In Nigeria, the 1999 Constitution, under section 153 (1) vests the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with the sole power to conduct all elections, except local government elections which are reserved by section for a body to be set up by the State Houses of Assembly. The latter have long since been established in all the states of the federation as “States Independent Electoral Commissions”.
The structure of INEC is made up of the chairman, 12 Federal Commissioners and 36 Resident Electoral Commissioners in the 36 states of the Federation. All these Commissions, that is, 48 plus the National Chairman are appointed by the President on the strength of the powers conferred by the same constitution. However they are subject to National Assembly‘s ratification. Analysts point at this as a loop hole which makes the body pliable to the presidency. Their fears were vindicated during the Obasanjo regime, when he appointed Professor Maurice Iwu as the INEC Commissioner in 2005. All the national and state electIons conducted by INEC under him remained the most compromised in terms of efficiency and integrity (See Adegbamigbe 2007, 20-25, Aiyetan 2007, 22-27, Ploch, 2008, CRS – 7, Gberevbie, 2014, 141).
JusticeUwai’s Report on Electoral Reforms (2008) points out that the classification of INEC as a federal executive body in section 153 of the 1999 Constitution brings it under the oversight of the executive arm of government, which makes it ill-placed to conduct free, fair and credible electrons (See Uwais Report 2008, Gberevbie 2014). Although the amendment of the Constitution in 2010 has since strengthened the independence of INEC, one cannot rule out the influence of the President when it comes to pushing through the National Assembly any prospective INEC Chairman he appoints. At present, there is raging political war fare between the APC which produced the current President and the PDP, which is now the main opposition party, over the current Acting Chairman of INEC who President Buhari appointed upon the expiration of the tenure of Professor AtahiruJega, the immediate past INEC boss.
At the state level, the election management bodies are nothing but governmental bodies for legitimating the undemocratically selected political functionaries. The party that controls a state almost always sweeps local government polls, which makes the local government elections throughout the federation shambolic.
All cases of electoral malpractice since the inception of the Fourth Republic have always implicated members of INEC and/or its agents, which shows that this body as it currently operates is a central problem of democracy. But to be fair to this body, politicians and some unscrupulous Nigerians exacerbate INEC’s integrity crisis – majority of INEC operatives during elections are ad hoc staff recruited for the purpose of each election. They are often vulnerable to the manipulative antics of politicians. Under an ambiguous institutional context, most polls are compromised, and the electorate short changed ultimately.
The 2007 General Elections witnessed the removal from office of four governorship candidates already declared winners by INEC and in fact sworn into office as democratically elected executive governors of their states. They had spent between 18 and 30 months in office before being removed through court judgment and their opponents sworn in their stead (See Gberevbie 2014). States involved are, Ondo, Ekiti, Edo and Osun. The next pertinent question is: What happens to the salaries and fat allowances which the wrong incumbents had collected? Do they return them? This points up another institutional lacuna because the judicial determination of a election cases ought to have been completed before swearing in the candidate whose victory is under judicial scrutiny. The amended electoral law of 2010 failed to do this.