Improving Electoral Integrity in Nigeria: Autonomous Electoral Commission v. Electoral Quality


Image: Rally to empower Nigerian women to participate in the 2011 Nigerian elections.  CREDIT: Credit: Projekthope

Image: Rally to empower Nigerian women to participate in the 2011 Nigerian elections.
CREDIT: Projekthope

Elections are complex political processes, requiring impartial electoral management bodies (EMBs). Democracies around the world encounter various challenges of electoral quality. There is the abuse of postal voting in the 2004 Birmingham local elections, voters’ frustration in the 2010 UK general elections and the contentious vote recount of the US 2000 presidential elections. Also, there was the use of bloated voters’ register in 1992 Ghanaian election as the 2007 April elections in Nigeria. This questions the assumption that permanent and professional EMBs will conduct credible elections. Moreover, electoral umpires have existed, but were not allowed to perform effectively and achieve democratic visions, making it imperative to inspect the bureaucratic fundamentals of EMBs. The purpose is to clarify the potential effects of institutional independence of EMBs in guaranteeing electoral credibility.

One way to illustrate this is by focusing on the constitutional authority provided to the electoral commissions. Whilst constitutionally institutionalised, the powers of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Nigeria appear constrained in many ways. Table I below indicates the President as the most influential person in the appointment of all 12 federal electoral commissioners (FECs), 37 residential electoral commissioners (RECs) and the chief electoral commissioners. Although the President is to consult the Council of State (CoS) and seek legislative approval, he alone appoints all the RECs who are the strategic field-agents of the commission at the 36 federating units, plus the capital. In addition, he is at liberty to appoint party loyalists and has the commission within his reach. After all, agencies listed here are answerable and receive their funds from an executive disbursement.

  Appointment Requirement Location Funding Administration
1999 Const. P = FECs (in Consultation with CoS & subject to Senate Confirmation) & RECs (Section 154) All FECs & RECs shall be eligible to stand for election as members of legislative assembly among the requirements is membership of political party (Section 156) federal executive bodies FEBs (Section 153) Est. of INEC Fund under the disbursement of the executive (Section 81 and 84) INEC to seek presidential approval (Section 160)
1999 Const. (as amended) P = FECs & RECs in consultation with CoS & subject to Senate confirmation (1st Alteration Act, 3rd Schedule (f) S. 14.3) All FECs & RECs shall be eligible to stand for election as members of legislative assembly and shall not to be a member of any political party (1st Alteration Act 3rd Schedule (f) S.14.3) FEBs (Section 153) INEC Placed on first-line-charge (1st Alteration Act S.84.7 and 8) INEC to conduct it affairs without the approval of the president (1st Alteration Act, S. 160.1)

Table 1: Comparative Autonomy of INEC Nigeria in 2007 & 2011 elections

These arrangements affect the commission’s institutional autonomy and its credibility in the conduct of the 2007 elections. For example, it is seen as the most significant institutional problem facing INEC which the country failed to rectify during the 2006 Amendment Act. People feared that individuals appointed by the President could dance to his tunes and do his biddings. Experiences before, during, and after the elections seem to confirm this fear as there were reported cases of electoral frauds, irregularities, shortage of electoral materials, ballot box stuffing, an announcement of fake and unaccounted election results, and an alleged revelation of how politicians do conspire with electoral officials to create electoral windfall. Consequently, the legitimacy of the elections was doubted to the extent that the 2007 elections were adjudged the worst in Nigeria’s post-independence electoral history. Indeed, the beneficiary of the elections acknowledged its shortcomings, as did majority of Nigerians. A blogger described the elections as a reflection of near-total dominance of the PDP and pervasive influence of the outgoing president– a position acknowledged by INEC when it blamed the central bank and due process office for much of the 2007 electoral failures.

However, in the build-up to the 2011 elections certain amendments (indicated in green Tab. I) like subjecting the appointment of RECs to legislature scrutiny raise the impartiality of the commission. Also, the removal of party membership as requirement for appointment has enhanced its non-partisanship. For example, it is believed that INEC in the 2011 elections has expanded and improved the political environment for better participation and competition. It has elevated electoral fairness by providing fair grounds for democratic engagement. The 2011 elections have conformed to democratic values expressed by the African Union and ECOWAS.

Other significant variables toward these successes are the financial and administrative powers which the commission enjoyed. It is reported that INEC independently designed and executed the elections, facing all the challenges squarely. Election observers – domestic and foreign – commended the commission’s preparedness, applauded the systematic deployment of electoral officials, and uphold the 2011 elections. For example, INEC procured 232, 000 DDC machines, cameras, and printers and had them delivered as early as 29th November 2010; recruited and trained 368, 812 NYSC as presiding officers; purchased 9000 units of 6.5 KVA generating sets as standby in case of battery failures and 150, 000 collapsible ballot boxes and made operational and functional during the presidential, gubernatorial and other elections 119, 973 polling units, using enough and qualified hands.

In conclusion, as Nigeria is approaching yet another round of general elections, there is the need for the legislative houses to place more emphasis in ensuring that the commissions’ institutional, financial, and operational powers and functions are protected in order to safeguard the sanctity of the ballot. To other countries, this piece points that whatever model of EMBs in operation, there is the need for policy practitioners and public activists to ensure that all is done towards a hitch-free elections.

Why the data doesn’t work: anti-immigrant sentiment and the economic impacts of migration

Politics, Knowledge & Migration

When UCL researchers released their latest findings on the fiscal impact of immigration a fortnight ago, they were portrayed in the media as somehow missing the point. It seems that data on the economic benefits of immigration can’t make a dent in current political debates about the subject. So why are such arguments so ineffectual in shifting opinion?

One answer lies in the inadequacy of abstract data. Apparently people don’t trust numbers – that’s “just facts”, as someone put it at panel discussion I recently attended on immigration. Anecdotes and second-hand stories about welfare abuse appear to be more compelling and credible than UCL or NIESR reports. The (admittedly infrequent) conversations I have with people who express strongly anti-immigrant views certainly suggest that information is largely drawn from second hand stories and the experiences of others – family members or friends, doubtless reinforced by right-wing media and political rhetoric.


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Food in Lebanon

A blog by Edinburgh PIR Teaching Fellow Bashir Saade


3583946554_d51368a19f_mA recent scandal has been added to several previous scandals about food quality in Lebanon. But as in the previous cases, the focus was on meat products that are imported and stored in the worst conditions. Few people seem to understand the true extent of the catastrophe that runs deep into a general economic and cultural rationale as old as the state’s short existence.

During the twentieth century, these territories that became lumped into something called Lebanon moved from surviving on their own local economies to becoming net importers of almost all basic food products. For example, this frenetic consumption of meat was a rare privilege as cows did not really exist (there is no place for cows to graze in hilly, mountainous landscape). Most people rarely ate meat and when they did it most invariably involved lamb.

But this obsession with meat has left the question of other food…

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After the referendum: Towards participatory democracy in Scotland

Citizen Participation Network

oli15Democracy is always in the making: a never-ending project that requires constant rethinking and development. There are many ways of understanding and practicing democracy, and this article is concerned with those that put citizens at the heart of democratic life.

My hope is that, in Scotland 44, politics will mean more than party politics, elections and media rituals; and democracy will mean more than representative democracy. Reclaiming and recasting politics and democracy is a core challenge for participatory democrats. The key argument is that citizen participation can reinvigorate democratic life by infusing diversity, experience and knowledge into official decision making. The question is what kind of participation.


Get a free copy of the Scotland 44 e-book HERE

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