As the judiciary across the length and breadth of the country strive to correct the electoral fraud of April 14th and 21st 2007, we keep wondering the institution that will conduct the fresh elections that will be free, fair, credible and generally accepted to the people of Nigeria and the international community. We reason this way because Nigerians have very short memory and tend to forget very easily what happens to them.
It would be recalled that the national elections in Nigeria this year has been adjudged the worst in the history of Nigeria. Both the domestic and international observers outrightly condemned the elections in its entirety. They said the election was comparable to elections in Somalia and Mongolia; and that it fell far below the standards that Nigeria set for itself.
And, the blame has been put at the door step of Professor Maurice Iwu, who instead of being a neutral umpire, clearly became a partisan meddlesome interloper in the electoral cum political process, wantonly supporting one side against the other, thereby over-heating the polity.
The fraud in the election is also exemplified by the way and manner the various election tribunals across the country have nullified several elections conducted by Iwu’s INEC. Iwu has shown vividly that he is a politician.
His utterances, comportment, attitude, activities, body language, mien and carriage demonstrate beyond all reasonable doubt that, indeed, he is an interested party in the electoral process in the country. He has therefore; he threw the whole country into commotion and INEC into disrepute. At the presidential election tribunal, there were many election results that were written before the Election Day.
There is no way that this character can conduct an election that will not generate public outcry and acrimony. And, this kind of volatile scenario can easily throw the country into unprecedented hullabaloo. This can certainly not be in the best interest of the country. It is for this reason that both the AC and NCP have called for the removal of Maurice Iwu.
Curiously, Iwu at the presentation of the 2007 INEC report said, the April election reflects the intent of the electorates. He went ahead to berated some politicians and wealthy individuals which he did not mention specifically. It is very surprising that, in the whole world it is only Iwu who said that the April election was free and fair. So, how can the whole world be wrong and only Iwu will be right?
Even President Yar’Adua admitted that the April election was flawed, but lacked the courage to honourable resign and call for fresh election. However, he swiftly put in place an electoral reform committee to overhaul the electoral process.
Reuben Abati in the review of the INEC 2007 report said very clearly that, INEC has demonstrated that the integrity of ballot was not guarantee and the people of Nigeria lacked the freedom to properly chose their own leaders. He went to explain that there was no structure in INEC that could ensure a free and fair election as everything operated in a roller-coaster manner. He lamented that INEC transfer its autonomy to PDP, whose interest it served in the 2007 election.
He said the report did not own up to its own failure, and glaring partisanship. The report failed to admit its errors and author of the report tried to cover up a number of things. Hence, the 104 document by INEC on the 2007 election is a bundle of audacious mendacities, the figment of the wild imagination of Iwu and his co-travelers.
Professor Iwu has become a symbol of national disgrace that nothing associated with him can be credible, reliable and putatively acceptable. He deliberately allowed himself to be used by the yesterday’s men of power. And, he choose the filthy lucre of office over self-worth and pride. Never had controversies trailed the outcome of any election in Nigeria like the April 2007 election. Every segment of the country had cause to complain over one thing or the order.
Candidates were knowingly excluded, voters register was never done, it was not also displayed in accordance with the constitution, electoral matters were not prepared on time, adequate ad hoc personnel were not recruited and deployed all over the country, and Iwu was embroiled in needless court altercations. It is regrettable that Iwu that ought to be sober and reflective has not shown any iota of remorse, instead he remains defiant and unrepentant basking the euphoria of shamelessness.
It is also on record that one of the local observers in the election was the Catholic Church that sent out about 30,000 observers nationwide, a faith to which Iwu belongs, and which has come out to strongly condemn the results. In fact, the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Olorunfemi Oniaiyiekan, who is also the president of CAN has requested for the cancellation of the results.
According to the EU report, on Election Day for the state elections, polling started late throughout the country due to the late arrival of polling officials and materials, which were often incomplete. In several areas, polling did not take place at all. Polling stations were generally under-staffed with officials who were under-trained. Procedures were often poorly followed and the secrecy of the ballot was not guaranteed in the majority of polling stations visited by EU observers.
However party agents were seen in almost all polling stations visited with domestic observers present in close to half. Incidents of hijacking of ballot boxes were witnessed by EU observers, who reported widespread irregularities, including under-age voting, and significant evidence of fraud, particularly during the result collation process, which completely lacked transparency due to the fact that polling station results were not publicly displayed at any level of the election administration throughout the country.
Following INEC’s decision to order a complete re-run of the gubernatorial election in Imo State, it should have initiated investigations in a number of other states and given serious consideration to ordering complete election re-runs where serious concerns were raised by political parties, civil society and the media about the conduct of elections.
The EU reported also noted that,81 per cent of polling stations observed during the opening, essential polling materials were missing, in particular polling booths, EC8 series result forms and ballot papers. A total of 75 per cent of polling stations visited did not receive the correct number and type of ballot papers.
The newly printed presidential ballot papers were without serial numbers and insufficient quantities were delivered in many parts of the country. EU observers reported that in Ebonyi and Abia States, presiding officers only received 46 per cent of the required number, and that in Borno State only 36 per cent of the presidential ballots needed were distributed.
Once again no elections took place in many areas. For example, in the minority areas of the LGAs Katsina-Ala, Buruku, Ojo, Otukpo and Okpokwu as well as in one ward in Vandeykya LGA of Benue State, no elections were conducted and most of the ward collation centres were not operational.144 In Kaduna South in 6 out of 13 wards, no elections were conducted due to the tensions surrounding the delivery of faulty ballot papers.
Similarly in Anambra State, in five LGAs no elections took place due to the delivery of incorrect polling materials. Other places where EU observers reported that no elections were conducted include four polling stations in Borno, four polling stations in Nasarawa, a polling station in Ondo State several polling stations in Edo State, the LGA Nafada in Gombe State, and a polling station in Cross River State.
In Guma LGA in Benue State no presidential elections took place. In Enugu State, unidentified persons, driving a State government car, targeted the transport of polling materials to polling stations and stole the sensitive materials. Once again a shortage of polling staff was reported in 50 per cent of polling stations observed and at times a voter register was not used during the polling process, as for example in Polling Stations observed in Edo State, Enugu State,Gombe State157 and Ebonyi State.
In almost half of the polling stations observed the secrecy of the vote was not ensured due to a lack of polling booths. In some states, EU observers found polling booths being stored at LGA or Ward levels.
They were either not delivered to, or not used in, polling stations. Again, as on the first Election Day, voters often had to vote openly and in full view of bystanders on the desks of the presiding officers, which raised the potential for intimidation.
In 13 per cent of polling stations observed, attempts were made to influence voters, mainly by party agents. In Ebonyi and Oyo States, EU observers saw voters being directed for whom to vote and in Borno State in a polling station with only female voters the agent of the State ruling party intimidated women to vote for his party.
In Cross River State a PDP agent collected ballot papers from the table of the presiding officer, checked the mark and inserted them then into the ballot box, while in Collation Centres in Enugu and Ebonyi States PDP agents assumed a leading role in the counting process. In Ebonyi State EU observers witnessed harassment of voters by PDP agents.
EU observers assessed the overall conduct of polling stations again as poor or very poor in 58 per cent for the openings observed and 44 per cent for the polling stations visited, which are again very high percentages compared with other EU observations. The overall understanding of voting procedures by polling station staff was rated as poor or very poor in 38 per cent of polling stations visited.
This would seem to suggest that there had been no positive learning curve by the staff from the first to the second election day; confirm reports from EU observers about the quality of training of polling staff in a large number of states and that last minute replacements of polling staff that occurred in several states may have had a negative impact on the performance of polling staff.
In almost 65 per cent of polling stations observed, the ballot boxes were not sealed. In around half of the polling stations visited by EU observers one or more of the three mandatory polling staff were not present. Underage voting remained a major issue, particularly in the states of the North. EU observers Witnessed under age voters in one fifth of polling stations visited, including in Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Sokoto, Plateau, Niger, and Kogi States.
Again, EU observers witnessed many cases of fraud and attempted fraud. For example, unused ballot papers were marked and stuffed into the ballot box resulting in almost 100 per cent voter turn. This was observed in four polling stations in Ogun State.
Also, ballot box stuffing was witnessed by EU observers in the States of Plateau175 and Gombe, at a Collation Centre in Enugu State, and in the house of a village chief in Nasarawara State where the polling station had been moved to. In Akwa Ibom ballot stuffing on a large scale was observed with 50 polling station result forms in LGA Ibono-Ibom producing a 97.9 per cent turnout.
In the same state, EU observers witnessed a presiding officer inserting the ballot papers of an entire ballot paper booklet in the ballot box that had been pre thumb-printed for the ruling party. Inflation of results on official result forms at every level of the collation process was observed, for example at ward level in Cross River State and at LGA level in Kwara State.
In one case more votes were announced to have been cast than ballot papers been delivered. Similarly, in Cross River State in one Polling Station more votes were cast then voters registered. In Kwara State, EU observers also found piles of ballot papers in a ballot box which had clearly been thumb-printed by the same person, and in Niger State a temporarily missing ballot box was returned with an almost 100 per cent turnout and ballot papers all marked for the ruling party.
In Edo State, groups of youths were observed voting three times at different polling stations. In Katsina State, EU observers found people with about 1,000 unused and about 200 already stuffed
ballot papers in an open building. In Niger and Jigawa States cases of vote buying on behalf of the ruling party were observed with INEC staff and police officers taking no action. Results of a polling station were changed in Gombe State after counting.
Fraudulent changes of election results also occurred in Ogun State: EU observers attended the counting in a polling station where 58 out of 488 registered voters cast their vote. During the collation process, these figures were changed to a 100 per cent turnout with the ruling party receiving 400 votes. On a positive note, attempts to alter results in favour of ANPP by a presiding officer in the FCT of Abuja and in favour of PDP in Yobe State were prevented, in the first case by the Returning Officer and in the second case by the police.
Domestic observers were slightly less present compared to the elections on 14 April. From opening to tabulation, their presence fluctuated between a high of 54 per cent during counting and 39 per cent for tabulation as the lowest figure. Party agents were seen in 96 per of polling stations and in 92 per cent of collation centres.
In fact, the EU recommended that, Concrete steps should be taken to establish a truly independent and capable election administration. This should include the introduction of a transparent, inclusive and accountable system for the nomination and appointment of INEC Commissioners and Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) which ensures the confidence of election stakeholders.
INEC should immediately start work to improve the voter register, removing double registration, under age entries, entries without pictures and other shortcomings. This should be undertaken with a view to ensuring public and political confidence at all stages of the process
Voting booths should be used in all polling stations and procedures to ensure the secrecy of the vote should be implemented effectively.
Impunity for electoral violations should cease and political parties should end the practice of hiring thugs to perpetrate electoral violence.
Transparency should be enhanced and ensured, particularly with regard to INEC meetings and decisions and swift publication of detailed polling station results at all levels of the election
An effective framework should be established to ensure that the mass media provides equitable
access and coverage to political parties and candidates during the campaign period.
Complaints, appeals and petitions procedures should be enhanced to ensure clear, effective, transparent and timely processes for election stakeholders.
Therefore, to all intent and purposes, it is very evident that Iwu cannot conduct any credible election, he has become a liability to himself and INEC, hence, he should be summarily sacked, INEC should be re-organized and political process handled in such a way that it will impact positively on the country. Iwu has outlived his usefulness and it is time for him to go.
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Henry Dallas, USA/Nigeria October 29, 2007
Jide you have written, however, remember that uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. If you were in Maurice's shoe, what would you have done. Knowing fully well, that the polity was already heated by the players. INEC was doing the right thing when they stated the qualifications of those who seek public office has to have. I don't think anything was wrong on that because, then everyone will have to forge certificates like they do in Nigeria and seek election without having somebody that looks into that issue. INEC is like the refree to a soccer game. A refree can disqualify or bar anyone from playng soccer based on the rule of the game or ortherwise stated by the rulling body (FIFA), in the case of INEC, the supreme court.
Nevertheless, the elections are over and the election tribunals are presiding over all complaints. I think, we all need to allow them to do their jobs and stop mouth-lasing of Maurice Iwu. Afterall, the US elections wan't free and fair. In texas, I voted but my vote was not counted. In Ohio and some parts of Chicago, majority of blacks did not vote because the republicans changed election voting centers to disenfranchise the blacks. We see these things over and over. So, let the man be. If the senate decides that he should go then, they need to pass a vote of no confidence and lawfully remove him.
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