The chairman of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has expressed confidence that measures implemented by the electoral body will ensure next year’s general election is transparent, free, fair and credible.
Attahiru Jega also says INEC has received assurances from both the government and legislators that the commission will get the funds it needs to organize next year’s presidential, legislative and local elections.
Both local and international election monitoring groups said Nigeria’s 2007 elections failed to meet international standards. The election monitors however said the 2011 vote was credible and better organized.
Working to improve performance
In an interview with VOA, Jega outlined measures the electoral body has implemented to improve next year’s vote following an internal review of the group’s performance in the 2011 general election.
Jega says INEC also invited academic and civil society groups to independently assess its performance in the 2011 vote, and offer recommendations in areas that needed improvement.
“After we did all that we produced a strategic plan covering the period 2012 to 2016 so that for the elections and beyond, we have a clearly charted program of what needed to be done to improve election management in Nigeria, both towards 2015 and beyond,” said Jega. “Our vision is to be one of the best election management bodies in Africa by 2015.”
He says INEC has been restructured to be efficient and effective.
“We have done what I call putting square pegs in square holes in terms of human resources in terms of removing duplication of responsibilities and so on,” said Jega. “We have produced a permanent voters card and we are going to distribute them and come 2015 we are going to use card readers to be able to authenticate whether the person who brings a card to the polling unit is the actual owner of that card.”
Jega called on other stakeholders including civil society groups and political parties to be partners in ensuring the credibility of the vote.
“It is much about what politicians do -- it is much about what civil society organizations do. So our hope is that while we concentrate on doing our best, we are hopeful and we keep on engaging stake holders so that all hands will be on deck in order to ensure that 2015 is indeed truly much better than 2011,” said Jega.
Observers say adequate funding is critical to resolving the logistical challenges INEC faces. Jega says he has been assured by the country’s leaders that his organization will receive the budgetary allocation needed to administer the vote.
“We prepared our budget which we have submitted and we have concerns as to whether what we actually need will be provided -- both members of the national assembly and the government raised these concerns. I must say we have received assurances that everything would be done to ensure that lack of resources do not undermine the 2015 elections. And I think those reassurances are good enough for us,” said Jega.
Nigeria is facing severe security challenges in some parts of the country where the Islamist militant group Boko Haram has carried out attacks.
Some Nigerians worry that the election could be affected by violence. They contend that the militants could target voting centers and scare prospective voters from participating in the election.
But, Jega says the electoral commission is working closely with the country’s security agencies to address any security concerns in the run up to the vote.
“We partner with security agencies to anticipate security challenges and to have a coordinated response approach to addressing those security challenges,” said Jega. “Since 2010 we established an Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Elections Security, and it has offered us a platform through which we engage with all security agencies to discuss security challenges associated with elections.”
Code of conduct
Observers have expressed concern about politicians using intemperate language during campaigns ahead of elections, which they say heightens ethnic and religious tension and creates conflicts and violence.
Jega says INEC will enforce a code of conduct that the political parties would have to abide by in the run up to the election.
“I’m glad to say that all the registered political parties as of March last year had signed to a code of conduct that promotes civility and peaceful conduct,” said Jega. “We are hopeful that political parties and candidates will abide by that code of conduct and we are urging all citizens and all civil society organizations to hold parties and candidates to account with regards to the commitment that they have made.”
Clottey interview with Prof. Attahiru Jega, Nigeria's Electoral Chief