A Nigerian based human and Environmental rights advocate and the National Coordinator, Center for Peace and Environmental Justice (CEPEJ) Comrade Mulade Sheriff has raised concerns over the continued declaration of inconclusive elections in Nigeria that has raised several concerns and tensionAccording to the Activist, from pre-colonial era to date, Nigerians have conducted various forms of election at the family, community, state and national levels. Elections are not just a condition of for democracy, they are necessary for national development, peace, and unity.
Comrade Mulade Sheriff expressed worries over the development in New York, US and called on the electoral umpire INEC to do everything humanly possible to avoid this ugly menace in order to give credibility to our electoral process
He claimed that since independence, national elections in Nigeria have always been marred by irregularities due to so many factors.
“This has resulted in the Electoral Act stipulating in Section 53 (2) that “where the votes cast at an election in any polling unit exceed the number of registered voters in that polling unit, the result of the election for that polling unit shall be declared void by the Commission and another election may be conducted at a date to be fixed by the Commission where the result at that polling unit may affect the overall result in the Constituency”, he said.
“Section 53 (3) added that “where an election is nullified in accordance with subsection (2) of this section, there shall be no return for the election until another poll has taken place in the affected area.”
Following this Act, in recent times, the INEC has declared elections inconclusive in Anambra State (2011 and 2013), Bayelsa (2015), Kogi (2015) and Imo (2015).
It is no more news that the Independent National Electoral Commission declared the March 9, 2019 Governorship and State House of Assembly elections inconclusive in Plateau, Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Sokoto and Kano States, while those in Rivers State have been suspended.
In a statement, the Commission explained that it took the decisions following widespread security challenges and claims that some of its staff were held hostage and materials including results sheets were destroyed, as well as cases where the votes cast in a polling unit exceeded the number of registered voters in that polling unit.
Comrade Mulade said that; “recurrence of inconclusive elections in Nigeria, whatever the causes might be, portends negative implications for Nigeria’s electoral system. Not only does it cause voter apathy, it also affects the judgmental ability of the electorate, undermines the credibility of Nigeria’s electoral umpire, INEC, to conduct peaceful, free and fair elections in the country, thus sending bad signasl to the local and international communities”.
“In addition, inconclusive elections lead to a waste of national resources and forestall the achievement of sustainable development goals, SDGs. The energy, time and finance which should have been used for meaningful national projects are wasted on inconclusive and re-run elections”, he added.
As a civil society organization advocating for national peace and unity, improved security, justice and economic viability, Center for Peace and Environmental Justice CEPEJ proposes the following steps towards ensuring a positive change in the electoral narratives of Nigeria
Conditions for free and fair elections should be put in place to end cases of inconclusive elections due to insecurity and electoral irregularities. It is important to make all possible adjustments within the existing legal framework to avoid the causes of inconclusive and suspended elections in Nigeria.
National institutions should be strengthened to reflect the supremacy of the Rule of Law, while Electoral Malpractices Commission should announce the names of electoral offenders. Politicians who create conditions that do not allow elections to be concluded should be well investigated. Electoral offenders should be duly prosecuted and brought to justice.
INEC should overtly commit itself to sanitizing the electoral system beginning from its own staff. There is the need to review the criteria and process of recruiting adhoc staff for elections.
Politicians and security agents should be directly engaged to discuss their standpoints on the issue of inconclusive elections in Nigeria.