoral duties, meaning that in several cases,
did not begin early. In some cases where accreditation began late,
were turned back once it was 11 am and in spite of the fact that INEC
had not completed
accrediting every person that was on queue. The problem of transportation and the biting fuel crisis accounted to some extent for the lateness of officials.
d. Lack of Privacy in the Voting
There was the problem of lack of privacy and confidentiality in the voting process, so that voters balloting was apparent to onlookers, and not sufficient security was provided for ballot boxes.
e. Lack of Civic Education
There was widespread lack of awareness among voters on how to vote, thumb print or even identify the parties and the candidates of their choice. In some cases, voters did not understand that they should thumb print the ballot papers before inserting them into the boxes. In other cases, ballot boxes were invalidated because voters thumb printed in between the boxes of the parties.
In a few other cases, voters did not understand the difference between accreditation and actual voting. Some left after accreditation believing that they had actually voted.
2. Other Logistical Problems
Transportation was one major problem that affected the conduct of the elections. Due to lack of transportation, electoral officers in some instances did not arrive at the polling centres in time. For the same reason, in other instances, voting materials did not get to polling centres in time. As a result, there were delays in the commencement of voting. This problem also compelled electoral officers to walk distances to pick up materials and return to their polling centres.
3. Security Situation/Electoral Violence
The elections were reasonably peaceful, except for isolated cases of electoral violence leading to intimidation of voters by party faithful, and, in some cases, death. Law enforcement agents deployed to voting centres were reportedly civil. It was observed that the number of law enforcement agents deployed for the exercise was inadequate.
However, many of the law enforcement agents deployed for the exercise were ignorant of INEC guidelines on their role in the voting exercise, especially the requirement that they should stay behind the last prospective voter on the queue.
In Awka, the Anambra State capital, one person was confirmed dead in a shootout involving a convoy of an APP candidate patrolling polling areas in the city.
In Asari Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State (Buguma City), youths dressed in black used acid to destroy polling materials and took them away thereby ensuring that no elections were held in the area.
In Ward 9 of the same local government, party agents brought thugs who were shooting in the air and scaring people away. Some people also sustained knife cuts.
In Akwa Ibom State, the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Oron Division was killed by rioters protesting the conduct of the council elections in the area.
4. Conduct of the Political Parties
The party agents who were at the polling centres generally conducted themselves well. There were however reported cases of improper and, sometimes, violent behaviour. From Ibadan North Local Government Ward 5 in Oyo State, it was reported that a fake voter's card was found on a party agent at a polling centre. From Sokoto State cases of rival party supporters going to polling centres with local weapons were also reported. There were also reports of rival parties clashing in Awka, Anambra State.
5. Electoral Malpractices
Some electoral malpractices were reported. From Bayelsa State, for instance, the uses of some of the missing voters' cards by strange persons were seen. This resulted in multiple voting particularly in Sagbama Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. Also, observers in Bayelsa State were satisfied that some of the voters who turned up were clearly underage.
Yet another irregularity was the failure of electoral officers to ensure that voters had enough space to cast their vote in secret. There were, in several cases, no space as a result of which voters thumb printed the ballot papers within sight of the other voters and electoral officers.
Despite lapses in the preparations by INEC and a few electoral malpractice recorded in some centres across the country, the elections were credible. Voter turnout was reasonably impressive compared to the turnout in elections in the recent past. The elections were largely peaceful and free of rancour in many voting centres across the country. However, some isolated cases of violence were reported in states like Oyo, Anambra, Lagos, Ondo and Ekiti.
1. There is need for better training of electoral officials to achieve consistency of the implementation of the electoral guidelines and to assist them to be confident in reaching and sustaining their decisions.
2. The level of checks and balances and supervision of electoral officials was inadequate, leading to some wrong decisions by officials not being dealt with. There is need to address problem.
3. There is need to ensure that the secrecy of vote is guaranteed. The practice where voters sometimes do not have adequate privacy to cast their votes and where the votes cast and the markings on the ballot papers are apparent should be tackled.
4. There is need for increased security of ballot papers, boxes and forms to ensure that they are not tampered with or removed.
5. A copy of the Voters' Register should be pasted at particular polling stations prior to elections to enable voters identify where they will vote.
6. There is need for adequate arrangement to be made for the transportation of electoral officers and materials on election days.
7. INEC should take urgent and
efforts to educate the public on the voting procedure. In this regard,
it is not enough to use the mass media. Grassroots bodies like market
associations, community-based organisations, churches and mosques,
be used to reach and educate our unenlightened majority. Support should
also be given to the efforts of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)
provide civic education to the populace.
Chair, Coordinating Committee
Transition Monitoring Group (TMG)