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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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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A Communiqué Issued at the end of a One-Day National Stakeholders Conference on Status of the Continuous Voter Registratio

 

CENTRE FOR CIVIC EDUCATION
(a.k.a Transition Monitoring Group)
‘A Coalition of Human Rights & Civil Society Organizations’
 
A Communiqué Issued at the end of a One-Day National Stakeholders Conference on Status of the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) by Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at Rockview Hotel (Royale), Wuse II Abuja
Preamble
As part of the on-going efforts to reform Nigeria’s electoral processes and institutions ahead of the 2015 general elections, the Transition Monitory Group ( TMG ) organized a one-day ‘National Stakeholders conference on the Status of the Continuous Voter Registration’ at Rockview Hotel (Royale), Wuse II, Abuja.  The conference was supported by the Democratic Governance for Development (DGD) of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Over 200 participants drawn from the international community, Faith Based Organizations, Women and Youth Groups, Media, Political Parties, People with Disabilities (PWDs) Security Agencies and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) attended the event. Amongst the participants  were representatives of European Union (EU), UK Department for International Development (UKAID), Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), Konrad–Adenauer Stiftung, MacArthur Foundation and Frederick Ebert Stiftung  (FEF)
Dignitaries that graced  the conference includes representative of the INEC Chair, Prof. Attahiru Jega, Hajia Amina B. Zakari, INEC National Commissioner in charge of Political Party Monitoring, Dr. Hussani Abdu, Country Director of Actionaid, Nigeria who also made a key note presentation on ‘continuous voter registration (CVR) vis-à-vis the place of citizen in the democratic process’, while Catherine Weiss, representative of DFID presented goodwill message on behalf of the Joint Donor Basket Fund (JDBF). Other dignitaries at the conference are Dr. Moutarda Deme (Project Director UNDP/DGD), representative of the European Delegation, Ms Laolu Olawumi, Mr. Edetean Ojo (Executive Director Media Right Agenda), and Mr. Festus Okoye (Human Rights Monitor).
Participants extensively discussed the implications of going into the 2015 elections with the integrity of Voters Register in doubt. They also made specific recommendations to strengthen the electoral process and help make the 2015 general elections a significant improvement over the elections of 2011 and the staggered governorship elections that followed.
Participants commended the organizers for the timeliness of the National Stakeholders Conference on CVR, noting that an opportunity still exists for INEC to carry out nationwide voters’ audit as well as continuous voter registration ahead of 2015 general election.  They commended INEC for the timely release of the 2015 general election time-table to enable stakeholders prepare well for the election.
Observations
Participants made the following observations:
  • The success or otherwise of elections hinges largely on the integrity of the voters register ahead of elections in Nigeria
  • There are still concerns with the legal and administrative frameworks for the conduct of elections in Nigeria.
  • Since 1998, Nigerians have not voted with permanent voters’ card.
  • It is apparent from INEC’s proposition that the CVR exercise is going to be seasonal voter registration rather than being continuous as prescribed by law.
  • The timeframe of the CVR exercise should be flexible enough for people to register with ease.
  • Political parties need to put up a serious enlightenment programmes on the CVR by making sure that members are aware of the exercise.
Recommendations:
After exhaustive deliberations, participants made the following recommendations:
  1. Election stakeholders’ including members of the National and State Assemblies and Executives adopt, pass and assent to the recommendations contained in the electoral reform proposals presented to the National Assembly.
  2. There should be effective engagement between INEC and other critical stakeholders, including political parties, media and civil society organizations, in order to build synergies that strengthen Nigeria’s electoral processes.
  3. That a strong enforcement mechanism be put in place to ensure that all the stakeholders in the electoral process who do not play by the rule are sufficiently sanctioned.
  4. There is need for INEC to consider engaging services of volunteers who must be subjected to proper scrutiny before their involvement in the process. There is need for INEC and relevant stakeholders to undertake extensive and continuous civic/voter education initiatives to deepen the understanding of electoral process, rights and obligation of the electorate.
  5. That more wards/registration units are created due to the growing population in most wards.
  6. Need for transparency on the access to the voter list in every polling unit in the nation by all stakeholders.
  7. INEC should conduct periodic review of voters register on specific dates of the month at the LGA headquarters in collaboration with National Population Commission, National Identity Management Commission and Security Agencies.
  8. INEC should provide clarifications on its communication strategies ahead of 2015 election.
  9. INEC should create possibility for remote access to the voter register.
  10. It is necessary for peoples with disabilities (PWDs) – friendly items to go into registration forms of voters.
  11. TMG should establish a civic institute for the training of persons interested in conducting civic education at the grassroots.
Conclusion
Finally, TMG and the stakeholders constituted a Continuous Voter Registration Implementation Monitoring Committee and also appreciate the financial support given by the Democratic Governance for Democracy (DGD) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
 
 Signed:
ALL Stakeholders in attendance
 
 
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Posted by on February 11, 2014 in Governanace

 

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