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Category Archives: Governance

THE CLASS ACT OF THE 8TH BENUE ASSEMBLY AND THE VAPP LAW

By Jerome Uneje

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“Hmmm…Torkwase my sister, so it’s true that everything about the domestication of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act (VAPPA) is finally done and dusted! Hah…the glory of the 8th Benue Assembly and the Governor will never be erased from the memory of the Benue people o! At least vulnerable and indigent women, children and even men will benefit greatly with this VAPP Act as assented to in Benue State. The two Women smile and lean their backs against the wall at the same time.

The most recently rattled and misconstrued Law has finally seen the limelight. Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Bill like other bills presented to the National Assembly became a Law in May, 2015 and it seems to have overshadowed all other instruments and laws in Nigeria regarding the prohibition of all forms of discrimination against persons regardless of their sex and/or gender. This instrument enshrines the concerns and needs of vulnerable and indigent women including men and other groups who often fall victims of violence in Nigeria.

The Law which is applicable only at the  Federal Capital Territory had left the option to States at the Sub National level to domesticate the law in their respective States or otherwise. However it became imperative for the Law to be domesticated at the sub-national level especially in States such as Benue where on a daily basis, newspaper headlines are awash with killings, rape or maiming, particularly of spouse and/or lovers by husbands or man-lover, or rape of even minors like the case of Ochanya, who died from a gradual torture of rape by her so-called uncle and his son in Ugbokolo, Benue State and that of a young woman that was strangled to death by her husband for denying him sex in Plateau State and every 1 out of 3 women and/or young girls who suffer violence daily. All of those necessitated the propagation of the campaigning and advocacy for the VAPP Act to be domesticated in the State.

Be that as it may, the VAPP Law among other things has strengthened advocacy against rape, Female Genital Mutilation, partner battery, stalking, harmful widowhood practices by State Actors while prohibiting all forms of violence, including physical, sexual, psychosomatic, domestic, harmful traditional practices; discrimination against persons and to provide maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment of offenders.  In as much as this all powerful legislation instrument has provided for the above, it has also initiated positive innovations such as prohibiting persons from being forcefully isolated or separated from their family and friends and preventing widows from being subject to harmful traditional practices. It has even gone ahead to provide for a Commission of Violence Against Women which will be responsible for the general supervision of the Bill while a Victim of Violence Trust Fund will be established to provide and manage victims of violence. Under the Trust Fund, rehabilitation programmes, shelters and rape centers will be provided to cater for victims of violence. This indeed is a huge and robust fortification especially for victims of violence.

The positive effect of this Law is overwhelmingly amazing as prior to this law only women could be raped as approved in other legal materials and in the true definition of the word ‘rape’ as well as penetration of the vagina and for this sole reason, only women could be said to be raped. However, this Law now provides that a man can also fall victim of rape. VAPPA is the first piece of legislation in Nigeria which recognises that men are capable of being raped and also recognizes that not only penetration of the vagina is acceptable. All other criminal statutes delineate the offence in relation to women.  The VAPP acknowledging that unlawful anal and/or oral sex can be rape and not sexual assault is therefore ground-breaking.

The above has truly shown that the Benue people at this point will be thoroughly protected by the appropriate application of this Law and in secure environment notwithstanding the degree and/or pedigree of persons involved in violations.

In conclusion, we express our warmest gratitude to the out gone 8th Benue Assembly for a great job well done. This singular act has demonstrated beyond every reasonable doubt that their tenure was people oriented and has therefore purged it of all shortcomings while the House lasted. We also commend the Executive Governor of Benue State His Excellency Samuel Ortom for his speedy action towards signing the bill into law. We also commend the doggedness of the Civil Society including FIDA, Lawyers Alert, The Civil Society Coalition in Benue, The Media and all other actors involved in the course of this struggle.

As the struggle continues, Torkwase and her friend Ada laugh out loud shake hands and stand up. They walk out of the room towards the door to catch up with a new day in a new Benue where the rights of Women and other vulnerable groups are fully protected under the Violence Against People Prohibition Act.

 

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PETTY OFFENCES; THE NIGERIAN CONTEXT

By Roseline Oghenebrume, Director Programs, Lawyers Alert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dawn sets in the suburbs of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Nigeria. Alhaji Abubakar (Pseudo name) after his morning prayer wakes his family up to begin the grind for the day. His family comprises of two sons and a daughter all aged 15, 13 and 11 respectively. In his words, it is Monday, you have to meet up with travelers at the Jabi Motor Park or else no food for you all. They begin their journey on foot for a 5km walk with their goods to be sold off on their heads. While they approached the park, they sighted the task force team and obviously took to their heels. While the eldest was lucky to have escaped, the two others were swept off the roads in the van of the task force and their goods seized.

These types of petty acts that are seen as offences is regrettably targeted at low income earners, the vulnerable and the poor. For instance, citizens engaged in activities such as loitering are arrested by security agents shouldered with the responsibility of enforcing these laws. In one instance, someone hawking goods in trying to escape arrest jumped off a fly over in Abuja Central District Area, losing his life in the fall. Security agencies go out at night arresting women and breaking people’s doors, dragging them out on account of their sexual orientation and perceived type of job. Commercial bus drivers trying to eke a living are said to commit offences when parked in a non-designated area and can be sent to jail if they don’t come up with the resources to pay their way through. The above is a picture of what a less privileged family/ citizen in Nigeria deals with on a regular/daily basis.

Nigeria is a country with a population of about 180 million persons with over 70% of its population said to be poor. Nigeria recently ranked highest in poverty according to a report by the World poverty Clock released in June 2018.  This shows that the Nigerian criminal justice system cannot effectively cope in keeping with this high population with regard to arrest and prosecution nor does it have the prison to hold these persons.

As it stands today, Nigeria has about 75,000 persons in prison with about 60% of these persons awaiting trial. Those awaiting trial for petty offences account for a higher percentage of those awaiting trial. Petty offences are more to do with the poor and vulnerable who are often prone to these acts owing to economic dis empowerment. Petty actions like hawking, obtaining goods by false pretence, sex work, sexual expression, slander, conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace, use of insulting language, intake of alcohol in some Northern States, etc. are criminalised.

Petty offences are not only inconsistent with sections 34, 35, 41 and 42 of the Nigerian Constitution, which provide for right to dignity of human person, right to personal liberty, right to freedom of movement and right to freedom from discrimination respectively, but are equally inconsistent with Articles 2, 3, 5, 6 and 18 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights duly ratified by Nigeria.

The effect is State resources are expended in rather needless investigations and prosecutions and the prisons congested. Good governance, more attention at economic empowerment and fighting corruption by Government will be more in focus if Government is not distracted by expending resources on petty offences that are criminalised. Petty offences have resulted in lack of justice for the poor, social discrimination sometimes with grave consequences.

We at Lawyers Alert strongly believes that decriminalising petty offences in Nigeria will aid development given the likelihood of more time and focus on development issues.

Based on the above, the following are recommendations;

 

  1. Laws/policy reform which is critical in decriminalising petty offences because the small actions that are made petty offences are being institutionalised by certain laws in Nigeria.
  2. State and Non- State Actors should be engaged. Majority are not aware of the effects of these laws, they have not been made to understand the importance of decriminalising petty offences and its effect on socio, economic welfare of the nation.
  3. Lawyers are to be encouraged to offer free legal services to victims of petty crimes rather than demand professional fees which the vulnerable and poor people who are the victims of petty offenses cannot afford.
  4. Continuous sensitization of the vulnerable and less privileged in the society. Lack of knowledge of human rights or where to get assistance when their rights are abused is part of the problem that institutionalizes petty offenses.
  5. Civil Society groups, the Media and other Human Rights Activists to embark on a campaign towards decriminalization of petty offenses in Nigeria. Petty offenses target the most vulnerable in the country; the poor, less privileged and uneducated.

 

Poverty is not a crime……

Human Right is for all…….

Decriminalizing petty offenses is a human rights issue….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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DISCRIMINATION AGAINST PERSONS LIVING WITH DISABILITIES (PROHIBITION) ACT 2018: WAY FORWARD

By Ifeyinwa Onochie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The National Population Commission of Nigeria (NPC) has estimated that no fewer than 19 million Nigerians are living with disabilities. This population
has as its major challenge issues of stigmatization, discrimination and resultant unequal treatment in all spheres. This is evident even in access to physical spaces/building either public or private which truncates not just physical access but also access to opportunity and resources.

According to a definition from equalityhumanrights.com, “equality is about ensuring that every individual has an equal opportunity to make the most of their lives and talents.
It is also the belief that no one should have poorer life chances because of the way they were born, where they come from, what they believe, or whether they have a disability.”

Disability in Africa and across the world, is viewed in most instances as associated dependency and inability to perform basic chores. People exhibit pity for Persons With Disabilities when in actual fact their impairment makes little or no difference to their abilities.

Nigeria efforts in negating these issues and the realization that disability is in the mind and the need to negate discrimination, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018. This development in Nigeria is good news. This means we will begin to see less and less people living with disabilities suffer discrimination from point A to B in this country. Furthermore, the Act prohibits all forms of discrimination on ground of disability and imposes fine of N1, 000, 000 for corporate bodies and N100, 000 for individuals or a term of six months imprisonment for violation. Equally heart-warming is that the Act also provides for a five-year transitional period within which public buildings, structures or automobiles are to be modified to be accessible to and usable by persons living with disabilities, including those on wheelchairs.

This means curb cuts, wheelchair ramps, wider doorways and corridors. This also means that building plans of any public structure under construction since the President’s assent of the Act shall be scrutinized by the relevant authority to ensure that the plan conforms to the building code.

Furthermore, with this Act, discrimination is prohibited in public transportation facilities, and service providers are to make provision for the physically, visually and hearing impaired and all persons howsoever challenged.

We are finally stepping into the visions of our forefathers for, unity, peace and progress. However, there is dire need for our government to pick up a magnifying glass and look into these vast NGOs that claim to cater to the people living with disabilities in Nigeria.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to Miss Faith Yaasa, a disability Rights activist, the question right now is: “are all the foreign aid monies collected being used to really support the people they claim they represent and collect for? What happened to awareness campaigns to sensitize the general public on matters affecting Persons With Disabilities? What about the economic empowerment of Persons With Disabilities through realistic and achievable programs that impact the society positively?” This is the right time to take a stand and put a stop to the incessant injustice and crimes committed against physically challenged citizens is the message Miss Yaasa engaged with us at Lawyers Alert when she stopped by our office this week.

Lawyers Alert cannot agree less.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2019 ELECTIONS: As the Clock Ticks …

By Laz Ahangba

politics

The loud music blares out in the quiet night. Tarkule, a middle aged Man of about 43 is awakened from his hard narrow bed. He stands up and peers out of his small window. He sees a number of cars parked at Chief’s residence across the road. Chief is a political godfather and a Party Chieftain of note. All political aspirants pay him homage to smoothen their path to victory.  Tonight, scores of aspirants have come to do him obeisance as usual. Tarkule hisses, looks at the time on his wall clock to discover it is past 2.00 am. He slowly walks back to bed and lies down to endure the noise and nuisance.

These are the days of politicking. Scenarios like the one described above are common place. Politicians are busy crisscrossing every nook and cranny of Nigeria soliciting for votes. They are selling their candidatures under the auspices of the different political parties. The political aspirants have different slogans, different songs, but same nothingness, full of promises but short of issues.

Elections in Nigeria and their processes have been this way from time immemorial. Political party structures are hijacked by godfathers and moneybags made of all shades of people, usually deficient in civility and accountability. These ones manipulate the party systems to throw up candidates of their choice. The chosen candidates are forced on the electorate into office. Once elected, the apparatus of government becomes the joystick of the godfathers and moneybags.  They play around the system to milk out their investments in terms of contracts, appointments and other compensations. This system plays out at all levels of governance. The consequences of this age-long tradition is poverty, lack of accountability, impunity, gross corruption, violations of the rights of citizens and worst of all, loss of democratic values. Political aspirants, rather than sell themselves to the electorate, mortgage themselves to the political godfathers knowing that without them, their victories at the polls are not guaranteed. How wrong!

The electoral process is likened to two-parallel lines but arriving at the same destination. It is between the election candidate on one line soliciting for votes from the electorate and the electorate demanding that his issues be addressed by the candidate on the other line, thereby leading all to the same destination called good governance. This process is only made possible through issue-based campaigns and issue-based voting. The election candidates should strictly carry out campaigns based on issues while the electorate vote based on the issues, quid pro quo.

The quality of electoral campaigns is a forerunner to the quality of governance after a winner has emerged and vice versa.  As the 2019 general elections draws near, has there been any issue-based campaigns from any of the candidates across political parties yet? Has the electorate positioned itself for issue-based voting across Nigeria? Have there been any tangible moves by citizen-groups to begin to engage elections candidates on issues bothering them and their communities? A brief environmental scan on the political Eco-system at all levels of governance across Nigeria shows little or no active issue-based campaigns from the candidates and there has not been strong body language from the electorate towards making demands for same. At the national level, for example, of the over 75 presidential candidates, only very few have plans that could culminate into issue-based campaigns. What has dominated the media (especially the social media) space is mudslinging and gutter-language campaigns. The same scenario is playing out at the sub national levels. Rather than base their campaigns on issues, most governorship candidates across the country are busy mudslinging one another while also employing unsavory propaganda.

The electorate, especially the youth are also culpable. Rather than engage the election candidates on common issues bedeviling their communities, they resort to real and cyber thuggery. Social media platforms which should ordinarily serve as a useful resource for the youths and other electorate have become a battle ground of some sorts. Any question, or comment directed at any election candidate is viewed by his supporters as an attack worthy of reprisal often in very harsh and derogatory language. This attitude is denying the electorate the opportunity to objectively engage the election candidates on issue-based campaigns which this election cycle desperately needs.

As we approach the 2019 general elections, the following are recommended as measures we should endeavor to put in place in order to bring about the change Nigeria desperately needs:

  • Profile all our election candidates across all political parties at all levels of governance
  • Undertake a study of the most pressing issues confronting our communities, state and country in general
  • Demand for issue-based campaigns from election candidates and vote candidates whose campaigns issues resonate with those of our communities, states and country
  • Present to electoral candidates citizens’ charter of demands based on the prevailing issues across communities, states and country with monitoring and evaluation indicators
  • Vote based on issues contained in the citizens’ charter of demand
  • Monitor and implement evaluation indicators.

As Tarkule finally drifts into sleep, the campaign vehicles begin to drive away. Again, he startles out of sleep and hisses in anger. He could hear the singer praise singing the candidate. He calls him the sun, the moon and star of his community. “What rubbish!” He thinks out loud. As the sound of the campaign songs fades away, Tarkule wonders if the singer and his ilk bother about improvement in power supply, job creation, heath care system, infrastructural development, agriculture and all the other challenges bedeviling the society. With these thoughts, he slowly drifts back into sleep

 

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Election Primaries through the Lenses of the Law

Compiled by Mr Lazarus M.A, Miss Jerum Uneje, R.A. Hwande Esq and S.P. Oobulu Esq

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Nigeria’s democracy is nascent and oscillates on a 4-year election cycle. As the present administration draws close to the end of its tenure, various political parties have conducted primaries across the Federation as stipulated by the legal framework regulating the conduct of elections in Nigeria. Political parties are legally saddled with the responsibilities of sponsoring their candidates’ campaigns for every political position for election.

The law perhaps is apt regarding the conduct of party primary elections regarding how a candidate can be elected. On this point, section 87 of the Electoral (Amendment) act, 2015 clearly lays down the procedure for the nomination of candidates by political parties which could either be by direct or indirect voting. The spirit of this section is in line with provision of section 36 of the 1999 constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria which guaranteed fair hearing. By direct election, aspirants are given the opportunity of being voted for by all members of the party present at the election venue, while in indirect primaries aspirants are voted for by delegates (the number is usually determined by the position contested for). Whichever procedure (direct or indirect) a political party decides to adopt, the aspirant with the highest votes becomes the representative of the party.

Despite this injunction, the Media, Civil Society and other stakeholders report that the recently held primaries fell short of the provisions of the ELECTORAL (Amendment) ACT 2015. All the major Political parties failed to adhere strictly to the provisions of the subsisting legal framework as shown in a range of malpractices that shadowed the primaries across the country.

The APC (All Progressive Congress) adopted the indirect primary election procedure in Benue State. This system as earlier mentioned makes use of delegates who elect candidates on behalf of the party congress. However, it is alleged that the procedure was not strictly followed in practical reality. For instance, it was reported that during the House of Representatives election for Kwande/Ushongo Federal Constituency, violence ensued because of protests from delegates who alleged that they were being impersonated. Allegations of vote buying and tampering with the delegates list were also rife and thrown at 2 of the aspirants.

Elections-Rally

The PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) which also adopted the indirect election procedure also failed to comply with the provision of section 87 of the ELECTORAL (Amendment) ACT 2015. It is alleged that the PDP primary elections at all levels and stages in Benue state were marred by violence, supplanting of candidates, vote buying and clear case of God-fatherism. In Otukpo/Ohimini Federal Constituency for election for example, candidates were alleged to have been substituted.

From the above it is clear that the spirit and tenet of the above section of the Electoral Act was violated in its entirety. In any case, elections, be they at primary or general stage require strict compliance with the provision of the electoral act to ensure peaceful, orderly and smooth conduct. Any deviation from these provisions is punishable under the Act if found guilty by the court of law. For instance, section 122 of the Electoral Act provides for the offence of impersonation and criminalizing same. The punishment paragraph under sub section (1) of the above section stipulates that, if found guilty the person shall be liable for a maximum fine of 500,000 (five hundred thousand naira) or 12-months imprisonment.

 

Other alleged offences also took place. For example, it is widely reported that the All Progressives Congress (APC) failed to conduct the required primary elections for the State House of Assembly; instead, party big wigs selected candidates of their choice for the elections over those desired by the electorate. This is a clear violation of the subsisting electoral law.

The above stated violations have their consequences in varying degrees and dimensions including the following:

The rights of both the delegates and aspirants who have the mandate to vote or be voted for have been fundamentally denied and breached by leaders of the various political parties.

Another serious consequence is the potency of derailing the forthcoming general elections and its credibility.

Another consequence is the breeding of grounds for violence and unrest in the political ecosystem.

Based on the foregoing therefore, the following are recommended:

  • That the Independent National Electoral Commission intensify its monitoring of Party Primaries, investigate allegations and sanction erring Parties accordingly.
  • Sensitize political parties and their officials on the need to adhere strictly to the provisions of the subsisting legal framework regulating the conduct of elections
  • The justice system actors including the Police, the Judiciary and other stakeholders should be sensitized on the need to closely monitor, investigate and sanction erring individuals and parties accordingly.
  • Power brokers should be told of the need to ensure peaceful elections by midwifing a free and fair process thereby providing a level playing field for all.

Leaders of thought such as the traditional and religious leaders should be encouraged to preach against the culture of vote-selling as it inhibits community development subsequently.

 

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Women Participation in Politics: 2018 Primaries in Focus

Compiled by Mr Lazarus M.A, Miss Jerum Uneje, R.A. Hwande Esq and S.P. Oobulu Esq.

women in politics

Women are an integral part of the political process anywhere in the world including Nigeria and Benue State. Comprising of over 49% of the population of the Country, Women are a force in both number and impact in Nigeria. They have made remarkable contributions in all areas of our National life as exemplified by amazons like Dr. Dora Akunyili, Prof. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Mrs. Obi Ezekwesili, Prof. Grace Alele Williams etc. Closer home, women like Chief Elizabeth Ivase, Dr. Enyantu Ifene, Hon. Margaret Icheen etc. have contributed immensely in shaping the socio-political ecosystem in Benue State. Despite these recorded achievements, election of Women into key political positions remains at a very low level in the State. The 2018/19 general elections have not changed the narrative. In fact, things are getting worse going by the performance and conduct of the last primary elections in terms of Women participation.

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All general elections are preceded by a primary election which throws up candidates for different positions across the contesting political parties. Ahead of the 2019 general elections, party primaries were held, across political parties, between mid-September and first week of October 2018. However, a plethora of complaints show that the exercise left much to be desired in terms of Women participation especially in Benue State. Though there was a good turnout of women vying for office, few were able to clinch their party tickets. The State Governorship primaries featured no female aspirant this time, not on any party platform.

The National Assembly elections particularly, did not favor Women. For example, the Senatorial Primary Elections produced 1 female from Zone A of the State while the House of Representatives had about 5 candidates across all the political parties, of this number, only 1 was nominated as at the time of writing this report.  These women and their constituencies are as follows:

Dorothy-Mato

Dorothy Mato – Vandeikya – APC – House of Representative

Mimi-Adzape-Orubibi

Mimi Orubibi – Kwande – APC – Senate

Other female aspirants lost out not because of lack of capacity but largely due to the age long discrimination against Women in party politics. For example, in the Kwande/ Ushongo Federal Constituency elections under the All Progressives Congress (APC), the only female candidate that was chosen by consensus vote due to the inconclusiveness of the elections owing to violence was substituted by the party big wigs because owing to gender considerations. That same situation obtained in Otukpo Federal Constituency Primary elections under the Peoples Democratic Party. The female candidate that was the choice of the delegates was supplanted by a male candidate that was the choice of Party chieftains at the top.

Female Aspirants to the State Assembly fared no better. Under some political parties, no election took place. The few that did were characterized by irregularities such as vote buying, violence, intimidation, hijacking and supplanting of party delegates, etc. In all these irregularities, Women were the worst hit. At the end of the day, only about 3 Women emerged as flag bearers for the State Assembly elections across the over 90 registered political parties that participated in the primary elections in Benue State and across Nigeria.

In view of the above therefore, one can say that, the 2019 general elections do not favor Women Human Rights judging from the precedents associated with the primaries. One strong point that resonates loudly is that Women Politicians are still being considered second class and subservient to their male colleagues. This is disappointing and sad because women are not being given the encouragement, opportunity and responsibility they deserve by their male counterparts. This is the situation even as global conversations and actions are again tilted towards Women Human Rights. The much-acclaimed affirmative action which cedes 35% of positions to Women of which Nigeria is a signatory to has been sidelined, to say the least.  This is true in that so many of these women willingly came forth as party card carriers, showed interest to contest but were not nominated mostly based on gender issues.

Given the above scenario, therefore, we recommend the following:

  • That all Women Politicians who feel discriminated against and hard done by their parties at the just concluded primaries can challenge the status quo in Courts of law
  • That political party structures should review their policies towards female politicians and begin to see them as equal partners in progress instead of just making up party numbers
  • That the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should increase its monitoring of political Party primaries to protect vulnerable candidates, especially women
  • That Media and Civil Society should intensify their reportage and advocacy on Women Human rights with focus on the electoral process.

 

In conclusion one can truly state that the issue of Women Rights and political participation, rather than improve, seem to be waning. It’s been the same story since the inception of democracy in Nigeria in 1999.  Despite their best efforts, very few women have been able to secure key elected posts in the country. According to LA research report on the last General Elections (2015), there was neither compliance with local, regional and international instruments aimed at promoting and protecting women’s rights and development nor an increase of women participation in the electoral process in comparison with the just concluded primary elections.

We believe that if women are carried along, they can act for themselves and influence development policies, actively participate in the political process and attempt to minimize factors in the justice system which negatively impact them.

 

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Concluded Party Primaries: A Perspective and Matters Arising

Compiled by: Mr Lazarus m., Miss Jerume Uneje, R.A. Hwande Esq and S.P. Ozobulu Esq.

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If democracy is the government of the people for them and by them, as the popular adage goes, then it is the nexus in the democratic process. Elections are central to the deepening and sustainability of the democratic system of Government anywhere in the world. It provides Citizens with the opportunity to vote in or out any leader of their choice at all levels of Governance. In the election sub-sector of Democracy and Good Governance, elections are not an event but a process. There are three phases in the electoral cycle. They are the pre-election, Election Day and the post-election.

elections numbr 1

Currently, we are in the pre-election phase for the 2019 general election and many activities have been carried out and are still being conducted by various stakeholders. The just concluded party primaries held between Saturday, August 18 and Sunday, October 7, 2018 were legally the responsibility of the different political parties to carry out under the supervision of INEC.  Section 85(1) of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended makes it mandatory for political parties organizing congresses, conventions and nomination of candidates to give 21 days’ notice to INEC to enable the commission to observe the process.

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So how did the Political parties fare in the conduct of the just concluded party primaries? Lawyers Alert will attempt to X ray the general conduct of political parties with focus on the major political parties from 3 basic perspectives. These will include adherence to deepening of democracy and its values in the electoral process in Nigeria, Gender equality and respect of Women Human Rights and respect of the electoral Act 2014 and other legal issues thereto.

Globally, elections are intended to deepen the culture and practice of democracy. Political parties are expected to abide by the norms of the electoral process in fielding aspirants by providing a level playing field, equal opportunity. They are expected to be transparent, accountable, provide a participatory process that will throw up the best candidates from which the electorate can then choose. Was this achieved in the recently held primaries?

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In fact, the just concluded party primaries were colored by a range of malpractices as alleged by affected aspirants. Cases included vote buying, violence, intimidation and threats, tampering with the delegates’ list and candidates’ imposition among other forms of anti-democratic acts which were recorded across all parties in different states of the federation. The primaries became warfare, as the power brokers and aspirants seeking tickets turned venues of the intra-party poll to a theatre of war, with the attendant injuries, loss of lives and property and palpable tension. Internal democracy and lobbying were substituted with Machiavellian antics and the reign of impunity and terror.

In Zamfara State for example, the entire election was marred by violence and intra party crises with 2 sets of results brandished by two factions of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Media reports suggest that the INEC has since barred the party from fielding any candidate for the forthcoming elections. So, what happens to all the Aspirants that spent time, money and other valuable resources? What happens to the wishes of the electorate willing to express their franchise under the APC in Zamfara? What will happen to the growth and deepening of democratic values in that State?

The People’s Democratic Party Presidential Primary Elections held in Port Harcourt is also alleged to have been characterized by vote-buying and intimidation. An aspirant purportedly flooded the venue of the party’s convention with so much foreign currency that local parallel market operators opened temporary offices at the venue. At the end did the winner get voted in or did he simply purchase his victory at a price? These are questions.

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APGA, the All Progressives Grand Alliance, was anything but “progressive” in the conduct of its primaries. News reports suggest that certificates handed over to the wrong aspirants are to be recalled. Indeed, the party chairman is said to have apologized to party members explaining that the sudden fame enjoyed by the party caused a rise in some of the confusion that unfolded.

The Social Democratic Party, SDP, had its own share of drama as young politicians who opted for the platform in hopes of avoiding the scheming associated with the big 2, APC and PDP, soon found themselves facing equally unsavory circumstances. In Benue state. the party is said to have allowed itself to be bought over by a certain big wig in who was not welcomed in the first party he defected to. The party has also been accused of not holding any ward congresses whatsoever and merely imposing officials on the party.

There was also the issue of imposition of candidates by Political Godfathers. For example, our investigations reveal that in Benue State under the All Progressives Congress (APC), no primary election took place for the State Assembly. The party big wigs picked and chose the candidates dear to their hearts regardless of how the delegates or the electorate felt.

In the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the African Democratic Congress (ADC), among others, the story was not too different as protests against the manner of primaries and alleged imposition continued to resonate across the states where the parties have strongholds. From Gombe to Benue to Oyo, stories of aspirants threatening fire and brimstone over the primaries abound, with some even already defecting to other parties.

elections.. nigeria

Aggrieved political actors across the six geopolitical zones are not giving up over the perceived high-handedness meted out by the top echelon of influential party elders, doing all they can to salvage “the situation.” Ironically, among the ranks of those involved in subdued anger and frustration in the party are a couple of state governors whose preferred choices as likely successors or anointed candidates for other levels of Grade A contests were frustrated by more powerful forces in Abuja.

As it stands, the questions political observers are now asking are: how do the dramatis personae intend to douse some of the ignited flames? What is the shape of the things to come ahead of the general elections? Considering the unnerving discontent at various levels of the power strata, will the general elections still be a battle of the 2 Titans, APC and PDP or will the discontentment in their ranks give the up-and-coming parties a much-needed boost?

The 2019 elections promise to be a thing of awe…though not necessarily in a good way.

 

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