ABUJA — The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is to spend N93 billion to conduct a hitch-free general election in 2015, even as it disclosed, yesterday, that elections may not hold in strife-torn sections of the North-East.
INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, who disclosed these yesterday, also drew attention to what he described as the classification of elections in Nigeria as war.
Jega spoke at a stakeholders’ hearing organised by the Senate Committee on INEC in collaboration with Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, PLAC, Abuja and the United Kingdom Department for International Development, DFID.
He said that the commission was considering holding the 2015 elections between January and February.
He added that the country spent about $8 per voter in the 2011, which according to him was normal as he noted that Ghana in its last election spent between $10-12 per voter, while Kenya spent between $8-9, stressing that the $8 spent in the country was globally acceptable.
Jega, who described funding as one of the challenges facing the commission as it prepares for the 2015 elections for the 73.5 million eligible voters, said that election was one of the many things which require funding by government.
The proposed N93 billion is N29 billion short of the N122.9 billion that was used in conducting the 2011 general elections and preparing a voters’ register.
He said: “In preparing for the forthcoming elections, one guiding principles for the commission has been to make elections more cost-effective and to give Nigerians better value for money.
“Our estimate is that the cost of election per voter, which is an international standard for viewing the cost of elections, is coming down in Nigeria.
“We project that for the 2015 elections, this would further come down by almost $1 from $8.8 in 2011 to $7.9, representing almost a 10% drop.
“This compares favourably with some other African countries. However, we are anxious about getting all our funding requirements being met well in advance of the 2015 general elections.”
The INEC Chairman said that apart from the funding challenge, there was the problem of insecurity, which could affect conducting elections in some states in the North-East where there are challenges of insurgency.
He added that unless security situation changes in the zone, the commission would not conduct elections in the affected states.
He said: “It is my hope that the challenges in the North-East will be resolved before 2015. If the security is such that we cannot hold election, then we may need to fall back on the law to suspend it or postpone it.”
Jega said that the commission cannot continue to conduct elections under a period of emergency, because same was brought about by generalised insecurity.
According to him, “the situation under a state of emergency is that you cannot do a free and fair election. Ideally, you cannot conduct election under a period of emergency.”
Elections as war
Jega said one of the most depressing epithets of elections in Nigeria was that they were said to be akin to war, noting that the heat and passion associated with elections in Nigeria often make elections appear like war.
He said: “Pre-election violence has led to the death of many politicians, their supporters and innocent citizens.
“Widespread intimidation of voters persists and organised thugs spread fear across communities in the build up to elections.
“In any case, elections in Nigeria are a winner-takes-all affair, while the loser loses everything akin to payment of reparations by an enemy defeated in a war.
“In fact, election security has become a lasting issue facing the management of elections in Nigeria.
Lists electoral ills
“Several security threats now characterise the electoral process. These include physical attacks on INEC staff and facilities, attacks on security personnel on election duty, misuse of security orderlies by politicians, attacks on political opponents, cyber attacks targeting INEC’s databases, especially the register of voters and violence at campaigns.
“Other threats were intimidation of voters, snatching and destruction of elections materials, among others.
“These threats are now exacerbated by insecurity in some parts of the country, making the conduct of elections in those parts even more insecure.”
Jega said the attitude of the political class was another challenge, as there was widespread absence of moderation among politicians.
“We are concerned about this because even if the management of elections meets the highest standards, insofar as the contestants are unwilling to play by the rules, there will be grave problems.”
He said that apart from the key challenges, there were what he described as residual challenges like the delay in the amendment to the legal framework like the Constitution and Electoral Act, completion of the review of electoral constituencies and polling units, and prosecution of election offenders.
Wants independent body for electoral offences
Jega disclosed that the commission had prosecuted 200 electoral offenders though he harped on the establishment of a new body to handle electoral offences.
He said: “This remains a major sticking point in the work of the Commission. We have repeatedly noted that the commission lacks the capacity to prosecute the huge number of offenders.
“We hope that our proposal for the establishment of an independent body to deal with electoral offences, which is also in the report of the Election Reform Committee will materialise.”
Speaking earlier, Chairman Senate Committee on INEC, Andy Ubah, said the committee was interested in suggestions on how the issue of Nigerians abroad, who desire to contribute to the democratic development and participate in elections, would be handled.
He also suggested the idea of introducing e-voting and making adequate provisions for persons living with any form of disability to vote.
Members of different political parties and civil society organisations attended the stakeholders’ meeting.