The Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), says it is very concerned that after six consecutive elections, electoral violence remains a feature of Nigeria’s electoral landscape. Mr Rupiah Banda, former President of Zambia and leader of the EISA Electoral Observer Mission (EOM), said this on Monday in Abuja at a media conference on the organisation’s preliminary assessment of the 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections.
According to him, the mission observed all election day’s procedures in 54 polling stations in Abuja, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Kaduna, Kwara and Ondo. Bandah said that in elections, security was very important, with security operatives playing a role to secure both the processes and the actual voting and enable citizens exercise their democratic right. According to him, the team observed that there was no widespread military deployment across the country on election day, except in the North East where the threat of terrorism remained high. “Elections were not observed in some of the local government areas (LGAs) that experienced violence and terror attacks due to some of the security risks and threats ensuing in the Nigerian political environment,” he said. He added that the incidences of arson, thuggery and destruction of property in the build-up to the election raised doubts about the capacity of the security agencies to effectively secure the electoral process. “These doubts were further heightened by the fire outbreaks at three Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) offices just before the elections,” he said. Commenting on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill that was not assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari, Banda said that the non-enactment of the provisions of the Bill was a missed opportunity. He added that the legal framework in Nigeria does not provide for independent candidature and out-of-country voting. “Silence of the law on such provisions remains a gap in the legal framework which impacts on the right to stand and the right to vote.” While commending Nigeria on the increased number of registered political parties, he said that it was indicative of a more competitive democratic space, but was not accompanied by the institutionalisation of political parties. He added that the parties remain largely driven by personalities rather than ideologies and that the increase could also be attributed to stifled internal party democracy following the acrimonious party primaries that left many aspirants disgruntled. “In addition, the high pricing of nomination for electoral candidates excludes some qualified aspirants who may not have such financial means, especially women and young people, from seeking nomination within political parties.” According to him, of all the political parties, only the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), have nationwide outreach and presence. This, he said, made political parties and individuals treat elections and elective positions as commodities to be purchased by the highest bidder. Bandah also said that women were continually marginalised within political party structures and in general political and electoral processes in Nigeria. He added that the nation ranked 181 out of 193 in the global Women in Parliaments ranking with only five per cent women representation in its outgoing National Assembly. Giving the organisation’s recommendations, he said security agencies should investigate the fire incidences that occurred at INEC facilities and give account to the public on the causes of the fires. He also said that they should investigate incidents of violence reported on election day and bring perpetrators to book. He, however, commended Nigerians on their resilience even in the face of the postponement of the election from the initial scheduled dates and urged them to remain peaceful throughout the final stages of the process.