By Francesca Iwambe
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is under pressure to review the just concluded 2023 general elections where evidence of malpractices has been established.
Some Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the country have asked the commission to ensure that there is evidence of electoral malpractices and that the commission should review allegations of voter suppression and vote buying based on provisions of the law.
The CSOs are Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Transparency International (TI) and the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC).
A report released by their leader, Awwal Musa Rafsanjani, said INEC should review elections where they are confirmed to be rigged.
“INEC must review all evidence of electoral malpractices presented before it,” Rafsanjani said in the report compiled by the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG).
The CSOs said that insecurity, voter suppression and vote buying characterised the conduct of the just concluded gubernatorial election.
The TMG said it deployed 768 roving observers across 768 local government areas in the country to observe the March 18 governorship and state assembly elections, adding that voter suppression and vote buying was the order of the day.
TMG noted improvements by INEC around logistics delivery and functionality of the BVAS, stating however that the same cannot be said about security on election day, as the 2023 polls turned out to be one of the most violence-ridden elections in Nigeria's recent history.
Its report signed by its chairman, Rafsanjani, TMG said, “In the build up to the elections, there were reports of voters' suppression and intimidation with threats of consequences as issued by well-known loyalists of some highly ranked politicians in the country.
“The failure of the security operatives to apprehend and prosecute issuant of such threats, further emboldened them to unleash mayhem on citizens on election day.
“The gubernatorial elections were further challenged by incidents of voter apathy in many states across the country following diminished confidence in the electoral umpire as a result of the outcome of the presidential election. This becomes a major drawback on the nation's electoral process considering the increasing spate of voter education in the country.”
The CSOs said the failure of the police to respond to voter intimidation in the build up to the elections emboldened political thuggery and election violence that permeated the governorship elections in Nigeria.
He noted: “The police have the authority to stamp out these individuals no matter who they are connected to. The police must move to arrest those individuals and bring them to justice to serve as a deterrent in future elections.
“All arrested electoral offenders must be prosecuted in public knowledge while investigations continue to arrest those not in the police net yet. Furthermore, the sponsors of those thugs who unleashed mayhem on innocent Nigerians who only sort to express their constitutional guaranteed rights must be fished out and prosecuted in public knowledge.
“INEC must review all evidence of electoral malpractices presented before it. EFCC and ICPC should continue with their good work to reduce the commercialization of vote buying and arrest both the enablers, middlemen, and receivers during the upcoming elections.
“TMG commends INEC on lessons learnt from the presidential poll which has been brought to improve the state elections. As seen from the efficient logistic deployment and functionality of the technological introductions, Nigeria's electoral system has the potential to bring about credible elections, it is to the extent which the commission is allowed to independently manage the elections that hinders credible elections in the country. INEC must strive to eliminate human interference especially with result management.
Meanwhile, provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 provide a window of seven days for reversal of declaration of results where a case of malpractice is established.
The section 65(c) states that, ” declaration of scores of candidates and the return of a candidate : Provided that the Commission shall have the power within seven days to review the declaration and return where the Commission determines that the said declaration and return was not made voluntarily or was made contrary to the provisions of the law, regulations and guidelines, and manual for the election.”
Section 65 (2) stipulates that, “A decision of the returning officer under subsection (1) may be reviewed by an election tribunal or court of competent jurisdiction in an election
petition proceedings under this Act.”