Since 1999, Nigeria, as the political and economic powerhouse of Africa, has been promoting political ideals that are anchored on transparent and credible elections in order to facilitate the socio-economic and political development of Africa. To that end, efforts were made to strengthen electoral laws to good governance, while taking care of factors militating against credible elections.
Based on the new movement, the National Assembly, political parties and Civil Society Organisations have been clamouring for the strengthening of electoral laws. In essence, they underscored the need to punish electoral offenders, allow electronic devices to be admitted as evidences in courts and strengthen IN EC to function as a truly independent electoral umpire.
As regards INEC, several stakeholders have proposed that those who should be appointed as INEC chairman and commissioners must be recommended by the National Judicial Council, through the Council of State, for confirmation by the Senate. Others underscored the need to ensure the financial independence of INEC with direct funding from the Federation Account, while adopting an electronic system that would involve voter registration as well as voting, vote collation and counting.
Senate amends Electoral Act, approves E-Voting.
The Senate on March 31, 2017 passed amendments to the Electoral Act 2010, approving the use of electronic voting in future elections. It also approved that election results should be electronically transmitted to collation centres. The passage of the bill followed the consideration of the report of the Senate Committee on IN EC on a Bill for an Act to amend the Electoral Act No. 6,2010 and other related matters (SB 231 and SB 234). Major highlights of the new bill include a provision for the use of electronic voting by I NEC in future elections and the use of card reader, while I NEC is empowered to modify the voting process if there is any challenge.
The Senate also approved a provision that would enable INEC to transmit the results of elections electronically in an encrypted and secured manner to prevent hacking. The Senate also approved a provision that would enable IN EC to transmit the results of elections electronically in an encrypted and secured manner to prevent hacking. Commenting after the adoption of the report by the Red Chamber, the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, commended the senators for a job well done and expressed hope that the Bill would further improve the nation’s electoral system and contribute to good governance.
His words: “The passage of this Bill in the Senate is a bold, innovative and commonsense step on Electoral Reforms designed to guarantee free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria.” However, the Senate approval of electric voting somewhat conflicted with the sentiments of INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Finance to defend the commission’s 2017 budget. While speaking on the commission’s readiness to adopt electronic voting, Yakubu insisted that INEC might not be able to implement e-voting unless the constitution was amended, while all the logistics were put in place to facilitate the e-voting process. According to him, electronic voting is too capital intensive, apart from the fact that its adoption in the country lacks the necessary constitutional backing.
However, the Senate made a constitutional amendment to the after Yakubu’s submission to accommodate e-voting. Nevertheless, the biggest worry remains whether INEC will be able to handle the challenges associated with this modern technology.
The advocates of the e-voting process believe that it would reinforce the credibility of Nigeria’s elections, while die-hard cynics insist that Nigeria is no yet ripe for the adoption of this state- of-the-art technology for its elections.
Electoral Reforms in Africa
Other African countries experiencing electoral challenges that are similar to the challenges facing Nigeria have keyed into the idea of initiating electoral reforms to overcome the challenges. For some of the countries, the pertinent issues affecting them include diverse cultural and ethnic dissimilarities during elections which, in most cases, result in violence and insecurity. Others go through vicious political manipulation and security problems. Besides, defective security arrangements have continued to breed conflict between two or more political groups and factions, thereby resulting in avoidable conflicts. In cases where the political will is non-existent, political leaders tend to manipulate the situation for their selfish gains.
All the same, more countries are now becoming increasingly cautious in their efforts to conduct peaceful elections and manage peaceful transition of power. Countries like Nigeria and Benin Republic have conducted five elections since 1991, while Ghana, Mali, Senegal, Mauritius, Botswana and South Africa have all successfully conducted free and fair elections. The most recent being the fierce contest between Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangawa and opposition leader Nelson Chamisa which Mnangawa won with 50.8% votes.
Election Monitoring /Observation
One of the mandates of NEPAD Nigeria is to advance the enthronement of good governance in all ramifications via the adoption of purposeful policies, standards and practices which engender political stability, enduring democracy and sustainable socio-economic development. NEPAD Nigeria therefore, places great emphasis on promoting democratic elections as key pillar of promoting political stability and hence, its involvement in election observation so as to make informed and objective judgment on the conduct of elections in Nigeria. As a result, NEPAD Nigeria has been accredited by INEC as an election observer and it has participated in various election monitoring exercises. In the 2015 General Elections, Card Reader Machines were first used in Nigeria. Many observers claimed that the machines drastically reduced the menace of election rigging at that time. It was the first time ever that a presidential candidate secured a victory over an incumbent president in Nigeria’s political history. Although, the Card Reader Machines reduced the level of vote rigging, the machines failed to function effectively, compelling many Nigerians to ask for the discontinuation of their use. However, INEC has repeatedly assured the Nigerian electorate that efforts are underway to make the machines function perfectly in subsequent elections.