The following is a guest post by Hanibal Goitom, Foreign Law Specialist.
As the people of some African countries take to the streets to unseat their leaders, Nigerians get the opportunity to do the same this month – but instead of needing to protest, they can affect change by going to polling stations.
It’s election season in Nigeria. The country, a federation of 36 states with a population of over 155 million, conducts elections every four years for federal as well as state political offices. The elections take place in three stages. Voting for National Assembly representatives, for both the Senate (with all 109 seats up for grabs) and House of Representatives (all 360 seats open), began on April 9. The presidential election is scheduled for April 16 and gubernatorial as well as state assembly elections are set for April 26.
The last election, conducted in April 2007, was widely criticized. The National Democratic Institute, one of the observers of the elections, noted in a report that the 2007 elections were full of irregularities (including underage voting, ballots that did not include all the names of the candidates, errors in voter registration, lack of secrecy of voting, and inadequate polling stations) in addition to improper conduct such as stolen ballot boxes, intimidation, and vote buying. The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) found that the elections did not meet basic regional and international standards. It concluded that the elections were, among other things, “marred by poor organization, lack of essential transparency, widespread procedural irregularities and significant evidence of fraud.”
Elections this season have already encountered several logistical, security, and legal bumps to say the least. For instance, the National Assembly elections were originally scheduled for April 2, but they had to be postponed due to logistical issues, one of which was the lack of the necessary voting materials in the 120,000 polling stations. There have also been reports of violence at campaign rallies, polling stations, and vote counting centers. On April 11, the Abuja (federal capital) police reportedly intercepted what are suspected to be illegally printed ballot papers intended for use in the coming presidential polls. In addition, a challenge by a political party to the constitutionality of some sections of the Electoral Act, 2010, and a court battle before the Court of Appeal in Abuja on whether gubernatorial elections should take place in five of the thirty-six Nigerian states, are some of the legal issues adding complications to this election season.
It is obvious that the Nigerian elections this season will be far from perfect. Hopefully, however, they will be better than the last ones.
We will continue to monitor the elections and keep you posted through the Law Library’s online publications and social media. We will also be collecting election related materials to update our holdings on Nigeria so that researchers interested in Nigerian elections can have access to the latest materials on the subject.
Update: If you are interested in more information on Nigerian elections, a recently published report on the changes made to the Nigerian electoral system is available. I have also published the following Global Legal Montor articles on the issue: Constitutionality of Provisions of Electoral Act 2010 Challenged in Court, INEC Appeals Court Ruling Exempting Five States from Upcoming Gubernatorial Elections, and Court of Appeals Upholds High Court Ruling, No Gubernatorial Elections in Five States.