AN ASSESSMENT OF INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION (INEC) AND THE MANAGEMENT OF THE 2015 GENERAL ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
The INEC was established by section 153 of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution. It is responsible for organizing referendums and elections for president, vice president, state governors and deputy governors, and the Nigerian Senate and House of Representatives. The INEC also has power to register political parties and monitor their organization and operations, including auditing their finances and publishing reports for public consumption. It also has power to conduct voter registration, monitor political campaigns and undertake other functions that may be assigned by the National Assembly. The commission is composed of a chairman, who serves as the chief executive officer, and 12 members known as national electoral commissioners; the secretary to the commission is selected from the rank of bureaucrats within the institution. The constitution also provides for a resident electoral commissioner for each state of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT); it maintains administrative offices in all 36 states, the FCT and in all the local governments in the country.
The commission also has a training and research arm known as the Electoral Institute. While there are no special provisions for the physically impaired or quotas for women in the INEC’s management, it currently has three female commissioners. Though relatively autonomous in terms of operational and financial control, the INEC lacks the autonomy to act to ensure the integrity of the electoral process. In the course of electoral administration and management in Nigeria, poor management and electoral violence has become a norm looking at past elections conducted in the country such as 1964, 1979, 1993, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 elections. Hence the need for this study on the assessment of INEC with respect to the management of 2015 general election in Nigeria.
However, the INEC faces some institutional challenges in the discharge of its responsibilities, including its dependence on (and inadequate control over) ad hoc staff, for which it lacks a nationwide database for recruitment; bureaucratic ‘red-tapism’ and staff attitude; poor delegation of responsibilities and overlapping functions (INEC 2012). These problems often result in late preparations for elections, a lack of teamwork and low-level interdepartmental cooperation and communication gaps. Structural deficiencies, an absence of proper career progression, poor record management, inadequate communication between the commission headquarters and its state offices and the over-centralization of planning also negatively affect the commission’s work (INEC 2012).
The 2015 general elections which was the fourth in the series of election in the Fourth Republic was unique in that it was the first democratic election held that will unseat an incumbent president. The elections were conducted under the auspices of Professor Attahiru Jega who also conducted the 2011 general elections. One of the key points in the preparation for the elections was the distribution of permanent voters‟ card (PVC) and continuous voters Registration (CVR). Another important area of preparation was the use of card Reader which was used to authenticate the validity of PVC and to make sure that a prospective voter is originally registered and has his or her name in the INEC voters‟ database. In preparation for the general elections the electoral body had to contend with security challenges. The elections took place in a period when the country was waging war against general insecurity majorly occasioned by the Boko Haram insurgency. All the aforementioned issues posed serious challenges to the conduct of the 2015 general elections. In surmounting these challenges the Independent National Electoral Commission declared that as at 27th of February, 2015 it has distributed 54,377,747 (Fifty-four Million, Three Hundred and Seventy-Seven Thousand, Seven Hundred and Forty Seven) PVCs to persons registered for the general elections. This represented 78.93 percent of the total number of voters registered by INEC (Hassan, 2015). The election was conducted and Mohammadu Buhari of APC having satisfied the requirement of the law, and scored the highest number of votes was declared the winner and returned elected.
Prior to the announcement of the presidential election results there were insinuations from all quarters that there will be a likely occurrence of post election violence. People stayed back at home and preferred to watch the proceedings on air. The various election observer missions observed the elections and unanimously described the elections as peaceful and credible (Adamu, 2015). In giving the general impression of its Election Observer Mission the head of the Commonwealth Observer Group, Dr. Bakili Muluzi commented that the 28th March 2015 election elections marked an important step forward for democracy in Africa’s most populous country and a key member of the commonwealth.“ He said despite the organization and technical deficiencies, the conduct of the Presidential and National Assembly elections were generally peaceful and transparent (Muluzi, 2015). He further emphasized that though there were technical hitches but was optimistic that there is room for improvement. He however gave credence of the peaceful conduct of the polls to all the people of Nigeria for demonstrating patience and maturity (Muluzi, 2015).
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The 2015 general elections however, have been described as depicting a major turning point in Nigeria’s political history. The elections attracted audience from most part of the world. Observers both local and international described the election as a success. It is however, important to note that even though the conduct of the elections have been given a pass mark it is imperative to assess the performance of the electoral body so as to detect areas of challenges with the aim of improving on them for future elections hence, the need for this study on the assessment of independent national electoral commission INEC and the management of 2015 general elections in Nigeria.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The following are the objectives of this study: