Monday, October 24, 2011

RSIEC and Public Funding of Political Parties

Public funding of political parties has been very contentious in Nigeria. The 1999 Nigerian Constitution in section 228 (c) and Electoral Act 2006 in section 91 contain provisions that enable the National Assembly to make grant available to the Independent National Electoral Commission for distribution to registered political parties. However, with the coming into effect of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended, the provision for public funding of political parties was removed. It was therefore curious to read in the newspaper that River State Independent Electoral Commission has sustained the tradition of public funding for political parties operating in Rivers State.

A news item in Vanguard of October 12 reported that some 45 political parties under the aegis of the Rivers State Association of Frontline Political Parties have called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to investigate the state’s Independent Election Commission, RSIEC, over the N4.7 billion grant by the state government for political parties for the conduct of the 2011 council elections. The parties alleged that 70 per cent of candidates in all the parties were disqualified by the Commission so that the money due the parties would return to the commission’s purse.

On Monday, October 17, RSIEC addressed a press conference where it responded to the allegations of the political parties. The Commission clarified that what was being given to the parties was not subvention but grant. It explained that while subvention is statutory, grant is discretionary. RSIEC admitted thus: “Since the inception of this Commission, grants have been given to Political Parties to enable them participate in Local Government Council elections. That was the case in 2008 and the 2010 elections into Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area (ONELGA). In 2008, Political Parties were granted Five Million Naira (N5m) each. In 2010, N3m was granted to each Political Party for the ONELGA elections.” The Commission also elucidated that contrary to the allegation that it received N4.7b from Rivers State Government; the amount it got was N550m only for all the Political Parties.

RSIEC stated further that “after the 2008 Council elections, these grants were not given carte blanche but subject to conditionalities, prescribed by the Commission in its Elections Guidelines made in exercise of the powers conferred on the Commission by the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission Law, as amended. The grant worked out at N8m for each of the Political Party, less administrative and bank charges. Of this N8m, the sum of N6m was designated for the 21st May 2011 elections into 21 Local Government Areas while the sum of N2m was designated for the 17th September 2011 Degema Local Government Council elections.”

The Commission explained further that “disbursement of the funds was on the basis of, (a) fixed/standard/across the board rate, and (b) pro rata basis. The across the board rate was paid either for or upon performance of the following milestones: Establishment of an Office in either PHALGA or OBALGA; Conduct of primaries of Political Parties in accordance with their Constitutions, by-laws and regulations; Submission of Names of Candidates that emerged from the primaries; Purchase of Nomination Forms; and Presentation of Candidates for verification and Eligibility of Candidates for elections.”

RSIEC clarified further that “In the administration of the grants, the Commission was confronted with many challenges and different scenarios. It was discovered that: Some Political Parties received the grant and did not hold primaries; Some Political Parties received the grants, and held primaries but did not purchase Nomination Forms; Some Political Parties held primaries, purchased nomination forms but did not return them; Some Political Parties held primaries, purchased forms, returned the completed forms and presented candidates for verification; In some instances even though the forms were returned, no candidate appeared for screening; Among the candidates presented by the Political Parties, some were qualified, while others were rejected. The reasons for the rejection were communicated to the Political Parties for necessary action; lastly, the success of the candidates at the verification was based essentially on the criteria earlier alluded to in the Guidelines. The qualification or rejection of the candidates had nothing to do with a latent desire by the Commission to conserve funds for itself.”

Hopefully the explanations given by RSIEC will douse the brewing tension between the Commission and the political parties.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The move to collapse Nigerian Prison System

The presidency and the National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives) have embarked on a strange move to collapse Nigerian prison system. How do I mean? An executive bill seeking to amend the Transfer of Convicted Offender (Enactment & Enforcement) Act Cap. T16 LSN 2004 (Amendment Bill 2001) is currently being processed at the National Assembly. Once the amendment sails through, the consent of convicted Nigerians serving various jail sentences abroad would no longer be sought before they are repatriated home to continue to serve their respective jail terms. This is because the prisoners’ swap legislation seeks the removal of “consent” and “verification procedure” from the Act.

I find this move which is said to be a request from British authorities curious because the situation of Nigeria’s prison system at present is heart-rending. According to a report in Thisday of October 2, 2010 titled ‘Nigerian Prison’s Rising Population’: “The Nigerian Prisons Service derives its operational powers from CAP 366 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990 to among other things take into lawful custody all those certified to be so kept by courts of competent jurisdiction; produce suspects in courts as and when due; identify the causes of their anti-social dispositions; set in motion mechanisms for their treatment and training for eventual reintegration into society as normal law abiding citizens on discharge; and administer prisons farms and industries for this purpose and in the process generate revenue for the government. The Prisons Service in Nigeria is exclusively a Federal Government concern as no State for now has the power in law to operate or maintain prisons. The Nigerian Prison system was supposed to exist with the full complement of legal, vocational, educational, religious and social services but the situation has remained pathetic.”

Broad Street Prison, Nigeria’s first jail, was established in 1872 to cater for 300 prisoners, the country currently has about 146 convict prisons, 83 satellite prison camps, 12 major farm centres, nine cottage industries, nine subsidiary farms and 124 market gardens. Others include three borstal institutions meant for remand and treatment of juvenile offenders, (at the moment, the Prisons Service has only three of such in Kaduna, Ilorin and Abeokuta), one open prison camp, one staff college and four training schools.

On July 6, 2011, at the commissioning of a new federal prison at Ikot-Ekpene built by the Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State, the Controller-General of Prisons, Mr. Olusola Ogundipe decried the menace of Awaiting Trial Congestion in the Nigerian Prisons Service stating that more time and resources are being expended in containing the pre-trial suspects than in the reformation of convicts. He informed the audience that the prison had over 48,000 inmates in custody but only about 14,000 of them were convicts. This he said hampers in no small measure the core mandates of the Nigerian Prisons Service.

Earlier on July 31, 2010 while speaking at a one-day quarterly roundtable on prison reform, Ogundipe had stated thus: “It may interest you to know that up to 50 per cent of these ATPs (Awaiting Trial Prisoners) have been on remand for between 5 and 17 years without their cases being concluded. Ikoyi prison has an original capacity for 800 persons. Today, the population is 1,900. Out of this number, only 24 prisoners are convicts. Port Harcourt Prison has an installed capacity for 804 persons. Today, the prison locks up 2, 924 persons out of which only 117 persons are convicts. Awka Prisons with an installed capacity for 238 persons presently accommodates 486 inmates out of which 21 are convicts.” The prisons boss also harped on the need to expand the prisons like other arms of the criminal justice system as the situation had led to one prison servicing many judicial divisions. He gave an instance of Kuje Prison in Abuja which serves 30 judicial divisions including Abaji. Any wonder there have been series of jail break in Nigeria?

The above paints a graphic picture of the state of Nigerian prison at present. With the proposed amendment to the Transfer of Convicted Offenders (Enactment and Enforcement) Act Cap T16 2004, the floodgate of prisoners will be open which our current holding capacity cannot contain as the facilities on ground are grossly inadequate. Moreover, these prisoners whose consent clause for repatriation was being removed did not commit the offence for which they were jailed in Nigeria. Why then should they come and serve their sentence in Nigeria?

A July 8 and 9, 2009 report in The Guardian and Daily Mail of UK respectively had reported that Britain is planning to build a £1million jail in Nigeria to take convicts whose crimes were committed in the UK. The prison would house 400 Nigerian inmates incarcerated in British prisons who cannot be forcibly sent home to complete their punishments. The report quoted Lin Homer, the chief executive of the UK Border Agency, as telling the British MPs that "We are in negotiations with Nigeria to help them establish better prison conditions … it is about helping them generate a structure that can cope. We are prepared to invest if that would enable us to send people home.” The deal , according to Lin, would save taxpayers' money, because “the UK would no longer have to pay the £30,000-a-year cost of keeping inmates in our own jails. “ Has Britain built any prison in Nigeria before pressuring Nigerian officials to pass the amendment? Not that I know of.

No matter the merit of prisoner swap move, a comprehensive justice sector reform (Police, Judiciary, Prisons reforms) is needful before such amendment should be considered. We must not lose sight of the fact that this move is not a bilateral agreement between Nigeria and Britain alone but something all other countries worldwide could take advantage of to further congest Nigerian prisons. The overwhelming awaiting trial inmates need justice as the current situation is a breach of their right to fair trial. It is high time Nigerian judicial system avail itself of other penal options such as suspended sentence, parole, weekend sentence, etcetera. This is in addition to the current periodic amnesty to prisoners by the president and governors. Decongestion of Nigerian prison is long overdue and swapping foreign prisoners would only exacerbate a deplorable situation.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

21 Years of Intellectual Activism and Media Advocacy

I do the best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep on doing it to the end. If the end brings me out all wrong, what is said against me will not amount to anything.
– Abraham Lincoln.

When Dr. OBC Nwolise of the Department of Political Science, University of Ibadan charged students in the Advanced Level Extra Mural Class at Emmanuel College, Agbowo, Ibadan in 1988 to use media advocacy to demand for better society, many heard but only few heeded his advice. I am one of the few who chose to take up the challenge.

However, I couldn’t bring myself to communicate to the public through the media until 1990 because I had low self esteem having failed to get credit pass in ‘O’ Level English and Mathematics to enable me move to tertiary institution. This went on from 1985 – 1990. Secondly, being the era of military rule when freedom of speech was severely curtailed with several media houses proscribed by the ruling junta, it was suicidal expressing anti-government opinion then. After overcoming my initial fear and failure, I decided to put pen to paper and write to media houses to express my feelings on wide range of developmental issues. Sketch newspaper in Ibadan was the first to oblige me the use of its platform to express my views on topical national issues.

The little acorn sown in 1990 has grown into a mighty oak. Today, October 12, 2011 marks my 21 years of media advocacy and intellectual activism. Exactly twenty-one years ago, my first commentary was published in Daily Sketch under the title ‘Complete Iwopin Paper Mill.’ Since then, I never looked back. I have risked hunger, arrest, harassment, contempt, and my job to stand resolute in my advocacy for a better Nigeria. The immortal words of Frantz Fanon continue to prod me. Fanon, many decades ago, opined that “The future will have no pity for those men who possess exceptional privilege of being able to speak the words of truth to their oppressors but have taken refuge in an attitude of passivity, of mute indifference and sometimes of cold complicity.”

As at October 6, 2011, available records show that I have been published 334 times in 24 national newspapers and 12 magazines cum newsletters. The newspapers that have printed my views include the following: The Punch, The Guardian, Thisday, Daily Sun, The Nation, Nigerian Tribune, Vanguard, Daily Trust, National Mirror, Daily Independent, Daily Champion, Nigerian Compass, Next, Leadership, People’s Daily, The Pointer, The Chronicle (Ghana), Daily Triumph, Third Eye, National Concord, Daily Sketch, AM News, Post Express and Weekend Classique. The magazines and newsletters include: The Independite, Image, Exquisite, The Statesman, Corper Courier, Electoral Reform News, Women Advocate, Voters News, The Ethics magazine among others.

I have been on radio and television programmes 52 times. These include Focus Nigeria, Kakaaki , Insight, Open Assembly and Democratic Licence on Africa Independent Television (AIT), The Iris on NTA International as well as Dateline Abuja on Channels TV. I have also been guest discussant on Radio Link, Africa Thisweek and Platform on Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), Political Platform on Raypower 100.5 FM, Burgami on Vision 92.1 FM, Change Hour on Hot 98.3 FM, Voice of Nigeria and OGBC2 FM Mailbag.

In July 2009, I became a blogger through the influence of a friend, Sola Adetunji and in commemoration of Nigeria’s golden jubilee and 20 years of my media advocacy, I became an author with a book titled “Nigeria, My Nigeria: Perspectives from 1990 – 2010” . The tome which was a compilation of some select published commentaries was launched on November 25, 2010. My greatest achievement as a writer is the friendship gained with people of like minds. First among them being Sheriff Folarin, PhD, lecturer at Covenant University and a columnist with National Mirror. I and Sheriff had met at the office of Mr. Nosa Osaigbovo, then Features Editor with Daily Sketch now a columnist with Nigerian Tribune. Since that fateful day in 1993, we have remained friends.

I have engaged broad range of issues cutting across governance, economy, legislature, judiciary, education, health, politics, elections, media, global affairs, security, electoral reform, labour, sports, religion and society. Sadly, many of the issues I engaged decades ago are still plaguing Nigeria. We have made little progress towards national development. When shall we have a Nigeria with basic infrastructures and good living standard for the citizenry?

In this moment of retrospection, let me know how you perceive my commentaries. Compatriots, do I speak your mind when you read my articles or hear my analysis on radio and TV? Am I communicating and connecting with you? My guiding principle is to share my knowledge to multiply it and add to knowledge to expand it. Your frank feedback will be most appreciated. Thanks readers for being the pillar of my strength.

In closing, let me share my favourite poem with you. It was written by the great Zik of Africa, Nigeria’s first president:

Give me my Due

Give me what is my rightful due,
While I still live and breathe and love
For little I have of you
When I am called from up above.

No flowers gay upon my bier
Will I require when I am gone
If when I lived there was no cheer
To boost me when my work was done.

So keep your violets sedate
I’ll have the Roses whilst is bloom
But should you choose to vacillate
Shed not your tears to ease my doom.

Dr Nnamdi Azikwe, Lincoln University 18 October 1929.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Imperative of electoral offences commission

On September 21, I attended a memorial lecture organised by a coalition of youth groups in honour of 10 National Youth Service Corps members killed in Bauchi State in the wake of the post-elections crisis that greeted the April 16 presidential election. The lecture with the theme ‘Youth and Election Security’ was put together by Youth Action Initiative Africa, Centre for Public Policy and Research, CAFA Foundation, Nigerian Youth Manifesto Project, Network of Civil Society Organisations on Voter & Civic Education, Digital Peers International and Y-Count Campaign. The guest speaker at the event was a renowned Professor of Criminology from the University of Jos, Etennibi Alemika.

The ten martyrs of Nigerian democracy were Adewumi Seun (Ekiti); Teidi Olawale Tosin (Kogi); Adowei Elliot (Bayelsa); Okpokiri Obinna (Abia); Gbenjo Ebenezer Ayotunde (Osun); Ukeoma Ikechuwku Chibuzor (Imo); Nkwazema Anslem Chukwuonyerem (Imo); Adeniji Kehinde Jehleel (Osun); Akonyi Ibrahim Sule (Kogi) and the only female among them, Agnes Ezennadozie (Anambra), who was pregnant at the time of her death.

Other speakers at the symposium were the Chief Technical Adviser to the Independent National Electoral Commission Chairman, Prof. Okey Ibeanu, and Dr. Chidi Anslem Odinkalu of the Open Society Justice Initiative as well as representative of the Minister for Youth Development. They all condemned the murder of the young Nigerians who were on national service and expressed regret that more than five months after the premeditated murder, the perpetrators were yet to be prosecuted. It was identified at the forum that two major malaise of our electoral system in Nigeria is the growing culture of violence and that of impunity, as perpetrators of electoral violence, more often than not, get away with their heinous crime. They therefore called for the establishment of the Electoral Offences Commission.

The clamour for the establishment of the EOC was first mooted by the Justice Muhammadu Uwais led electoral reform committee which submitted its report on how to overcome the country’s electoral debacle in December 2008 after 16 months of collating and analysing the views of Nigerians. This recommendation was accepted by the government of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua as a Bill for an Act to Establish the Electoral Offences Commission and for other Matters Connected Therewith was sent to the National Assembly on April 30, 2009. Well, the federal lawmakers preferred to first deal with constitutional amendment before taking a look at the EOC and other ancillary bills such as the proposed Political Party Registration and Regulatory Commission and that of the Centre for Democratic Studies.

Ordinarily, we do not need an electoral offences commission as the current federal electoral law has vested the power for the prosecution of electoral offenders in the INEC. Sections 149 and 150 of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended are very explicit on this. In fact, S. 150 (2) emphatically says, “A prosecution under this Act shall be undertaken by the legal officers of the commission or any legal practitioner appointed by it.” The Chairman of the INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, who incidentally was a member of the ERC, however, has openly solicited the establishment of the EOC as he admitted that his commission does not have the capacity (manpower and financial resources) to embark on a comprehensive prosecution of electoral offenders.

Jega made one of such calls on July 7, 2011 while delivering a public lecture on the theme, ‘2011 General Elections and the Consolidation of the Democratic Process in Nigeria’ organised by the Centre for Social Research and Advocacy, University of Lagos. He said there was no way INEC could prosecute 870,000 multiple registrants detected after the January 2011 registration. I dare say that not even an EOC would have the capacity to prosecute such huge number of infractions. What I think the INEC needs to do is to carry out selective prosecution of the persons with clout who might have been fingered among the perpetrators as such will send a warning signal to anyone who may wish to do such in future.

INEC said it has entered into agreement with the Nigerian Bar Association to assist the commission in the prosecution of electoral offenders. It is heart-warming to note that the electoral management body is gradually breaking the culture of impunity in Nigeria as it claimed to have secured 24 convictions out of the 321 cases of electoral malpractices it charged to court. Other cases are at different stages of prosecution. This was made public in a statement issued by the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC chairman, Mr. Kayode Idowu, on August 29.

Much as it is desirable to have the National Assembly expeditiously pass the electoral offences commission bill as it gives the commission power to investigate and prosecute electoral offences; however, I do not support its passage in the current shape and form. The EOC bill sent by President Jonathan to the parliament in 2009 arrogates a lot of powers to the President as against the prescription of the Uwais Committee. For instance, in Section 3 of the Electoral Offences Commission bill, 8 of the 10 member board (the other two being ex-officio members from Federal Ministry of Justice and Nigeria Police Force) are to be appointed directly by the president without recourse to Senate as prescribed by the ERC; Section 4 of the bill proposed that the president can unilaterally remove members of the board; while in section 5, the EOC may establish state offices including one for FCT. This is tantamount to creating another huge bureaucracy.

There is no funding from consolidated revenue fund for the proposed Commission while power of the president to give general directives which must be complied with can be found in section 25 of the EOC bill. The bill in its explanatory memorandum is concerned with electoral offences committed only during general elections. Who then prosecutes electoral malpractices and sharp-practices committed during party primaries, by-elections, re-run and supplementary elections?

Law alone is not the panacea for Nigeria’s growing culture of electoral malfeasance and hostility. The approach to the menace has to be multi-pronged. There is the need for adequate civic and voter education on the abhorrent behaviours. Security agents and INEC also have to take pre-emptive measures to forestall such untoward and unbecoming acts. Meanwhile, the souls of the Bauchi Ten and hundreds of others murdered in cold blood during the 2011 general elections cry for justice.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Chronicle of Nigeria’s Post 2011 General Election Events

Nigeria’s general elections were held from April 9 – May 6, 2011. The elections started with the National Assembly (Senatorial and House of Representatives) elections on April 9, followed by the presidential elections on April 16 and gubernatorial elections on April 26. Gubernatorial elections in Bauchi and Kaduna State were postponed and held on April 28 as a result of post election violence that trailed the presidential election in which Human Rights Watch claimed in a May 16, 2011 report that 800 lives were lost and property worth billions of Naira were destroyed. A political logjam ensued in Imo State as the April 26 gubernatorial election in the State was declared inconclusive. A supplementary election was thereafter held in four local governments and one ward on May 6 before the governorship election was concluded.

Thereafter, observer groups have taken turns to release their final reports on the polls. The European Union Observation Mission (EU EOM) presented its final report on the elections on May 31. In the opinion of the Mission: “The legal framework, the general performance of the Independence National Electoral Commission INEC and of other stakeholders provided for the 2011 General Elections an overall democratic foundation for further democratic development in accordance with international principles and with international instruments ratified by the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

In its closing report on the elections released on May 18, Project Swift Count 2011 made up of Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN), Justice Development and Peace Commission (JDPC)/Caritas, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) observed thus “....the Nigerian voting populace were provided with opportunity to exercise their franchise and in general their votes were counted. The April general elections were conducted within the frameworks of and conformed to the Nigerian Constitution, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) protocols on Democracy and Good Governance, and the African Union (AU) Declaration on the Principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa.

While the elections were not perfect .......they marked a departure from flawed and sour elections that this country has experienced over the last twelve years, particularly the 2007 elections. The elections were generally characterized by the determination of INEC to halt the history of fraudulent elections and the desire of many Nigerians to restore and sustain the democratic process.” The reports of other observer groups such as the Commonwealth, AU, ECOWAS and International Republican Institute (IRI) were not markedly different from the aforementioned two.

Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had accepted the commendations and criticisms with respect to the last general elections in good faith. The Commission had participated in several post election roundtables by the civil society organisations such as the one organised by Reclaim Naija and Election Situation Room on May 26 and June 1 respectively, as well as the one put together for CSOs by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa in Enugu on July 25 and 26. Not only that, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) had also partnered INEC to conduct some post election audit retreat for different cadres of the staff of the Commission including the Electoral Officers, Heads of Departments at both the headquarters and the State offices of INEC, Resident Electoral Commissioners and the board of the Commission (made up of 12 National Commissioners and the Chairman). The tenure of 13 out of the 37 Resident Electoral Commission had also ended with new appointments made by the President to fill some of the vacant positions.

On August 18, in pursuant to the provisions of S. 78 (7) (ii) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) de-registered the following Political Parties: Democratic Alternative (DA); National Action Council (NAC); National Democratic Liberty Party (NDLP); Masses Movement of Nigeria (MMN); Nigeria People’s Congress (NPC); Nigeria Elements Progressive Party (NEPP) and National Unity Party (NUP). This has reduced the number of registered parties in Nigeria to 56 from 63. At present, the Commission has been supported with an eight member Registration and Election Review Committee which was inaugurated on August 2 to among other things “critically review the registration and elections of 2011 and transmit its findings to the electoral body.” The committee, headed by Prof. Adele Jinadu, was given six weeks to carry out its assignment. The Commission had also promised to restructure its departments and units to enhance better efficiency and effectiveness.

A presidential committee on post election violence was set up on May 11, 2011. The 22-man panel of inquiry headed by Sheikh Ahmed Lemu is probing the post election violence. According to its terms of reference, the panel is, in part, intended to “investigate the immediate and remote cause(s) of the pre-election violence in Akwa Ibom State, as well as the tide of unrest in some states of the federation following the presidential election and make appropriate recommendations on how to prevent future occurrence; ascertain the number of persons who lost their lives or sustained injuries during the violence; identify the spread and extent of loss and damage to means of livelihood during the period in question and assess the cost of damage to personal and public properties and places of worship and make appropriate recommendations. Moreover, the Committee will investigate the sources of weapons used in the unrest and recommend how to stem the tide of the illegal flow of such weapons to the country; and, to examine any other matter incidental or relevant to the unrest and advise government appropriately.” Meanwhile, out of the 321 cases of electoral malpractices charged to court by INEC, the Commission has so far secured 24 convictions nationwide while 21 others were discharged, according to the Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Mr Kayode Idowu.

In terms of election dispute resolution, the number of election petitions filed at the tribunals bears witness to the credibility of the 2011 General Elections. As against about 1, 750 petitions filed after the 2007 elections, only 733 petitions were filed at the various election petition tribunals across the country post 2011 elections. Some of the petitions have been dismissed at the pre-hearing stage while few of the 2011 election results have been upturned with some of them currently on appeal. Unfortunately, controversy from adjudication over the 2007 elections, particularly Sokoto governorship election, had led to the suspension of the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami on August 18, 2011 and the appointment of an acting President for the appellate court in the person of Hon. Justice Dalhatu Adamu who was sworn in on August 22. This has led to a lot of protests from civil right groups and the Nigerian Bar Association who alleged victimisation by the National Judicial Council against the suspended PCA.

On the issue of legal reform, the spokesperson to President Goodluck Jonathan issued a statement to the press on July 26 signifying the intention of the president to initiate a bill to the national assembly for amendment of the relevant sections of the Constitution to peg the terms of office of president and governors from maximum of two terms to a single term from 2015. This has generated a lot of furore with many commentators arguing that it is not a priority issue worth dedicating attention to by the President. The electoral commission, INEC had however joined several civil right groups to demand for the establishment of Electoral Offences Commission.

On August 3, INEC announced the timetable for the conduct of gubernatorial elections in some states. According to the INEC Commissioner in charge of information and publicity, Prince Solomon Adedeji Soyebi, the Commission would conduct governorship elections in Kogi, Adamawa, Bayelsa, Sokoto, Cross River and Edo states in 2012, Ondo and Ekiti states in 2013; while Anambra and Osun states would have their turn in 2014. The dates of the 2011/12 governorship elections are as follows: Kogi, December 3, 2011; Adamawa, January 14, 2012; Bayelsa, February 11, 2012; Sokoto, March 10, 2012; Cross River, April 14, 2012 and Edo, July 14, 2012. INEC had also commenced preparation for continuous voters’ registration exercise which will start in Kogi State before the end of September 2011. Many of the State Independent Electoral Commissions have started arranging to hold council polls. While Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission, (LASIEC) has fixed October 22 to hold local government elections in Lagos State, Rivers SIEC had conducted elections in the State’s 21 local government areas on May 21 while Sokoto State had followed suit on July 23, 2011.

All the aforesaid underscore the fact that Nigeria’s post election period had been action-packed. It remains to be seen if future polls will bring significant improvement on the widely acclaimed 2011 elections. To achieve this, all stakeholders’ viz. security agencies, national assembly, media, civil society organisations, political parties, donor community and members of the executives must continue to support the two electoral commissions (INEC and SIECs) in their onerous task of consolidating the nation’s democracy.