INEC’s Failures Define the Nigerian General Elections
INSIGHTS & OPINIONS
INSIGHTS & OPINIONS
Last Saturday, the Nigerians participated in a hotly contested election process, casting votes for the President and members of the National Assembly. As we analyzed last week, several issues came to the fore this past weekend, including insecurity, misinformation, and electoral dispute resolution.
A key issue on election day was the absence of security personnel in several polling units. Considering the high levels of insecurity and history of voter suppression across the country, adequate presence of security personnel is non-negotiable for fair and credible elections in Nigeria. The federal government’s failure to properly protect the people in numerous polling units, especially in Lagos and Rivers states, allowed hired political ‘thugs’ to disrupt the voting process. There are multiple first-hand accounts of these disruptors injuring voters, carting away ballot boxes and destroying election materials in several polling units. These disruptors’ suppression efforts also took the form of threats demanding voters not to vote for certain candidates. In disappointingly typical fashion, instances of vote buying, and underage voting were also reported in several polling units across the country. across the country.
In many polling units, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) encountered significant logistical issues which hampered the voting process. Critical infrastructure such as the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) electronic devices failed to recognize the faces and fingerprints of registered voters. The electoral commission’s failings were not limited to this technological hiccup. INEC officers arrived late at countless polling units, forcing voters to cast their ballots deep into the night. In some places, elections were not even held. INEC has blamed these logistical problems on the current scarcity of fuel and cash across the country.
However, the major talking point is INEC’s departure from its initial stance and the 2022 Electoral Act stipulation mandating the electronic transmission of election results. According to Section 60, subsection 4 of the Electoral Act:
“A collation officer or returning officer at an election shall collate and announce the result of an election, subject to his or her verification and confirmation that the— (a) number of accredited voters stated on the collated result are correct and consistent with the number of accredited voters recorded and transmitted directly from polling units under section 47 (2) of this Act; and (b) the votes stated on the collated result are correct and consistent with the votes or results recorded and transmitted directly from polling units under section 60 (4) of this Act”
While the results of the Senate and House of Representatives elections were electronically transferred and uploaded on the INEC Election Result Viewer (IREV) for many polling units, the electoral commission eschewed real-time transmission of the Presidential results, instead reverting to manual transmission. INEC claimed that “technical issues” with its server necessitated this reversion. This is in spite of the fact that the commission was given the funds (305 billion Naira) it requested to ensure that electronic transmission was a reality per the Electoral Act. A knock-on effect of this manual transmission was a delay of the collation of results; INEC commenced collation over 24 hours after voting occurred. Put together, the electoral commission’s handling of the process has unsurprisingly heightened public concern about the transparency of INEC and the announced results.
The All Progressives Congress’ Bola Tinubu has been announced as the President-elect and the victor of this process. Given the range of problems, it’s likely that this result will be contested by the other major parties and disputed by a significant share of the public. In fact, the People’s Democratic Party, Labour Party and New Nigeria People’s Party have already called on INEC to cancel the results and hold fresh elections. That’s a demand that will most likely not be met, leaving the convoluted electoral dispute resolution process at the Courts as their only real recourse.
This article was written by Hycent Ajah