LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS
Association of African Election Authorities (AAEA)
International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES)
(Issued on December 10, 1998)
The international observer mission, led by Dr. K. Afari-Gyan, AAEA Executive Secretary and Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Ghana, arrived in Nigeria on November 30 and deployed to seven of Nigeria's 36 states from December 3-7 to assess the pre-election environment, observe voting day, and evaluate the tabulation of results and the immediate post-election period. The delegation included a four-person IFES team that has been in Nigeria since November 15 to monitor election preparations.
The AAEA/IFES observer mission focused its assessment of the electoral process on the technical aspects of the administration of the December 5 elections--on the organizational capacity of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the legal framework for the electoral process, and election day procedures. Our comments about the local government vote are presented here in the hope that they might contribute to preparations for the upcoming State Assembly, governorship, parliamentary and presidential elections, to the overall strengthening of Nigeria's electoral system, and to the transition to a civilian, democratic government.
The AAEA/IFES delegation deployed eight teams for these elections, two to the Federal Capital Territory and others to Lagos, Kaduna, Kano, Oyo, Plateau, and Rivers States from December 3-7. Throughout the observation mission, the teams met with INEC officials and staff, members of political parties, representatives of nongovernmental organizations and other Nigerians involved in the political life of the country. On December 5, the AAEA/IFES delegation looked closely at polling station organization, capabilities of poll officials, the ability of voters to cast their votes without undue hardship or intimidation and in secrecy, and the procedures for vote counting and results tabulation.
As is well known, Nigeria's struggle to build a democratic state has been a long and difficult one, and elections within this process have frequently been marred by lack of credibility and transparency. Citizens have a right to expect that their elections process will guarantee that they can register to vote and cast their ballot without undue hardship and in secrecy. They also expect that their vote is recorded accurately and counted toward the result of the election and that the result be universally respected. Given Nigeria's history, the citizens' aspirations and the importance of these elections to the present transition process, it is encouraging to note that the INEC generally had the confidence of the political parties and voters prior to the period leading to the elections.
Based on the observations of the AAEA/IFES mission and knowledge gained through our long-term presence, we present the following findings:
Voters register: Most voters had a voter's card and their names were readily found on the register. Of great concern, however, was our observation at some of the polling stations of the accreditation of multiple cards in the possession of the same voter. Some voters with cards were not able to find their names on the register.
Accreditation: Although the INEC attempted to eliminate the possibility of multiple voting by directing the confinement of voters at the polling station from the time of accreditation to voting, the guideline was not followed. We also observed a small number of voters under the age of 18 receiving accreditation.
Election day procedures: We observed a lack of uniform procedures from polling station to polling station throughout the election day processes. At many polling stations, we observed that, either at the point of marking the ballot or dropping it into the box, the voter's right to secrecy was not preserved. Indelible ink was used to mark the voters in only a few polling stations. We believe the inconsistent election day procedures were a result of inadequate guidelines to, and training of, poll officials.
Materials: Many polling stations that we observed opened late due to delay in receiving materials. Further, the provision of additional materials, such as extra ink pads, would have allowed more than one voter to mark his or her ballot, making the voting process more efficient. Some polling stations were not provided with lanterns or other materials to facilitate counting and tabulation in the night.
Invalid ballots: We observed ballots that were rejected even when the voter's intention could be discerned. The lay-out of the ballot paper contributed to numerous invalid ballots, as did the lack of clear guidelines to the poll officials on what constituted an invalid ballot.
Voter awareness: A low level of understanding on the part of the voter was evident resulting in difficulty in marking the ballot and casting it in secrecy.
Poll officials: Only two poll officials were present at the majority of the polling stations we observed, hampering the efficiency of the voting and accreditation processes.
Domestic Observers: We observed
that most Nigerian nongovernmental organizations were not able to
accreditation in time to effectively monitor the vote. Explicit
of the role of domestic observers would provide the framework needed to
more easily include these important actors in the process.
The AAEA/IFES delegation recognizes the great challenge faced by Nigeria's Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in administering these elections given the size and complexity of the country, the stated time frame, and the attendant logistical constraints. We note the tremendous desire of all Nigerians to make the transition to an elected, civilian leadership and to build a sustainable democratic system. The December 5 local government elections demonstrated the commitment of the INEC, the political parties and the Nigerian people to the transition to democracy, as we witnessed people from all walks of life and all political persuasions cast their ballots for local government councilors and council chairmen. We are encouraged that this first vote passed in a relatively peaceful atmosphere and with the support of most Nigerians, and we hope that the following months will be marked by a further commitment to a credible, transparent and representative process on the part of all major stakeholders and Nigerian citizens.
K. Afari-Gyan, Executive Secretary, AAEA Chairman, Electoral Commission of Ghana
Abuya Abuya Member, Electoral Commission of Kenya
John Acree, Consultant, IFES
Marren Akatsa-Bukachi, Program Officer, Institute for Education in Democracy, Kenya
Simon Clarke, Election Specialist, IFES
Albert Geoffrey M. Dzvukamanja, Member, Electoral Supervisory Commission, Zimbabwe
John Ernest Ekuban, Coordinator, Institute of Economic Affairs, Ghana
Paul Guah Chairman, Elections Commission of Liberia
Keith Klein, Director, Africa and the Near East, IFES
Ramanou Kouferidji, Communications Secretary, GERDDES-Benin
Gilbert Ngouongue, Permanent Secretary, CERCUDE, Cameroon
Flora Nkurukenda, Deputy Chairperson, Electoral Commission of Uganda
Trevor Owen, Election Specialist, IFES
Susan Palmer, Program Officer, Africa and the Near East, IFES
Kwadwo Sarfo-Kantanka, Deputy Chairman (Finance and Administration), Electoral Commission of Ghana