REFORMS IN THE ELECTORAL PROCESS IN NIGERIA

BY EDWIN AKWUEH

0 1,644

The Nigerian political transition processes began with electoral reforms since Independence in 1960.

The journey recognized the electoral bodies that served the nation to allow Nigerians of voting age to elect leaders for the independence and subsequent Republics up to the present fourth republic.

Since 1999 when the fourth Republic began after years of military regimes that gave way for Democracy, Nigeria has witnessed three reforms in the electoral process.  The first was under the former President, Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration in 2002, which resulted in the Electoral Act, used for the conduct of the 2003 and 2007 general election.

The second reform in the Electoral process occurred under the then President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration in 2010, culminating into the 2010 Electoral Act, which was used for the conduct of three national elections in 2011, 2015, and 2019.

Then came the Electoral Act of 2022 that went through rigorous legislative processes with many critical reviews of past Electoral Acts, as well as other political antecedents that were not fully captured in the 2002, and 2010 Electoral Acts. These three reform processes in Nigeria helped in advancing its elections.

A quick look at the past twenty-four years of uninterrupted democratic dispensations, show that Nigerians have witnessed significant milestones in civilian administration due to the achievements recorded in the various reforms in the electoral process. For instance, some of the outstanding reforms that readily come to mind include the smart card reader, introduced in the 2015 General Election, the Biometric Voter Accreditation System BVAS, initiated in 2022, and used in the last 2023 general election.

Indeed, since the 2011 general election, Nigeria’s electoral process has seen a paradigm shift, which resulted in international recognition for Nigeria since the largely successful conduct of the 2015 general polls. This propelled consistent reforms in the electoral process that made the conduct of elections more acceptable by political parties, candidates and the international community.

This introduction of innovative technological tools helped reduce cases of electoral impunity and guaranteed the sanctity of the vote. Specifically, the use of the Smart Card Readers in 2015 was a watershed, though a section of the political class opposed it. In addition, the Bi-modal Voter Accreditation System B-VAS was described as the game changer.

These recent innovations have helped to curb certain ills of the past, which characterized the polity at the early stages of the fourth Republic. It was evident that these technological innovations contributed immensely to the cleaning up of the voter register, and voter accreditation.

Despite the significant progress made so far in elections management since the return to  democratic rule in 1999,  there is still need to further deepened the electoral process by introducing electronic voting (e-Voting) and electronic transmission of results real-time to a central point, among other reforms.

Among its advantages is that e Voting lessens the chances of electoral officials changing the votes count, thus reducing election officials’ direct interaction with ballots or counts and other forms of voter fraud. It also allows larger voter participation especially as the process is faster, less cumbersome, reliable and promotes more trust in the system among others.

In addition, due to the nature of holding general election at a go, many people on essential duty, like security personnel, medical staff, journalists and transporters, are not able to exercise their franchise. The electoral umpire therefore needs to copy the American system, where persons could vote ahead of elections day either personally or through mailed ballots.

This would greatly reduce the huge crowd often notice on Election Day and would easily be managed.

Further reforms should allow Nigerians to vote wherever they reside.

The voting machine can be configured to recognize and invalidate double or multiple voting, with the offender easily identifiable for arrest and possible prosecution.

The ninth National Assembly particularly the Senate deserves commendation for its approval of independent candidacy in Nigeria’s elections at the National, States and Local Government levels. The President’s assent to the bill for Independent candidacy before the end of his tenure will provide further task for the Nigeria’s electoral body, INEC.

It is hoped that incoming legislators of  the tenth National Assembly will as part of the 1999 constitution,  consider amendment processes to the Diaspora voting right,  to broaden the voting space for all Nigerians home and abroad  to participate before the next rounds of elections in 2027.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *