Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked Nigerians to hold successive governments since the return of democracy in 1999 and the leadership of the National Assembly responsible for the patently unlawful postponement of the 2019 general elections scheduled to hold yesterday but now to hold on Saturday.
The organization said: “Given the increasing tendency to postpone elections and the cumulative failures and corruption over the years, SERAP would, after the elections, pursue appropriate legal action against the government in power and the National Assembly leadership for the catalogue of breaches of constitutional and international obligations, and seek effective remedies for the citizens.”
In a statement today signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “The postponement of Nigeria’s elections since 2007 shows a systemic failure of leadership at the highest level of government, and suggests that our electoral process is deliberately skewed in favour of politicians’ interests, who continue to profit from the corruption and impunity that have characterised the process since 1999, and against those of the citizens.”
According to the organization: “Calling for the resignation of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu rather than addressing the root causes of persistent postponement of elections is a blatant attempt by politicians to scapegoat the electoral commission.”
The statement read in part: “While the INEC leadership ought to proactively push for reform of the electoral system, successive governments and leadership of the National Assembly that have the legal responsibility but have remained largely impervious to revolutionary change of the electoral system, should be held to account for this fundamental breach of public trust.
“Foisting outdated electoral system on Nigerians, and spending huge public funds to sustain it, seems in uneasy tension with constitutional provisions and Nigeria’s international obligations including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance to which Nigeria is a state party.
“Rather than prioritising genuine and comprehensive reforms of the electoral system that would upgrade and modernize our voting processes, successive governments and leadership of the National Assembly would seem to prefer the status quo, presumably to undermine citizens’ right to participation and to continue to profit from the corruption and impunity that the current system and processes breed.
“It is clear that the current electoral process is vulnerable to corruption but politicians would seem to have little incentive to comprehensively reform, upgrade and modernise it. It is unlikely that either the federal government or the National Assembly would take the steps necessary to sort out our electoral system, and improve transparency, accountability and integrity of the electoral process.
“We urge Nigerians to take more active role in the fight against corruption, including by putting pressure on the authorities at the federal and state levels and the National Assembly to comprehensively reform, upgrade and modernize our electoral system and processes. Otherwise, citizens’ right to participate in the governance system will remain a ‘hollow right’.
“Given that the right to vote is considered a part of an individual’s fundamental right to political participation, persistent postponement of elections in the country raises serious questions about the legitimacy and integrity of Nigeria’s fledgling democracy.
“Persistent failure to upgrade and modernize the electoral system has effectively relegated the right of participation to paper tiger status, undermining the ability of citizens to genuinely participate in the fight against corruption and to hold their leaders to account. Yet, a transparent, accountable and modernized electoral process is a prerequisite to the effective exercise of citizenship in a democratic society.
“No right is more precious in a democratic country than that of having a voice in the election of those who represent us. That voice is not lost when the electoral process is skewed in favour of politicians’ interests and against the Nigerian voters. Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined by the collective failure to upgrade and modernize the country’s electoral processes.
“It is time to push for revolutionary changes in how Nigeria conducts its elections. The changes should effectively deploy modern technology, which has been successfully used in the business and other sectors in the country. Such changes may include the introduction of a national system of Internet voting, to innovative ideas on how to adapt the election systems to facilitate participation by different sectors of the population, to conform with twenty-first century elections.
“The postponement is the by-product of a systemic and collective failure by successive governments and National Assembly leadership to provide Nigerians with reliable, efficient and secured electoral system, which has continued to undermine public confidence in elections as well as the public’s right to vote and participate in their own government.
“SERAP would also deploy the Freedom of Information Act to seek information on details of spending by INEC since 1999, as part of our initiatives to improve transparency and accountability of governmental operations and promote respect for citizens’ right to participate in the processes of government and governance in the country.
“SERAP notes that postponement of general elections has become a recurring feature of the country’s electoral process. For example, the 2007 general elections witnessed late arrival of election materials from South Africa in April of that year, contributing to denying millions of voters their right to political participation.
“SERAP also notes that the 2011 general election suffered the same organizational lapses, with the elections postponed for two days after it had commenced. In 2015, the government of former president Goodluck Jonathan postponed the election for six weeks on the pretext that it needed time to reclaim the local governments reportedly taken over by the Boko Haram terrorist group.
“The INEC on the morning of the elections shifted presidential and National Assembly elections to 23rd February, 2019. The Governorship, State House of Assembly and the FCT Area Council Elections are to hold on 9th March, 2019.”