Abuja, Nigeria – IRI recognizes the Nigerian people are on a journey to perfect their democracy. The Institute compliments the Nigerian people for the patient and largely peaceful exercise of their right to vote. But clearly the political parties, the Administration and the National Assembly must make improvements to meet the increased expectations of Nigerians.
In many other states, however, election administrators, political leaders, voters and domestic observers deserve praise for conducting generally sound and well managed elections under difficult circumstances.
Nigerian police and national security agencies also appear to have maintained a generally well-ordered process that was relatively free of large-scale violence in states observed by IRI.
It is important to stress that this election assessment is preliminary and only addresses what IRI observers actually saw in 12 states plus the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). IRI is not making a conclusive judgment about the entire Nigerian elections that involved 60 million voters in 36 states.
IRI Observer Deployment
IRI sponsored a delegation of 42 election observers for the April 19, 2003 Nigerian presidential and gubernatorial elections. This was the second phase of a two-part election observation process that began with Nigeria’s April 12 national assembly lections.
For the presidential election IRI observers witnessed voting and tabulation procedures in 12 Nigerian states – Bauchi, Cross River, Gombe, Imo, Katsina, Kogi, Lagos, Nassarawa, Ogun, Oyo, Rivers, Sokoto – and in the FCT (Abuja).
Based on IRI’s observations of the April 12 National Assembly election, our delegates went to the field with a long and specific list of administrative and procedural problems needing remedy. They also deployed in the context of a deteriorating political environment, as Nigerian election administrators, security agencies and political leaders succeeded only partially in addressing these problems.
Presidential Election Observations
Our observations led us to place the twelve states and the FCT visited by IRI into three general categories that call for further examination by Nigerians and domestic and international observers. Turnout varied from very low in some states such as Cross River to a substantial turnout in others. IRI advocates that post election researchers should discover why there was such a variance of turnout.
Relatively Good Performers: Bauchi, Gombe, Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Sokoto, FCT
On Election Day, IRI observers noted significant but spotty improvements in the election administration process from a week earlier. Voting stations in most locations opened on time or nearly on time, and shortages of ballots were less frequently reported. Observers saw relatively few problems with the exchange of temporary for permanent voter cards, voters’ registration lists and verification of their identification. Moreover, steps were taken to afford voters greater privacy while casting their ballots. Voting was generally orderly, which is a credit to the patience and dedication of the Nigerian people.
Despite the improvements cited above, IRI observed numerous and potentially significant procedural flaws. Measures to enhance ballot security, for instance, were given insufficient priority. IRI observers in every state and the FCT reported few properly sealed ballot boxes. Of particular note, polling stations rarely used the special green plastic security seals provided by Independent National Electoral Commissions (INEC). Moreover, in Bauchi IRI saw underage, double and group voting, and instances where election officials used manual lists, instead of the computer generated, voter registration lists.
IRI urges careful scrutiny over the coming days if the numbers of votes reported to have been cast at polling stations differs significantly from the official results reported by INEC.
Improved with Irregularities: Katsina, Kogi, Nassarawa
In these states IRI observers saw administrative and logistic improvements such as those cited in the first category, but also witnessed some irregularities. Based upon observations by IRI delegates some polling officials appeared to have been compromised.
In Katsina, IRI witnessed systematic underage and multiple voting. In Kogi, IRI witnessed underage and multiple voting, inadequate privacy, and party agents inappropriately assisting voters by, for example, putting voters’ thumbs on the actual ballot. In Nassarawa, election officials provided insufficient privacy to ensure the secrecy of the ballot. At least one polling station opened late and closed early after merely two hours of operation producing 100 percent of the votes for one party. IRI also observed that four other polling stations closed before 1:00 p.m. with 100 percent of the votes going to one political party.
These three states merit further examination, particularly with regard to discrepancies uncovered between the conduct of the elections in urban versus rural areas.
Significantly Flawed: Cross River, Imo, Rivers State
Most disturbing to IRI delegates were incidents of outright or attempted fraud in these three states. These instances impugned the integrity of both the April 12 and April 19 electoral processes. Ballot tabulation and collation processes were highly irregular and created the opportunity for abuse. Many voting stations lacked the critically important results forms, as they were on April 12. In areas of these states, voting station presiding officers delivered uncounted ballots to ward or local government area collation centers.
In the days immediately prior to the April 19 elections, IRI observers came upon irrefutable evidence of deliberate ballot destruction and ballot diversion related to the national sssembly elections in Cross River, Imo and Rivers states.
In addition, IRI observers also discovered material evidence of planned and in some cases executed ballot fraud related to the presidential and gubernatorial elections. Pre-marked ballots and voting station results forms were discovered in these states early on in the Election Day. IRI observers found clear indications or direct evidence of ballot box stuffing and gross falsification of results forms. There were also incidences of ballot boxes being forcibly stolen from polling stations in the midst of the voting processes. In five LGAs there was such a breakdown of procedure as to undermine the integrity of the election results in those areas.
IRI recognizes the Nigerian people are on a journey to perfect their democracy. The Institute compliments the Nigerian people for the patient and largely peaceful exercise of their right to vote, but clearly the political parties, the Administration and National Assembly must make improvements to meet the increased expectations of Nigerians.
The Institute believes strongly that those adversely affected by electoral malfeasance should seek redress legally and peacefully. Pursuit of justice outside of the legal channels provided by the Nigerian Constitution and election law would be counter-productive and perpetuate disrespect for the law and for democratic processes. IRI recommends that the Nigerian government aggressively investigate and prosecute on a non-partisan basis those responsible for these acts, which undermine Nigerians’ determination to consolidate democracy in their country. Nigeria’s citizens desire a functioning democracy that respects their votes and meets their aspirations for development.
IRI is a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, dedicated to advancing democracy, freedom, self-government and the rule of law worldwide. IRI programs are nonpartisan and adhere to the fundamental American principles of individual freedom, equal opportunity and the entrepreneurial spirit. IRI is working in more than 50 countries in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.
About Ambassador Perry
Robert C. Perry most recently served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs at the U.S. State Department. He previously was the ambassador to the Central African Republican where he reopened the U.S. Embassy and supported UN peacekeeping and conflict resolution efforts. In a 34-year Foreign Service career Ambassador Perry served in Ethiopia, Bolivia, Mauritius, Mexico, Chile and Vietnam.
About George A. Folsom, Ph.D.
Dr. Folsom began as President and Chief Executive Officer of IRI in July 2001, formerly serving in the Departments of Defense and Treasury in the Reagan and Bush Administrations, and more recently as a Principal in The Scowcroft Group. He holds a Ph.D. from John Hopkins SAIS, an MA and JD from University of South Carolina, and a BA from the School of International Service at The American University.
IRI in Nigeria
IRI has been active in Nigeria since 1998, training political parties in grassroots political skills, conflict resolution, communications and women’s participation. For Nigeria’s 2003 elections IRI produced a widely distributed illustrated handbook to help polling agents from the political parties monitor the voting procedures.
IRI in Africa
In December 2002, IRI election observers also oversaw the Kenyan presidential election. IRI is currently involved in several African countries including Angola, Kenya, Liberia, Somaliland, South Africa, Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe.