So simple, yet so profound is the principle of Recall which allows the voters to withdraw their representative at anytime they discover that he or she no longer serves their interest or the interest of democracy. The recent exercise in Nigeria, therefore, goes beyond the individual involved. This report is, by implication, an important one in the blow by blow account it provides by someone who observed it from start to finish and wrote as such. This report is not exclusive to Intervention:
By Idris Miliki Abdul*
On the 25th of April 2018, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), organized a stakeholders meeting and press briefing to kick start the process expected to lead to the Recall of the Senator representing Kogi West Senatorial District (in Nigeria) as dictated by the various sections of the Nigerian Constitution. In attendance at the meeting were officials of National Headquarters of INEC, particularly the National Commissioner in charge of Kogi, Kwara and Nasarawa States. Others include various security agencies, civil society organizations, political parties, members of the press, faith based organizations, etc
On Friday 27th April 2018, at 11 am, at the state INEC headquarters, various verification materials were distributed to INEC officials to be taken to the various local government areas for the verification exercise. The distribution was also witnessed by the media and accredited civil society organizations working on Elections.
On Saturday 28th April 2018, INEC officials and their Adhoc staff commenced the Verification Exercise in 520 Polling Units across the 7 Local Government Areas of the District. The exercise commenced by 8 am as scheduled and ended by 2 pm same day. It was observed by a few accredited civil society organizations and many media practitioners.
The exercise was participatory and due process was followed by INEC. Smart Card Readers were used to verify those that had signed the petition initially and made themselves available physically as dictated by INEC guidelines. However, the exercise recorded very low turnout and many of those that presumably signed the petition, made themselves available and found their names on the list did not have same signatures as the one on the petition.
We also observed the presence of adequate security personnel at every polling unit as not less than 3 security personnel were sighted in each of the observed polling units. This included members of the Nigerian police, National Security and Civil Defense Corps, (NSCDC), Immigration and Prison Services.
Majority of the Smart Card Readers functioned well except in very few cases and INEC needs to be commended for adhering to their rules and guidelines. The voters conducted themselves peacefully in most cases except in isolated areas mentioned above.
In some places, political party agents were seen around the polling units with their tags, contrary to INEC pronouncements during the stakeholders’ meeting that since this was a verification exercise and not an election, political party agents were not allowed.
Furthermore, we also observed the petitioners and the petitioned also had their agents in many polling units. It is, however, worrisome that all agents identified did not have their names clearly written on their tags as it is always the practice with both local and international observers.
The final collation exercise took place at the Lokoja Local government office of INEC and commenced at about 10 pm last Saturday, ending with the final result announced at 1.47 am on Sunday, 29th April 2018. The result was declared by Professor Ukertori Moti, a Professor of Political Science from the University of Abuja.
Civil Society should take these types of exercises serious and make themselves available. For an exercise that cut across 7 LGAs, not up to 50 civil society observers participated
INEC should make sure all party agents have their names on their tags and if possible with pictures
INEC should look into discrepancies in signatures and thumbprints with a view to addressing it in subsequent exercises, this being the first Verification Exercise in the State
Adequate enlightenment activities should be conducted for voters in the affected areas as there was limited understanding of the process by the voters on the exercise
Donors and international agencies should take interest in these types of exercises as no single international observer was sighted in this exercise
INEC and security agencies should take note of money exchange during subsequent INEC organized events
Mapping of electoral violence flashpoints should be conducted by INEC, security agencies and the civil society before INEC organizes activities and measures to prevent what happened in Mopa/Muro LGA.
The Recall process itself and the stage it got to before it failed also brought some lessons for democracy, rule of law and good governance. It brought enlightenment to the citizens that they have the power to Recall their Legislators. The exercise was a worthwhile participation and there is need for the civil society to take interest.
The author is the Executive Director, Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution, (CHRCR), Lokoja, Kogi State of Nigeria