STATEMENT BY THE CONVENER, NIGERIA ELECTION WORKING GROUP (NEWG), PROFESSOR ADELE JINADU FOLLOWING THE SECOND TECHNICAL MEETING OF THE WORKING GROUP HELD IN ABUJA ON 22 AUGUST 2017
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am glad to address you again on the activities of the Nigeria Election Working Group (NEWG). As you may be aware, the Working Group is made up of many distinguished Nigerians with expertise on elections. It is a forum for multi- expertise conversations, research, strategic interventions and moral suasion to promote electoral reforms and democratic consolidation in Nigeria.
The second technical meeting reviewed the activities of the Working Group since its last meeting in December 2016 as well as preparations for the Anambra State Governorship election scheduled for 18 November 2017. Key issues identified in the review are the challenges posed by rising numbers of political parties in Nigeria, analysis of off-cycle elections conducted by INEC since the 2015 general elections, as well as the need to analyze and deploy knowledge from the 2015 elections to engender improved election management in Nigeria.
During its deliberations, the Working Group observed that:
a. The increased number of political parties can deepen political engagement by providing basis for the emergence of parties that more closely mirror the peoples’ beliefs or concerns. However, registration of many parties could lead to a number unwieldy for the EMB to manage, confuse voters, and reduce the simplicity of the ballot paper.
b. INEC deserves commendation for the over 170 off-cycle, rerun and bye- elections it has conducted since the 2015 general elections. It was further observed that although the elections were generally successful, some of them still leave room for improvement.
c. INEC’s preparations for the Anambra State Governorship election appears to be on the right course, especially with regards to the compilation of the Voters’ Register, finalization and implementation of Anambra Election Project Plan (ANEPP), and the activation of the Election Management System (EMS) for Anambra State.
d. The “No Election Campaign” by IPOB could serve as reason for the militarization of the Anambra State Governorship election. This could discourage potential election officials and the electorate from participating in the election.
In the light of the foregoing observations, NEWG resolved as follows:
1. There is need for a study of the implications of party proliferation for the electoral process in Nigeria, drawing from experiences from other climes. INEC should begin engagement with various stakeholders, especially the political parties, to arrive at reasonable conditions for ballot access in Nigeria, since the registration of a party may not qualify it to be on the ballot.
2. Establish an NEWG research team to study off-cycle, rerun and bye-elections conducted by INEC since 2015 with a view to generating lessons from them for the 2019 general elections.
3. Government and security agencies must create the enabling environment for INEC to conduct the Anambra State Governorship election as scheduled.
4. INEC must make adequate preparations for the Anambra State Governorship election and assure the electorate of its readiness for the election by constantly informing the public of its activities.
5. Potential election officials and the electorate should not be deterred from participating in the electoral process by the perceived insecurity around the election. Citizens, particularly in Anambra State, should show keen interest in the Governorship elections, by reporting electoral malpractices and breach of peace to appropriate authorities.