22 Jan

YIAGA Induct Writers to Document Experiences of Young Politicians

The Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement, (YIAGA) Centre for Legislative Engagement (CLE) has inducted a team of Writers to implement a book project that will serve as a resource pool for young men and women interested in running for public office in Nigeria. The book would leverage on previous experiences of political office holders while running for office in a bid to inspire citizens to run for public office.

To this end, YIAGA-CLE issued a call for creative writers, out of which Six writers were selected based on the strength of their applications and invited to an induction/methodology workshop to brief them on the nature of the project and solicit their feedback in designing its workplan. The selected writers include; Temitayo Olofinlua, Head Writer, Richard Ali, Aishat Abiri, Beatrice Porbeni, Amara Okolo, and Eketi Ette.

The book is expected to share experiences of young people mainly under 35 years old who ran and won elections at various level and a couple of candidates who ran but did not win.  During the induction, Professor Shola Omotola from Ekiti State University highlighted the challenges faced by candidates, particularly young candidates at various stages of elections. Prof. Omotola also suggests other areas of interest where the writers can explore during interview with young politicians who can for office and this includes issues relating to political mentorship popularly known as Godfatherism.

There was also a session on lesson learnt from similar publications in the past. Wumi Asubiaro one of the facilitators, presented “Election Herstories: Lessons Learnt” based on her experience writing a book with multiple authors on women in politics. Election Herstories documented the stories of 13 women, grouping them into themes based on the most interesting parts of their stories. Wumi explained that the decision to group in themes came after interviews were conducted and the first draft was completed. She commended the decision to use creative writers instead of activists or academics. She also stressed the importance of creating complementary products such as video documentary with the book to enhance publicity.

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22 Jan

Only Your Votes Will Determine Outcome of 2019 Elections – INEC Assures Nigerians

Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu gave the assurance at the 15th edition of the Daily Trust Dialogue, with the theme: “Nigeria and the challenges of 2019,” held in Abuja on 18th January.

Represented by National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee (IVEC), Prince Solomon Soyebi, the INEC Chairman noted that there had been a lot of improvement in the electoral process since the current Commission came on board.

He said the Commission was not unmindful of the enormous responsibility of conducting elections in the largest presidential democracy in Africa, and second only to that of the United States in terms registered voters.

The INEC Chairman disclosed that as at last week, the Commission had 74 million registered voters, hinting that by projection, the figure could hit between 80 and 85 million by 2019 due to the on-going nationwide Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise.

Responding to a concern raised by one of the speakers, Kate Henshaw (a Nollywood star and politician) in her presentation about youth participation in the electoral process, the INEC Chairman said, “women, youth, People Living with Disabilities (PLWDs) and Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) have always been at the fulcrum of the Commission’s plans.”0

He assured that INEC would continue to engage with all stakeholders to ensure an all-inclusive process.

Source: Nigerianbulletin

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22 Jan

YIAGA Annual Retreat! – 2018!!! Our Year of Disruption

Making Great Things Happen!

Achieving Together!!

Building a Community of Experts!!!

Fresh from the successes achieved in the year 2017 which include the passage of the #NotTooYoungToRun Bill in both House of Representatives and Senate and successfully observing the November 18, Anambra Gubernatorial election, YIAGA has tagged 2018 as the ‘Year of Disruption’.  This was revealed during the institution’s annual retreat held in Abuja on 12th and 13th of January, 2018.

According to YIAGA Executive Director, Samson Itodo, YIAGA has become a reference point with respect to advocacy, youth participation and electoral matters. He applauded the growing influence of YIAGA within the region and improvement in institutional growth particularly in programme implementation, advocacy and knowledge production.

The retreat which had members of the board in attendance, witnessed several reflections and projections by the different departments. Chairman of the board, Dr. Hussaini Abdu placed emphasis on the importance of becoming resourceful at the individual level as well as the institutional level. He noted that “many Nigerian NGOs started well but could not handle the pressure of growth and getting grants”.

According to Dr Abdu, YIAGA on the other hand has succeeded in evolving and has survived this challenge but there is need for YIAGA to maintain her relevance within the local, regional and international community. He reiterated the need to be dynamic and adapt to changing contexts by being disruptive in the year 2018.

Cynthia Mbamalu, Programme Manager, YIAGA gave an overview of YIAGA projects, activities and programmes in 2017. She stated that, YIAGA recorded great achievements in 2017. Among successes recorded was the ability to lead through, particularly, the ‘Not Too Young To Run (NTYTR)’ and Youth Organizing School (YOS) projects. YOS had 1329 applications with 109 beneficiaries. Additionally, YIAGA was able to choose State Coordinators, keeping NTYTR in the state media and assemblies without direct presence she noted.

She also noted that, on the National Day of Action for #NotTooYoungToRun Bill, there was a march to the National Assembly and also in 24 State Capitals with 12,000 youths participating in general, including Borno State. She further itemized YIAGA’s accomplishments in 2017 which include:

  1. Organized a Town Hall Meeting on NTYTR with Speakers from Kwara, Ekiti, Benue, Kaduna and representation from Kebbi and Cross Rivers in attendance.
  2. Passage of NTYTR bill in 11 State Houses of Assembly as at December 2017.
  • Launched Ready to Run with 170 registrations in the first month.
  1. Connecting Youth with Government and increasing youth interest in political issues.
  2. Engaged in policy dialogue on youth development.
  3. Organized colloquium on youth and their future in Nigeria.
  • Provided support to the office of the Senate President.
  • Organized Democracy Summer Camp with 258 students (135 girls).
  1. Running of the Radio Ambassadors program under the accountability project.
  2. Establishment of the Centre for Legislative Engagement programme.
  3. YIAGA Election team got feedback from INEC when we put out our reports, we got media attributions to WTV.
  • YIAGA Election Team released our turnout figures before the results and prompted INEC to do same which is usually not the case with INEC.
  • YIAGA had the Chair of INEC visit and he met with election team (WTV).
  • YIAGA-CLE did lots of Bill Analysis, Budget Analysis, Youth Budget Analysis for 2017 and Budget of Ministry of Youth and Sports Development Analysis for 2017.


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22 Jan

Is the Judiciary the problem of INEC? By Tonnie Iredia

Now and again, Nigeria’s electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) faces a number of challenges in the performance of her functions. One of them is the large number of conflicting judgments on politics and elections. To redress the situation, the leadership of INEC visited Justice Walter Onnoghen, Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) a few days ago to seek his intervention in the matter.

Speaking on the occasion, the INEC boss, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu said his Commission was worried about the recurring decimal among courts of coordinate jurisdiction in cases related to pre-election, post election and leadership crises in political parties. Apart from the enormous cost implications of the conflicting judgments to the country, the INEC Chairman said the practice also creates a negative public perception for INEC. Last Wednesday’s subtle protest was not the first by the electoral body. In July last year, the Commission reportedly  sent a petition to the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria over the order of an Abuja Federal High Court restraining it from continuing with the recall process on the Senator representing the Kogi West Senatorial District, Dino Melaye.

The court had asked INEC to maintain status quo pending the determination of the motion on notice filed by the Melaye’s Counsel. A National Electoral Commissioner, Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu, who explained INEC’s position, said the CJN’s attention was drawn to the order to check a precedent that could prevent the Commission from carrying out its responsibility in future. It would be recalled that during the tenure of the immediate past Chairman of INEC, Prof Attahiru Jega, the Commission had cause to adopt the same approach with respect to unresolved election cases concerning the April 2011 general elections in the country.

At that time, Jega reportedly wrote to the Chief Justice to draw attention to what he called an “emerging trend in the political process where ex-parte orders are granted at the top of a hat by judges.” The resort to the approach seems to imply that INEC thinks the judiciary is one of her main problems hence she deems it wise to constantly appeal to the CJN to direct judges on the subject accordingly. Considering that judges are professionally trained to handle the settlement of disputes, we suspect that if they do their jobs according to INEC’s prescription, the country may be in a greater dilemma than what is currently worrisome to the electoral body.

Luckily, Chief Justice Onnoghen put the subject in correct perspective when he merely repeated what he told the Senate during his clearance for the post of CJN that “conflicting judgments are bound to happen because the processes are different and the lawyers can adopt any of the choices and the system of Nigeria Judiciary has a way of regulating itself.” The Judiciary is home to us all and we are all free to go there as often as we choose, to present whatever case interests us even if the case hardly makes sense. Our judges must take time to listen to us all and determine who is right from who is wrong and who makes sense and who does not. Even those who may have come to deliberately waste the time of the court, must be heard before being disallowed from continuing to abuse court process.

In addition, politicians who have cases in court are represented by lawyers who are knowledgeable enough to determine the expedience of litigation. They are also officers of the court who in addition to managing the cases of their clients are obliged to assist the court to perform well. It is true that on its face value, courts of coordinate jurisdiction should not waste out time dealing with the same subject. It is also true that cases which have found their way to the Supreme Court ought not to be raised again at the courts below but the beauty of the due process of law is that such breaches can only be struck out by the courts; and not by critics or analysts.

While it is similarly true that society has much to gain if the heavy burden of litigation on election matters is reduced or prevented, INEC needs to tread softly. Indeed, the appeals she is making on the subject when properly construed may adversely affect our justice delivery system as judges may no longer give fair hearing to cases in order not to give discomfort to INEC. Under the circumstance, persons who would ordinarily have relied on the courts as channels for ventilating grievances may begin to employ extra-judicial strategies to deal with opponents. If care is not taken, we may reduce court cases and inadvertently increase political assassinations which may greatly challenge government’s main purpose of protecting lives and property.

Of course, everyone would prefer excessive litigation to killings. We agree that conflicting judgments are quite nauseating and that they are deliberately done by some corrupt judges. Of course there are judges who sell judgments but in fairness, they are few and we can support INEC to appeal to the CJN to look out for more of such bad judges and take them out of the system thereby reducing irritating judgments. But that does not appear to be all that needs to be done. Conscious efforts must also be made to fish out corrupt INEC officials whose activities instigate excessive election petitions.

From just the plea bargain cases involving election personnel during the 2015 elections alone, it is likely that many people who were declared winners at that election may not have scored majority of votes. The argument that conflicting judgments also contribute to the poor public perception of INEC is in earnest not strong because there is sufficient contributory negligence on the part of INEC to make people think poorly of her. For instance, the Commission is yet to come to terms with basic issues such as the adequacy of men and materials for election as well as capacity to commence the voting process on schedule irrespective of whether the election is holding nation-wide or in only one state. When it is realised that INEC is yet to get beyond the use of temperamental card readers, many people are not likely to imagine that the unacceptable trend of conflicting judgments on elections matters is worse than the slow pace of improvement in the conduct of Nigerian elections.


Source: Vanguard

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22 Jan

74 Million Nigerians Registered To Vote -INEC Chairman

The Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu, says the commission had 74 million voters in its register by the second week of January.

The INEC Director of Voter Education and Publicity, Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, made the fact known in a statement in Abuja on Friday.

Mr. Osaze-Uzzi quoted Mr. Yakubu as making the fact known at the 15th edition of the Daily Trust Dialogue, where he was represented by INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of the Information and Voter Education Committee (IVEC), Solomon Soyebi.

The chairman said the figure was expected to reach between 80 and 85 million by 2019 because of the on-going nationwide Continuous Voter Registration (CVR).

He assured Nigerians that only their votes would determine the 2019 general elections and beyond.

Mr. Yakubu noted that there had been a lot of improvement in the electoral process since the current commission came on board.

He said the commission was not unmindful of the enormous responsibility of conducting elections in a democracy.

He said INEC would continue to engage all Nigerians to ensure an all-inclusive process.

The INEC chairman stressed the commission’s resolve to adhere strictly to the timelines provided in the recently released Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2019 general elections.

Source: Sahara Reporters

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18 Jan


As ECOWAS celebrates Human Rights Day

The Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth and Advancement (YIAGA) is partnering with the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) to promote basic quality and affordable education to commemorate Human Rights Day. The event which is holding in Monrovia, Liberia from 16-18th January aims to advance the Right to Education by improving accessibility, affordability and efficiency to every citizen of the ECOWAS community.

YIAGA  also facilitated a regional dialogue to discuss democratic accountability, civic space and youth radicalization in the West African region. The dialogue will also enable youths provide feed backs on various ECOWAS initiatives.

At the Human Rights Day event in Liberia, YIAGA presented a report on youth candidacy around Africa, showing the number of young people who have contested political offices in various parts of the continent. This is in a bid to further encourage youths especially in Nigeria to run for political offices, leveraging on YIAGA’s ReadyToRun platform for support.

Speaking during the Human Rights Day celebration in Monrovia, YIAGA Programs Cynthia Mbamalu said, the trends from the Report on Youth Candidacy in Africa also shows that young people are winning more parliamentary elections than executive seat even though finance has been a major challenge according to the report.

Pertinent questions regarding the education standard of the members of the ECOWAS sub-region as another hinderance against political participation of young people and women. While seeking to attain its Vision 2020 goal for education, this year’s celebration of Human Rights Day stimulated political will and policy decision in a bid to enable legislation and resources from governments of Member States shift from passive policy approach to a much more proactive approach. This according to the ECOWAS Commissioner of Political affairs, Peace and Security: H.E Halima Ahmed (Mrs), will improve the accessibility, affordability and efficiency of education to the ordinary citizen of the community, thereby increasing literacy rate in the region.

Mrs. Ahmed facilitated sessions on the Trends, Challenges and Prospects of Protecting and Promoting Human Rights in Member States in the context of Right to Education. This provided the opportunity to review progress and analyses challenges towards the protection and promotion of human rights. Panelists which include former Executive Secretary of the Network of National Human Rights Institutions in West Africa (NNHRI-WA), Mr Saka Azimazi and Senior Human Rights Officer – United Nations Office for West Africa & Sahel (UNOWAS), Mr. William Lifongo, proffered practical solutions and policy recommendations targeted at enhancing the protection and promotion of human rights in the region.

Furthermore, the 2-day event in Monrovia enhanced quality and inclusivity in the Respect for Right to Education which is geared towards the attainment of ECOWAS Vision 2020, while also protecting and promoting Rights to Education for the effective realization and enjoyment in ECOWAS Member States. Delegates from member countries brainstormed on creating access and opportunity for Children into school as a means of promoting the effectiveness of deepening the respect for Right to Education in the ECOWAS Region. Also present at the event is the President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and newly elected President of Liberia, George Opong Weah.

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18 Jan

INEC 2019 Time Table and the fate of NotTooYoungToRun Bill By MOSHOOD ISAH

It is no more news that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has released the schedule of activities for the all-important 2019 General Elections and this basically means there is now a sacrosanct timeline which all electoral activities must fall within.

According to INEC, both the presidential and National Assembly elections will hold on February 16, 2019 while Governorship and state assembly elections will also hold same day on March 2, two weeks after the presidential election.

The dates for the election might not be as important as the timeline when the party primaries and submission of candidates form to INEC will happen as that will ultimately determine what candidate political parties will impose on Nigerians to choose. The conduct of party primaries including resolution of disputes arising from primaries for national and state elections according to the INEC time table has been slated for between August 18 and 2018 to October 7, 2018. This basically means, Young Nigerians have barely 10months push for the #NotTooYoungToRun bill, make up our minds to run for political office and pull through the Political parties’ bottle-neck.

Kudos to the National Assembly; Senate and House of Representatives who have played their own part by passing the #NotTooYoungToRun bill since July Last year. Although it took a bit of time for the bill to get transmitted to the state houses of assemblies but it’s over a month since the bill has bill has been with the state assemblies. Thus, it’s time to get the final push and see that at least 24 states if not all 36 states pass the age reduction bill along with the independent candidacy bill. This will not only give young Nigerians aspiring for political office the opportunity to run in 2019 but will also give us ample time to navigate the political parties’ hassles and other conundrums ahead of the 2019 General elections. More so, the independent is another bill on the table of the State House of Assemblies which is also as important as the age reduction bill. The independent candidacy bill, if passed also completely help young politicians to completely evade the intrigues in political party politics.

It’s cheering to know that the #NotTooYoungToRun campaign, a citizen led movement led by the Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth and Advancement (YIAGA) has been embraced beyond just Nigeria but to sub-Africa region and other parts of the world. The movement led by the Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth and Advancement (YIAGA) along with other youth friendly organizations embarked on ferocious advocacy across Nigeria ranging from town-hall meetings, nationwide protests, engagement of lawmakers, dissemination of letters to lawmakers, social media campaigns and every other legitimate means to get the attention of Nigerians and indeed the world.

The massive presence of youth organizations, media outlets including broadcast, print, online and social media discussions on the #NotTooYoungToRun town hall meeting back in December 2017, coupled with unending conversations on the issue goes a long way in showing that young Nigerians only need a little push to actualize that necessity of taking over their own future. The need for inclusion of youths who make up about 70 per cent of African population is a no brainer and should not be up for debate.

Borne out of the NotTooYoungToRun campaign, is the ReadyToRun; a movement dedicated to inspiring young men and women to run for office. This is in a bid to make a statement that young people can demonstrate excellent public leadership with immense capacity to address Africa’s governance challenges. Scrolling through the #ReadyToRun website ( reveals a whole lot that citizens are not only taking a giant stride towards leadership but also youths have been educated and sensitized enough to know the social resources they possess in their repertoire.

Within two months of launching the #ReadyToRun platform, over 160 young men and women have expressed interest to run for political office at various levels. This is no doubt borne out of the urgent need for responsive, accountable and innovative leadership on the African continent. The platform therefore after intense perusal looks like an avenue that will inspire young people to participate in and sanitize politics in Nigeria on the long run. Although, there is a general perception that Nigerian politics tend to be dirty, recent experience has showed that, only the players are dirty which makes preparation for the next phase of political dispensation inevitable.

Political campaigns and winning elections is a complex enterprise which requires specialized skills and knowledge. Undoubtedly, opportunities are aplenty for young people to run for elective office. However, such opportunities must be tapped into by persons with requisite capacity and competence. As we continue to generate knowledge on youth candidacy in Africa via monitoring trends on youth participation in politics, it is important to utilize any opportunity at hand like the #ReadyToRun platform which will profile and promote youth candidates with capacity, integrity, competence and creativity.

With the launch of the #ReadyToRun platform, young candidates can be located, mobilized and support in a bid to eliminate any form of phobia and apprehension faced by youths when it comes to contesting and winning elections. This also comes with training opportunities via organizations to build leadership and organizing capacity.

2019! Young People are ReadyToRun!!!

Moshood Isah

Media Officer of Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth and Advancement


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17 Jan

Opportunity : African Movement for Democracy (AMD) Fellowship for Emerging Young Women Leaders in Africa

The African Movement for Democracy (AMD) Fellowship for Emerging Young Women Leaders in Africa supports young female activists and organizers aspiring to run for political office in their countries by facilitating access to capacity building and mentoring opportunities in four principal training hubs: Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia. The fellowship aims to enrich understanding of youth-led approaches to change while connecting participants to accomplished female mentors and resources.

Fellows will typically spend 4 days of training in any of the aforementioned training hubs acquiring skills and connecting with key leaders locally. Participation in the program affords emerging young female political aspirants an unparalleled opportunity to build networks and deepen understanding of the working of the political process. This is also an opportunity where they can leverage intergenerational knowledge and experiences, and identify pathways for transition into political leadership.

Equal opportunity for leadership does not imply that women should be handed roles they are unqualified for, but rather presents the need for an equal playing field in leadership opportunities. The stereotypes of being both young and female reinforce patriarchal misconceptions that narrowly paint women as abject, nurturers, emotional, and bearers of culture; and youth as being uninformed and inexperienced, thus, deeming public and political spaces inappropriate and unfitting for young women to traverse. Given this reality, in a context where advancing women’s political participation is crucial for delivering on the SDGs, our core conviction is that training young women in political participation at an early juncture in their careers will serve as a catalyst for ensuring women’s full and effective political engagement and equal opportunities for leadership.

Between February and June, 2018, the AMD will support 4 emerging young women political leaders by covering the cost (including round trip tickets and lodging) of participating at any of the four aforementioned training hubs. Applicants will not be discriminated against on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, socio-economic status or disability. The Emerging Young Women Leaders Fellowship is open to young African women leaders who meet the following criteria:

– Are under the age of 35;

– Are  proficient in reading, writing, and speaking English or French;

– Demonstrate knowledge, interest, and professional experience in the area of democracy;

– Have a proven record of leadership and accomplishment in democratic/political activism at the local, national, or regional level;

-Be ready to take advantage of the resources and networks which the program offers;

-Present a (tentative) strategy and roadmap for political engagement;

– Submit two recommendation letters

The deadline for application is January 21, 2018.

The AMD reserves the right to verify all of the information included in the application. In the event that there is a discrepancy, or information is found to be false, the application will immediately be declared invalid and the applicant ineligible.

Click below to fill Application form

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17 Jan

EFCC Re-arraigns Former FCT Minister, Jumoke Akinjide

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has re-arraigned a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Jumoke Akinjide before a Federal High Court Sitting in Lagos.

Akinjide was re-arraigned before Justice Muslim Hassan on a 24 count charge.

She was charged with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission alongside a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, who is said to be at large.

Others defendants in the charge include Senator Ayo Adeseun and a Chieftain of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olarenwaju Otiti.

They were all accused of conspiring to directly take possession of N650million, which they reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act.

The defendants allegedly received the money from Mrs Alison-Madueke in the build-up to the 2015 general election. The money was said to be part of a larger sum of $115 million allegedly doled out by Mrs Alison-Madueke to influence the outcome of the 2015 presidential election.

Last year June, the EFCC had arraigned the defendants before Justice Joyce Abdulmalik sitting at the Federal High Court, Ibadan but the case was transferred to Lagos and this necessitated today’s re-arraignment.

At today’s proceeding, the EFCC arraigned Ms. Akinjide on 9 out of the 24 count charge. She pleaded not guilty.

The second defendant, Senator Ayo Adeseun pleaded not guilty to 17 out of the 24 count charge made against him while the third defendant, Chief Olanrewaju Otiti also pleaded not guilty to 6 of the counts.

Counsel to Akinjide, Bolaji Ayorinde, SAN, then asked the court to allow his client to continue to enjoy bail as earlier granted by the Federal High Court Sitting in Ibadan.

The counsel to the second and third defendant aligned themselves with this request on behalf of their clients.

Justice Muslim Hassan granted the request and ordered that the defendants should continue to enjoy bail.

He then adjourned their trial till February 5, 2018.

Meanwhile, a former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Haliru Bello and his son, Mustapha Mohammed told Justice A.R Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja how over N160 million was paid to Umar Tafida Kebbi, a former governorship aspirant in Kebbi State by former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd). Justice Mohammed adjourned to February 3, 2018 for further hearing due to the absence of the EFCC witness.

Bello and his son are on trial alongside their Company, Bam Project and Properties Limited on a 4-count charge of money laundering preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

They were alleged to have collected N300 million from the Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA, being part of the funds meant to fight insurgency in the North-East of the country.

According to him, the balance on the account before the inflow was N25 million. He went on to tell the court how N10 million was withdrawn in 16 tranches on March 25, 2015 and another N2.8million, all on same day.

Lawyer Leke Atolagbe, counsel for the witness, reportedly contacted the witness that he would not be in court and he is also unable to get another witness. He pleaded with the Judge to adjourn the case, Justice Mohammed accepted his plead and adjourned to February 3, 2018 for further hearing

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16 Jan

2019 Elections: The Clear And Present Dangers Ahead By Chima Amadi

Expectedly, and in keeping with its proactive approach to elections management, the INEC just released the schedule of activities for the 2019 elections. Going by INEC’s timetable, it is precisely thirteen months before the general elections, while official campaigns are supposed to commence on the 18th day of November. However, even when they make the rules, politicians being the rule-abusing clan that they are, have already started not too covert electioneering activities, way before the officially designated date. Well, it would be disingenuous to tar the political class with the brush of abuse of process if it is not stated among other things that the president did not set the force of personal example to adhere to rules. Under the guise of wasteful commissioning of projects first in Ebonyi, and subsequently, in Anambra and Kano states, the president has already commenced campaigning for his not too secret ambition to seek a second term of office. The actions of the president have already opened the vista of politicking, horse-trading and conspiracies that is the routine of politicians.

However, in a departure from the last election circle, i.e. 2015, when during the same corresponding time, the polity was already abuzz with seismic realignments ala knew PDP and APC mergers, pontifications, posturing, and cross-fire barbs by political actors, there seems to be some graveyard peace. Perhaps, the political class, quite uncharacteristically, is showing deference to the veil of death and flow of innocent blood that has covered the land, from the plains of the middle belt plateau to the desert hinterlands of the North East. Any keen observer that mistakes this unofficial armistice as foreshadowing a peaceful 2019 elections is naïve at best. As someone that has had the rare privilege of formally studying elections in Nigeria since 1999 as a Civil Society observer, this writer can without equivocation state that there are clear and present dangers lurking around the corner for the 2019 elections. These threats, accentuated through the examination of the history, profiles, actions and inactions of the strategic stakeholders during elections are the focus of this week’s discourse. It is hoped that this early exposé will help prevent avoidable pitfalls that can put the polls in jeopardy.

INEC Officials Prepare Materials Ahead Of Bayelsa State Elections
There are usually four key stakeholders in any elections in most climes, namely: The Election Management Body, the electorate or voters, Politicians/candidates, and security personnel. Given the peculiarities of the Nigerian body polity, this writer, now includes the judiciary to these key stakeholders and will shortly unpack the reason for their inclusion in this classification. Since Nigeria started experimenting with democratic governance, and this time series goes back to pre-independence elections, the legitimacy and integrity of Election Management Bodies have always been called into question. However, no State institution, bar the Nigerian Police, typifies the rot that Nigeria has become like the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC). The INEC was cobbled together by the departing military in 1998 to quickly conduct elections that would usher in the Fourth Republic. The Junta had their preference of outcomes for the elections which the INEC was expected to effectuate. The dissatisfaction with the successive leadership of INEC and elections conducted by them led to the overwhelming clamour for a reform of the electoral process. It was in attempting to provide some form of credibility to the INEC that former President Goodluck Jonathan appointed Professor Attahiru Jega, a man renowned for his integrity, as the INEC Chairman on June 8th,2010.

Jega realized very early in his tenure that the organization he was asked to lead was reeking with the foul and offensive smell of the Nigerian system. For instance, it is an open secret among stakeholder-circles that any Nigerian politician of means has moles in the INEC that provides him/her with information aimed at compromising the organisation and its operations. Rather than adopt a reformist approach in tackling the integrity deficits and severe dysfunction of the electoral body and system, Jega chose to whitewash or mask the defects by applying deodorant to the stench in the INEC. In the conduct of elections, Jega adopted the same principle that led to his appointment, he merely brought his professor colleagues from the various universities in Nigeria, many of them serving Vice Chancellors. Academics, especially of the professorial class are mostly considered to be politically aloof and bring some integrity along with them. He also dragged Youth Corpers into the process by using them as ad-hoc staff. All these moves merely peppered over the enormous cracks in the system, but given Jega’s integrity credit, he cashed-in efficiently and got Nigerians to trust the system. By introducing the limited use of technology in the last elections, which inevitably led to the defeat of the ruling party, Jega created a myth of someone that left behind an outstanding organisation and huge shoes to be filled by his successor.

Nothing could be further away from the truth. Without disrespecting the legacies of the eminent professor, evidence suggests that the 2015 election was the worst in the history of the conduct of elections in the Fourth Republic. Beyond the usual culprits of underage voting, logistical handicaps, etc., the number of cancelled and rerun elections ordered by the tribunals in the last election is not only unprecedented but outweighs all other cancelled elections in past combined. This article, written in Awka where a court-ordered rerun election took place, three years after the 2015 elections is one of the legacies of the Jega INEC. It is within this context that the current INEC leadership, headed by another eminent professor of no mean repute, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, was appointed to superintend the 2019 elections. Professor Yakubu, in a sharp departure from his predecessor, adopted a reformist approach to the electoral process. But this has put him at daggers drawn with the establishment and entrenched interests in the polity. It is important to recall that following the string of APC losses of elections conducted by the INEC under Yakubu, the APC’s National Chairman openly accused him of being a mole of the PDP and an enemy of the ruling party.

The reason for this is not farfetched. Behind Professor Yakubu’s smiling façade is a stubborn and uncompromising insistence on respect for rules. This demand led to a series of inconclusive elections early on in his tenure. He just refused to budge on cases of proven disregard for the Electoral Act. However, he was severely burnt and exposed to the way of politicians during the Edo governorship elections in 2016 where while announcing to the world that the INEC was ready for elections, authorities in Abuja short-circuited him with a fait accompli that led to a shift in the elections. A change instigated mainly by the ruling party which ultimately benefitted from that adjustment. The current INEC’s reformist approach has seen some attempts made at clearing the Augean stable. For the first time, the INEC is carrying out an internal cleansing of itself. Over 250 staff members of the organization indicted for various election malpractices have been handed over for prosecution by the Chairman. It is understood that more have been penciled down for the same treatment.

Again, there is now a deliberate attempt by the INEC to respect the letters of the Electoral Act as intended. The registration of new voters has now become continuous, systemic and frequent engagement with stakeholders has been put in place, a test run of electronic transmission of results has also commenced. It is also noteworthy that the Card Readers, contrary to information being bandied about are now less cumbersome. In fact, during the Anambra elections, the number of faulty Card Reader machines that could not be rectified during accreditation was less than 0.01 percent of total Card readers deployed to the field.

The reforms are yielding fruits. No tribunals have thus far overturned any elections conducted by the Yakubu led INEC. History was made recently when all the candidates in the recently concluded Anambra gubernatorial elections accepted the outcome of the elections and congratulated the winner. This has saved the nation millions of naira in potential litigation cost.

To be fair to INEC’s thousands of staff, there are indeed a quiet majority who are honest, transparent, hardworking and genuinely want the system to work. However, the active minority who collude with politicians to perpetrate electoral fraud are so entrenched that it would take more than just prosecutions to rid the Commission of rotten eggs in the system. The ease at with which political actors compromise INEC officials suggests that there must be a surgical, methodical and meticulous reorganization of the agency to position it for efficiency. The fact that there is no time for that as the elections are already upon us is a clear and present danger to the 2019 elections. The lacunae for compromise of electoral officers occasioned by the structural defects of the agency is reflected in the audacious governor Wike leaked audio tapes. A recurrence played out in the last Anambra elections were a suspected internal compromise nearly ruined the deployment of Corpers to the field but for a contingency intervention quickly put in place by the INEC. In 2019, when elections will be simultaneously taking place all over the country, I doubt that the INEC will have the capacity to carry out a timeous and efficient intervention in the event of sabotage of its operations from within.

The Nigerian voter experienced a euphoria at the ease of voting out an incumbent president and quickly realized the power of the Voters Card or PVC. The rapid collection of PVCs has reduced the number of outstanding and uncollected PVCs from the embarrassing twelve million that it stood at shortly after the 2015 elections. As at April 2017, there are 66.5m registered voters, out of which 54.43 have collected their PVCs and 7.8m yet uncollected. The impressive collection of PVC belies the fact that there is troubling and deep-seethed apathy among voters in participating in the electoral process. This indifference played out in 2015 where only about 25 million voted in the presidential elections. However, a more potent and dangerous threat to the outcome of the elections is the emergent trend of vote selling. This pattern became brazen during the Edo elections and have now become a norm. The Anambra elections witnessed an upsurge in this practice with parties colluding with officials to foreground this bizarre practice. Why is this a threat to the 2019 elections?

Shortly before the 2015 elections, the Goodluck Jonathan administration requested for billions of dollars to purportedly combat the Boko Haram insurgency. We now know that most of those monies went into manipulating the electoral process to seek re-election for the ruling party. Unsurprisingly, the current government seems to be picking a page out of that last administration’s playbook. Nigerians are bewildered at the request for 1 billion dollars to fight a supposedly “technically defeated” Boko Haram in an election year. A little bit of statistical Arithmetic will drive home my point and show a possible nexus between elections, security votes and the dangers ahead. Based on observed patterns of votes buying in the most recent elections, the average cost of a vote in Nigeria is about one thousand naira. The margin of defeat between Goodluck Jonathan and Buhari in the last presidential election is nearly two million five hundred thousand votes. It will take just 2.5 billion naira to purchase that number of votes. Now, the National Bureau of Statistics in its 2016 economic outlook report declared that about 66 million Nigerians were living in abject poverty or below the poverty line of less than one dollar per day.

That number is just five hundred thousand short of the number of registered voters in Nigeria and a whopping 11 million higher than the number of Nigerians that have collected their PVCs. All other factors kept constant; if all Nigerians living below poverty line were to vote in the next elections, it would cost just 66 billion naira to buy their votes. At current dollar to naira exchange, the $ 1 billion (357 billion naira) requested by the president to fight Boko Haram is enough to buy the entire registered voters in Nigeria with still a large chunk left to cater for elite gratification and engagement of “prayer warriors” which cost the last administration about 4 billion naira.

The possibilities of a hijack of the process and inducement of the voting public to go against their will in exercising their franchise by money bags from the major parties represent a clear and present danger to the outcome of the elections. However, it will be too simplistic to opine that anyone with most enormous war chest should carry the day. If we have learnt anything from patterns of vote buying, especially during the Anambra elections, it is that the size of a candidate’s wallet does not always determine the eventual decision of who to vote by voters. However, the fact that money is a factor suggests that we may be saddled with another class of ruling elites whose mandate was bought. The implications of this scenario for development and governance is scary.

Elections are serious affairs the world over and present peculiar security challenges, even in more advanced societies. The security architecture usually woven around elections in any nation is determined by the security challenges and needs of that society. Since the life of this Republic, Nigeria has been bedevilled with several security challenges that have made it near impossible to conduct elections safely in specific areas. The Niger Delta militancy proved a significant bottleneck for officials especially in the movement of materials to far-flung creeks that served as the bases of many of the militant groups. The relative peace in that area has not made elections any more comfortable as the groups have now been transformed into standing militias for electoral violence and rigging. But worryingly, the flashpoints have transcended just the Niger Delta and has engulfed virtually most parts of Nigeria.

The resurgence of Boko Haram attacks in the North East, murderous internecine clashes in Adamawa and Taraba and the North Central states of Benue, Plateau and Nasarawa, a threatening Niger Delta Avengers, a rampaging cult/gang related deadly violence in Rivers, Lagos and Bayelsa and an underground but potentially lethal IPOB all have the capacity of inciting the political class to trigger Section 26 of the Electoral Act. For those who may not know, that section grants the INEC the powers to postpone elections if in its considered opinion there may be a likely breach of the peace or the occurrence of natural disasters of such ramifications that could jeopardise the conduct of elections. If this happens, we may witness the return of that famous “doctrine of necessity” that was used to install Jonathan as the Acting President in 2010. This time, it may be deployed to elongate the tenure of the sitting president.

Again, in our clime, where politics had obvious economic allocative implications over the course of the tenure of an administration and given the winner takes all structure of our polity, elections have become what some refer to as a “do or die” affair. Given these situations, the role and importance of security personnel in elections have become all too important. I make bold to say that the greatest threat to the 2019 elections is that posed by security institutions saddled with the responsibility of providing a safe environment for the conduct of the elections. In this regard, the role of the police and other sister agencies and their hierarchies need to be critically examined. While an institution like the INEC has made conscious efforts to improve on its performance in the conduct of elections since 2015, security agencies, mainly the police have merely ignored the call for a paradigmatic shift and are continuing with business as usual, even becoming a significant threat to the 2019 elections.

The Inspector General of Police(IGP), who perhaps was rewarded for providing the security cover that ensured that the APC was not blindsided in Kano state in the 2015 elections has shown a continuing lack of competence in the handling and management of elections security. His lack of foresight almost cast a pall over the credibility of the Anambra gubernatorial elections late last year. In an irritating, insensitively embarrassing and most reprehensible display of a lack of grasp of best practices in elections security management, the IGP withdrew the security detail of the governor of the state less than 72 hours to the conduct of the elections. He was rightly overruled by a visibly embarrassed president Buhari.

The IGP was to delay the commencement of a stakeholders meeting called to address election issues by over three hours when he was apparently in Awka. The meeting had to be declared open without him by a vexed INEC chairman until he sauntered into the meeting at an advanced stage. The same IGP without due regard for the security arrangements that were put in place for the Anambra elections, and without consultations, unilaterally changed all the Divisional Police Officers that had been trained for the elections, replacing them with new and completely ignorant officers less than 48 hours to the elections. This was after assuring officials of the EMB that no such move would be undertaken. This was apparently a repeat of the Edo elections strategy which he almost bungled.

The consequences of these actions played out in the field with the security architecture put in place for the elections collapsing midway into the elections. The mitigating factor that prevented a disaster was the resolve of the Anambra people to be peaceful and to conduct themselves in a most decorous manner. An IGP that has shown serial disregard for due process cannot be trusted to provide security supervision for the 2019 elections. What is more, his integrity has been called to question by the allegations of a serving senator. This writer was present at a meeting where the Senate President stated that the IGP had come to “beg” for leniency after the Senate commenced a probe of the allegations against him. However, rather than investigate the weighty allegations against the IGP, the government filed a case against the senator, charging him for peddling “injurious falsehood” against the IGP. The government chose to throw a blind eye to the weighty allegations.

This move by the government raises intriguing posers. Is the IGP being kept around to midwife another ‘Kanoesque’ operation but this time on a much grander scale? Can a man who has so much baggage and skeletons in his cupboard be trusted to be fair to all, and to provide adequate security that will guarantee free and fair elections? A corollary to these posers would be to ask why the humongous number of personnel always touted by the police hierarchy as being deployed for elections is not reflected on the ground? Are funds for these, in my opinion, ghost deployments, being retired on paper? There are so many unanswered questions but if this IGP is left to supervise the security arrangements for the conduct of the 2019 elections, that in my opinion portends grave dangers ahead.

Another security anomaly confronting the 2019 elections is the infighting that is replete with the Buhari administration especially among the secret security agencies (this will be discussed in detail in a later article). Like many Nigerians know, there is no love lost between the Directorate of State Services(DSS) which is supposed to provide intelligence for the elections and the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) that is supposed to coordinate all security agencies. This war of attrition between two security institutions whose covert operations help provide proactive intelligence for use in the planning of the security architecture for elections is a dangerous omen for the 2019 elections. Except of course the crises of confidence is deliberately left to fester for some advantage to the political class.

The political class, another critical stakeholder in elections, whether as candidates, party chieftains, godfathers, or campaign buffs are at the heart of the many process manipulations that have so far been discussed. Nothing more needs to be said about them apart from the fact that they will not change their colours in 2019 and as purveyors and apostles of the Machiavellian principles will do whatever it takes to seize and retain power. This desperation is dangerous enough to pose a threat to the elections.

Finally, the judiciary and their growing and expanding influence in elections also add to the jigsaw. The role of the Judiciary in elections is contained in the constitution and the Electoral Act and needs not be rehashed, but this writer’s interest is in the ignoble roles that a few within that arm of government is playing to derail elections and unwholesomely influence their outcome. Politicians have now mastered the act of “shopping for judgements”. We have suddenly awoken to anomalous behaviour of lower courts challenging and giving counter rulings to the rulings of courts of appellate jurisdictions. To buttress the danger inherent in this trend, we only need to recall that the Third Republic was truncated by a court injunction contrived and contracted by the infamous Arthur Nzeribe-led Association for Better Nigeria (ABN). If this example is part of our better-forgotten history, consider that INEC just conducted the Anambra Central Senatorial elections almost three years after it was meant to have taken place. That election was held to ransom by countless litigations spurred on by a complicit judiciary. It is not beyond politicians to use a corrupt few in the bench to derail the 2019 elections especially if they suspect that the will of the people at the ballot box may not go their way.

In conclusion, I want to state that this discourse intervention is by no means meant to be alarmist or aimed at conspiratorially constructing realities to suite a predetermined end, but rather an intellectual contribution to the course of better elections. Like the infallible wisdom of the sages would say, “it is better we start early in the day to chase a black goat before night falls “. The clear and present dangers of the 2019 elections highlighted herein can be averted.

Dr China Matthew Amadi, a 2016 Chevening Scholar in the Department of Government of the London School of Economics, is the Executive Director of the Centre for Transparency Advocacy.

Source: Sahara Reporters

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