‘Disclose details of SIECs’ members, LGA results’, or face legal action, SERAP tells governors


Chairman of the Nigeria Governors' Forum and Governor of Kwara State, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged Nigeria’s 36 state governors “to promptly disclose details of chairmen and members of the State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs) in the states, including their qualifications and political affiliations, if any, and the mechanisms of their appointment.”

SERAP urged the governors “to disclose the details of the results of local government elections conducted in their states since 1999, and the voters’ register for any such elections.”

SERAP also urged the governors “to clarify and explain how your states have complied with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] and international standards on the conduct of periodic local government elections in your states, including the details of any law regulating such elections in your states.”

The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu had last week alleged that “the conduct of local government elections in virtually all states has become mere coronation of candidates of the ruling parties.”

In a Freedom of Information requests dated 1 June 2024 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “State governors have the constitutional responsibility to establish and allow independent electoral commissions to conduct local government elections fairly and impartially.

“The reported interference by state governors in the operations of SIECs and apparent manipulation of local government elections are clearly incompatible with Nigerians’ right to effectively participate in their own government.”

According to SERAP, “Governors’ reported interference in the operations of SIECs and manipulation of local government elections have seriously undermined the sanctity and integrity of the electoral process and public trust and confidence in the process, as well as the integrity of the country’s democracy.”

The letters, read in part: “Local government elections in several states are susceptible to manipulation by governors. The appointment process of chairmen and members of SIECs and the operations of these commissions are shrouded in secrecy.

“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel you, your states and SIECs to comply with our requests in the public interest.

“State governors have also reportedly continued to undermine the enjoyment of people’s right to participate in their own government.

“The combined effect of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], the Electoral Act, and the country’s international obligations is the requirement that local government elections must be organized by a truly independent and impartial electoral body.

“Human rights treaties also require states parties including Nigeria to ensure the independence and impartiality of national electoral bodies responsible for the management of elections, as well as to promote the establishment of the necessary conditions to foster citizen participation.

“The Nigerian Constitution, Freedom of Information Act, and the country’s human rights obligations rest on the principle that citizens should have access to information regarding their public institutions’ activities.

“The crisis confronting Nigerian elections and lack of public trust and confidence in local government elections can be addressed only if the elections are conducted by independent and impartial state electoral commissions and in accordance with the Nigerian Constitution and international standards.

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“Confidence in the country’s electoral process is increasingly on the decline. Many Nigerians are expressing concerns about the credibility and integrity of local government elections in your states.

“The major problem facing the country’s democracy is the lack of respect for Nigerians’ right to participation and the concomitant lack of trust in election results. If citizens do not believe in the election process, then the entire system of democratic government becomes a questionable enterprise.

“As its name suggests, SIEC is expected to maintain independence or absolute neutrality. SIECs must not only be independent and impartial, but must also be seen to be independent and impartial.

“However, the mere fact that SIEC has “independent” in its name does not in itself make it independent. What makes an institution truly independent and impartial are its attributes and characteristics, and the credibility and transparency of the appointment process.

“Your states have a legal responsibility to promote and guarantee the integrity, credibility, and independence of SIECs, and to ensure that the electoral commissions are free from political and other interferences.

“The credibility and legitimacy of elections depend in part on the integrity and competence of the body conducting the process and the transparency of the appointment process for SIECs.

“You have constitutional and international obligations to ensure the independence of SIEC and build the confidence of the electorate and political parties in local government elections, and to promote public confidence in the appointment of SIECs’ chairmen and members.

“According to our information, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu recently stated that “the conduct of Local Government elections in virtually all the states has become mere coronation of candidates of the ruling parties.

“The 36 SIECs in the country are responsible for the election of 768 local government chairmen and 8,747 councillors totalling 9, 515 constituencies.

“SERAP is concerned that SIECs lack the capacity and independence to effectively and efficiently perform their constitutional and statutory functions.

“Many of the SIECs have no functional offices in the local government areas in their states and cannot recruit their own permanent staff. In some states, the SIECs are either not properly constituted, have no security of tenure or their critical functions have been taken over by government officials.

“Some SIECs are only constituted on the eve of elections and dissolved thereafter. They are also severely under-resourced.

“Section 197(1)(b) of the Nigerian Constitution provides for the establishment of State Independent Electoral Commission. 197(2) provides that ‘the composition and powers of each body established by subsection (1) of this section are as set out in Part II of the Third Schedule to this Constitution.’ According to section 198, states are to appoint chairman and members of SIECs.

“Section 200(1)(a) of the Nigerian Constitution provides that members of SIECs ‘shall not be a member of a political party.’ Section 202 provides for the independence of SIECs, and makes clear that the exercise of their powers “shall not be subject to the direction and control of any other authority or person.”

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