Elections and Electoral Bodies in Nigeria

Elections and electoral bodies in Nigeria play a crucial role in the democratic process of the country. Since the return to democratic governance in 1999, Nigeria has conducted several elections at both the federal and state levels. The conduct of these elections has been overseen by various electoral bodies established by the Nigerian government. These electoral bodies are responsible for ensuring that elections are conducted freely, fairly, and transparently. The credibility of these elections is essential for the stability and progress of Nigeria as a democratic nation. In this regard, this topic will provide an overview of elections and electoral bodies in Nigeria, highlighting their roles, challenges, and prospects.

Meaning of Election

The election is the process by which the people under a democratic government put in the leaders of their choosing by the casting of votes.

Elections may entail a public or private vote depending on the position. The majority of people holding jobs in municipal, state, and federal governments are eligible to vote in various elections.

Every four years, elections for different positions in the various branches and levels of government in Nigeria are conducted.

Importance of elections

The following are the significance of the election;

  1. Legitimacy: Elections are essential for establishing the legitimacy of the government and its leaders. Through the process of free and fair elections, the Nigerian people have the opportunity to choose their representatives, which helps to ensure that the government is accountable to the people.
  2. Representation: Elections provide an avenue for the people to be represented in government. By casting their votes, citizens can express their preferences and ensure that their voices are heard in the decision-making process.
  3. Accountability: Elections also help to promote accountability in government. When elected officials know that they will be held accountable for their actions through the ballot box, they are more likely to act in the best interests of the people they represent.
  4. Stability: Free and fair elections are critical for maintaining political stability in Nigeria. When elections are conducted peacefully and the results are accepted by all parties, it helps to avoid the kind of political instability that can lead to violence and unrest.
  5. Economic Development: Elections are also important for promoting economic development. When there is political stability and a government that is accountable to the people, it can help to attract foreign investment, promote business growth, and create jobs.
  6. Democracy: Elections are a key component of a democratic society. Through free and fair elections, citizens have the opportunity to participate in the political process and have a say in how their country is governed.
  7. Civic Education: Elections also provide an opportunity for civic education. As citizens engage in the election process, they learn more about their rights and responsibilities as voters, and they become more knowledgeable about the issues facing their country.
  8. Participation: Elections encourage civic participation. When citizens participate in elections, it helps to foster a sense of civic duty and responsibility, and it promotes a more engaged and informed citizenry.
  9. Transparency: Elections promote transparency in government. When elections are conducted fairly and transparently, it helps to build public trust in government institutions and ensures that the electoral process is seen as legitimate.
  10. The peaceful transfer of power: Finally, elections are essential for ensuring a peaceful transfer of power. When political power is transferred peacefully and through a democratic process, it helps to avoid the kind of political instability and violence that can occur in the absence of a peaceful transfer of power.

Electoral Bodies in Nigeria

Elections are a fundamental aspect of democracy, and the conduct of free and fair elections is essential to the legitimacy of democratic governments. In Nigeria, several electoral bodies are responsible for organizing and conducting elections at various levels of government. These bodies are tasked with ensuring that elections are conducted in accordance with the law and that the results reflect the will of the people.

Electoral bodies are organisations that are charged with overseeing the voting process. The provisions of the state’s constitution serve as an ever-present compass for the bodies.

Types of Electoral Bodies in Nigeria.

The two main types of electoral bodies in Nigeria are:

  1. National Electoral Bodies: This type of electoral body is responsible for conducting elections at the national level, including presidential, National Assembly, and gubernatorial elections. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is the primary national electoral body in Nigeria, and it is tasked with organizing and conducting all federal elections in the country.
  2. State Electoral Bodies: This type of electoral body is responsible for conducting elections at the state and local government levels. Each of the 36 states in Nigeria has its own State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC), which is responsible for organizing and conducting local government elections within that state.

Composition and Roles of Electoral Bodies in Nigeria.

  1. The Independent National Electoral Commission, sometimes known as INEC: Is the most important democratic institution in Nigeria. The Nigerian Constitution established INEC as a permanent entity with the responsibility of organising federal and state elections in Nigeria. INEC’s overall head is referred to as the chairman of the organisation. In Nigeria, each state has a resident electoral commissioner who is responsible for monitoring and overseeing the conduct of elections inside the state.
  2. The State Independent Electoral Commission: The State Independent Electoral Commission is vested with the authority to organize, carry out, and monitor all elections for local government councils within a state.
  3. Provide the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with advice about the compilation of the voter register for the local government election.
  4.  The independent Electoral Commission (INEC) is the group in Nigeria that runs elections. State Electoral Commission (SEC) is in charge of overseeing the conduct of elections at the local government level, while the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is in charge of conducting elections for the federal and state levels of government.
  5. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from 1999 mandated the establishment of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for a variety of reasons, one of which was to organise elections for different political posts throughout the nation.

Functions of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is a body established by the Nigerian Constitution to conduct elections in the country. The INEC is responsible for various functions that ensure the conduct of free, fair and credible elections. Here are 10 functions of the INEC:

  1. Voter registration: The INEC is responsible for registering eligible voters across Nigeria. The commission conducts voter registration exercises periodically to update the voters’ registers.
  2. Delimitation of constituencies: The INEC is responsible for delineating electoral constituencies in Nigeria, ensuring equitable representation of voters in legislative and executive positions.
  3. Preparation of voters’ register: The INEC prepares and maintains a comprehensive list of registered voters in Nigeria, which is used to conduct all elections in the country.
  4. Nomination and selection of candidates: The INEC receives and approves nominations of candidates from political parties for various positions, including presidential, gubernatorial and legislative positions.
  5. Election planning and logistics: The INEC plans and coordinates logistics for all elections, including the deployment of personnel, materials and equipment.
  6. Voter education: The INEC conducts voter education to raise awareness and inform citizens of their rights and responsibilities during elections.
  7. Monitoring and observation of elections: The INEC monitors and observes elections to ensure that they are conducted in accordance with the law and that the results reflect the will of the people.
  8. Results collation and announcement: The INEC collates and announces election results, ensuring that the process is transparent and free from manipulation.
  9. Dispute resolution: The INEC resolves disputes arising from elections, including petitions and challenges to election results.
  10. Regulation of political parties and campaign finance: The INEC regulates the activities of political parties and campaign finance, ensuring that they comply with the provisions of the law.

Functions of the State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC)

The State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC) is responsible for conducting local government elections within each state in Nigeria. The functions of SIEC include:

  1. Voter Registration: The SIEC is responsible for the registration of voters in the state. This involves creating a voter registration and ensuring that all eligible voters are registered to vote in local government elections.
  2. Candidate Nomination: The SIEC is responsible for receiving and processing candidate nominations for local government elections. This involves ensuring that candidates meet the eligibility criteria and that they are properly registered to run for office.
  3. Voter Education: The SIEC is responsible for educating voters on the electoral process, including how to register to vote, how to vote, and how to report electoral malpractices.
  4. Electoral Logistics: The SIEC is responsible for ensuring that the logistics of the election are properly organized. This includes distributing election materials such as ballot papers, ballot boxes, and voter registers to polling units.
  5. Conduct of Elections: The SIEC is responsible for the actual conduct of the election. This includes the deployment of election officials to polling units, the accreditation of voters, the counting of votes, and the announcement of results.
  6. Dispute Resolution: The SIEC is responsible for the resolution of electoral disputes that may arise during or after the election. This involves setting up an election tribunal to hear and determine disputes arising from the election.

Types of Electoral malpractices in Nigeria

  1. Vote Buying: This involves the exchange of money or gifts for votes. Candidates or their supporters offer voters money, food, or other incentives to vote for them.
  2. Ballot Box Snatching: This is the act of forcefully taking ballot boxes during an election. It often involves violence and intimidation of election officials and voters.
  3. Multiple Voting: This involves an individual voting more than once in the same election. This can happen through impersonation, using fake identification, or other means.
  4. Voter Intimidation: This involves the use of violence, threats, or other forms of coercion to prevent voters from exercising their right to vote.
  5. Voter Suppression: This involves the deliberate disenfranchisement of voters through various means, such as the removal of names from voter registers or the manipulation of polling locations.
  6. Election Rigging: This involves the manipulation of the electoral process to produce a desired outcome. It can include falsifying results, altering ballot papers, or tampering with electronic voting machines.
  7. Thuggery: This involves the use of violence or threats by hired thugs to intimidate voters and disrupt the electoral process.
  8. Vote Counting Irregularities: This involves manipulating the vote-counting process, including the falsification of results and the rejection of valid votes.
  9. Disenfranchisement of Opposition Voters: This involves tactics such as gerrymandering, the manipulation of polling stations, and the intimidation of opposition supporters to prevent them from voting.
  10. Inadequate Electoral Security: This involves the failure of election officials and security personnel to provide adequate security during an election, leaving voters vulnerable to violence and intimidation.

Ways of overcoming electoral malpractices in Nigeria

The following are some of the ways that electoral malpractices might be avoided:

  1. Strengthening the Legal Framework: The Nigerian government can strengthen the legal framework governing elections by enacting and enforcing laws prohibiting electoral malpractices and providing stiff penalties for offenders.
  2. Effective Voter Education: Voters should be educated on their rights and responsibilities during elections. They should also be sensitized on the dangers of electoral malpractices and how they can report such incidences.
  3. Adequate Funding: Adequate funding should be provided for the electoral process to ensure that all necessary logistics are implemented to prevent electoral malpractices.
  4. Deployment of Security Personnel: Adequate security personnel should be deployed to polling stations to prevent voter intimidation and ballot box snatching.
  5. Use of Technology: The use of technology, such as biometric voter registration, electronic voting, and result in collation, can help to prevent electoral malpractices by reducing the opportunity for manual intervention.
  6. Inclusion of Observers: Election observers should be included in the electoral process to monitor and report any incidences of malpractice.
  7. Fair Media Coverage: The media should provide fair and unbiased coverage of the electoral process, including candidates and parties, to prevent the spread of false information that can incite violence.
  8. Transparency: The electoral process should be transparent, and results should be made public as soon as possible to prevent fraud and reduce tension.
  9. Active Civil Society Participation: Civil society organizations should play an active role in the electoral process by monitoring and reporting any incidences of malpractice to the relevant authorities.
  10. Prosecution of Offenders: Electoral offenders should be identified, investigated, and prosecuted to deter others from engaging in similar actions.

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