The Forum of States Independent Electoral Commissions of Nigeria (FOSIECON) congratulates the people of Nigeria and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the successful conduct of the 2015 general elections. The Forum notes that in most of the States, the elections were well conducted and the votes of the people counted. In a few of the States there were cases of violence, snatching of ballot papers, logistic challenges and corrupt practices.
On the whole, the Nigerian people and the international community adjudged the Presidential and National Assembly Elections and the Governorship and State Assembly elections as credible and a significant leap in our quest for free, fair, credible and peaceful elections.
Prior to the said elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) based on its partnership with FOSIECON and the Memorandum of Understanding signed by both parties accredited the Forum to observe the conduct of the two strands of elections. The Forum deployed SIECs Commission Members and staff throughout the federation to observe the conduct of the elections.
The Forum and its members learnt useful lessons from the conduct of the elections and the lessons so learnt will assist the members of the Forum in the conduct of Local Government Elections in Nigeria. The Forum believes that the key challenge for the States Independent Electoral Commissions is to design programs and policies to improve the integrity of Local Government Elections and make such elections to conform to national and international standards.
We believe that State Independent Electoral Commissions can improve on the benchmark already set by the Independent National Electoral Commission if the constitutional, legal and logistic framework guiding the operations of SIEC’s and the conduct of Local Government elections is improved upon.
We therefore implore the incoming administration at the National and State Levels to facilitate the reforms of the constitutional and legal framework for the conduct of Local Government Elections. Towards this end we suggest the following:
There must be clarity, consistency and certainty regarding the constitutional and electoral framework for the conduct of Local Government Elections. The States Independent Electoral Commissions will benefit from certainty in terms of the dates for the conduct of Local Government Elections. It does not enhance the credibility and independence of States Independent Electoral Commissions when State Governors in collaboration with State Assemblies unilaterally change the timeline for the conduct of elections, the publication of notice of elections and the time for the submission of the list of candidates and their particulars and the timing of the release of funds for the conduct of elections.
We believe that the appointment of Caretaker Committees to run the affairs of some of the Local Governments in defiance of the definite pronouncement of the Supreme Court of Nigeria has impacted negatively on the independence and integrity of the States Independent Electoral Commissions. The Supreme Court of Nigeria in the case of Eze v. Gov., Abia State(2014)14 NWLR, Part 1426 at 196 made it clear that section 7 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999(as amended) imposes a duty on the Governor of a State to ensure that the system of Local Government continues unhindered. “Accordingly, a Governor’s act of dissolving Local Government Councils and replacing them with Caretaker Committees amounts to the Governor acting on his whims and fancies, unknown to Nigerian laws, and clearly illegal. In other words, it is the duty of the Governor of a State to ensure the existence of Local Government Councils instead of being responsible for destroying them”.
Furthermore, some State Governments dissolve the States Independent Electoral Commissions at will and the chairpersons and Commissioners relieved of their positions irrespective of the constitutional cover which inures to them.
We are convinced that the States Independent Electoral Commissions will be better focused and organized to deliver credible elections when there is constitutional certainty in terms of the tenure of Local Governments and when such dates are respected and adhered to. The States Independent Electoral Commissions will also plan better when electoral timelines are clear and all political parties and candidates are aware of same and prepare for same.
It is our proposal that the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria should be amended to provide a definite and uniform tenure for all the Local Governments in Nigeria. We also propose that the constitution should be amended to guarantee financial autonomy to the State Independent Electoral Commissions.
When these things are put in place, State Governments will not be in a position to force Chairpersons and Commissioners of States Independent Electoral Commission to organize snap and rushed Local Government Elections that are unconstitutional and purely politically motivated.
We are convinced that the States Independent Electoral Commissions have the capacity to organize and conduct Local Government Elections that reflect the wishes of the people and meets regional and international standards.