VOTEThe Independent National Electoral Commission has released the timetable for the 2015 elections.

The commission, in a statement issued in Abuja late Friday night, fixed the Presidential and National Assembly elections for February 14, 2015.

The statement was signed  by the Secretary of the Commission, Mrs. Augusta Ogakwu. The commission also fixed state assembly and governorship elections for February 28 same year.

The statement added that the governorship election in Ekiti State would hold on June 21, 2014 while that of Osun State would hold on August 9, 2014. Ogakwu said the timetable was released after the retreat of the commission in Kaduna, which she said, was held between  Tuesday and Friday. She said the release was done in pursuant of the powers conferred on the commission by the constitution and the Electoral Act  (2010) as amended.

The statement was however silent on when politicians could declare their interest in contesting for any of the offices.

The Electoral Act 2010, Section 31 (1) states that, “Every political party shall not later than 60 days before the date appointed for the general election under the provisions of this Act, submit to the Commission in the prescribed forms list of the candidates the party proposes to sponsor at the elections.”

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Paper presented by the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru M. Jega at  The Civil Society – INEC Dialogue on the topic ‘Plans and Progress Towards the 2015 General Elections.




Globally, increased recognition of the relationship between credible elections and credible governance processes has given rise to increasing demands for freer and more credible elections, which has, in turn, sharply brought Election Management Bodies into the public limelight. Today, increasing demands for transparency and accountability, by stakeholders, the traditional and especially the new social media as well as the need to adhere to global best practices in election administration and operations all compel EMBs to undertake very complex, time-specific, and costly operations under the most intense public scrutiny. While in the past, concern with elections has largely been a preserve of states and politicians, today, elections are the subject of widespread scrutiny from a range of organized interests within and outside national boundaries.


Throughout the world, the active participation of civil society organizations (CSOs) has been widely acknowledged as significant in deepening and consolidating the democratic experiences of nations. Broadly, CSOs have applied political pressure for reform that have in a number of cases brought down authoritarian regimes and in others led to the expansion of the political space through the enhancement of citizens’ participation, increased transparency and accountability of governance and the provision of voice to some of the most vulnerable and marginalized groups in society. The Arab Spring and the expansion of democratic spaces across the West African Region from Niger to Senegal are a few examples worth mentioning.


In more specific ways, CSOs have in quite a number of commendable cases actively supported Electoral Management Bodies in managing the electoral process. In the main, they have contributed immensely in educating voters, in bringing issues of concern to pubic limelight, in ensuring that global best electoral practices are enshrined through observation, and in the provision of experienced electoral support. We saw this not long ago in Senegal, where the civil society organizations constructively engaged the Electoral Management Body and assisted it to re-appropriate its primary mission of conducting free, fair, and credible elections. In Nigeria, Civil Society Organizations have contributed a lot not just in the expansion of the democratic space before and since 1999, but also in pushing for institutional reforms in the political and electoral processes that have amongst others, partly resulted in the establishment of the Uwais Panel that paved the way for significant electoral reforms.


The New Commission: June 2010


In administrating elections, an EMB has responsibility and obligation to be professional, transparent, and non-partisan. Since its establishment n June 2010, the new Commission sought to achieve these objectives by ensuring that the manner by which elections are prepared and held will be more inclusive, participatory, and transparent. It is in recognition of this that the Commission had consistently striven to carry along all stakeholders in the electoral process in planning and executing its activities. It is in response to this and to the various demands from stakeholders in the electoral process that the Commission decided a new bio-metric voter’s register is indispensable to credibility of any election it may conduct; that a coordinated engagement with security agencies under the umbrella of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) is vital to the security of elections; that the use of members of the National Youth Service Corps Scheme (NYSC) as well as University Staff and other Professional Bodies as Ad-hoc Staff will tremendously enhance the credibility of our elections; and that periodic engagement with political parties, civil society organizations and development partners is necessary for achieving the very difficult and complex task of professionalizing the Commission and the conduct of free and credible elections.


The new Commission very early recognized that CSOs as key stakeholders have played significant instrumental roles in the success stories recorded since its inception in 2010. The support from CSOs further strengthened the Commission’s resolve to professionalize, to create a level playing ground for all political parties and contestants, and to do all it possibly can to have free, fair and credible elections in 2011. It is this same resolve that derives the Commission’s planning towards 2015; it is also the same resolve that informs the current dialogue with Civil Society Organizations.


INEC-Civil Society Engagement: from 2011-2015


The active participation of all stakeholders in the political process remains one of the most important issues the Commission insists on. In the run-up to the preparations for the 2011 General Elections, such kinds of engagements were a constant feature of the operations of this Commission. With specific reference to Civil Society Organizations, this engagement took place on several fronts. These include, amongst others: involvement of CSOs in the voter education programmes of the Commission; participation in election observation; engagement in the registration process, as well as participation in the various post-election activity meetings organized at various fora since 2011. Through all these, CSOs have sent periodic reports and assessments of our electoral process, and we have indeed taken note of all these as can be seen in the improvements put in place in subsequent elections since 2011. In what follows, I would like to focus on only three issues in detail to further demonstrate the degree of engagement between INEC and CSOs.


Registration of Voters


The voter registration exercise was planned for January 15 – 29, 2011, using Direct Data Capturing (DDC) machines. However, in response to popular demands to register eligible voters not yet captured, the Commission extended the time of registration to February 7, 2011. Thereafter, a display of the register of voters was made from 14 to 19 February, during which claims and objections were received and addressed. After the display and review of the register and consolidation of all outstanding data, the commission on March 2, 2011 certified a final Register of Voters containing 73,528,040 voters on which the April 2011 Elections were conducted.


From virtually all accounts, the voter registration was a success, given the tight deadline and the difficult circumstance that the Commission had to undergo in order to finalize the Register of Voters. Civil Society Organizations actively participated in the process from giving information, mobilizing prospective registrants and observing the process and reporting potential problems areas for the Commission’s intervention. Indeed, towards the end of the registration period, the massive information received from CSOs and other stakeholders helped the Commission to deploy registration equipment in heavily populated areas that substantially eased the queues. CSOs may not be in a position to play a similar role as we move towards 2015 because a registration on the scale of 2011 is not being contemplated; but they can play a huge role in the up-coming Continuous Voter Registration Exercise, which the Commission is preparing to launch early in 2013.


General Elections


The General Elections were held in April – May 2011 across the country. The original election schedule by the Commission called for the holding of the elections on April 2, 9 and 16 for the national assembly, presidential and governorship elections respectively. However, due to logistic problems and with full stakeholder consultation, the elections were rescheduled to April 9, 16, and 26. Some elections, which were postponed for various reasons were conducted on April 28 and May 7.


As with the voter registration, CSO support before, during, and after the elections was commendable. Such support included the mobilization of citizens to vote, observing the elections, as well as organizing  a forum on voter education. Perhaps one of the most significant contributions of civil society organizations in the 2011 General Elections was the creation of different election situation rooms by different groups (e.g. EiE and the Coalition of CSOs under PLAC). The Situation Rooms helped to process information from the field that was fed to INEC including challenges such as: late or non-arrival of election materials and personnel, cases of ballot box snatching or diversion of electoral materials, identification of conflict flash points, as well as actual outbreaks. Such independent information in many instances helped to corroborate information from INEC’s own sources and was vital in designing prompt interventions that addressed issues before they became major problems. This role remains key in strengthening our internal monitoring processes, and I would like you to spend some time on this issue so as to further refine it.


Registration and Election Review Committee (RERC)


As part of its post-election activities and on-going lesson-learning process, the Commission inaugurated a Committee of experts on election issues called the Registration and Election Review Committee in August 2011 to conduct an evaluation of the voters’ registration and general elections. This was to deepen the process to continuously improve the Commissions operations, enhance its organizational capacity through a better understanding of the strengths and weakness, revamp its planning, coordination and execution capabilities and further deepen its relations with critical stakeholders in the electoral process. Both the membership of the Committee as well as the consultations it held across the country in the course of its work were significantly informed by the participation of CSOs.


Towards 2015


These are just three of the many ways the Commission and CSOs have constructively engaged over the past two or so years. As we move towards 2015, some of the old challenges we have seen in the conduct of both the registration and the elections will recur; some new challenges will emerge, and all of these will require the re-enforcement of some old ways of engaging and imaginatively creating new ways to address emergent challenges. This Dialogue’s key objective is precisely to assess these engagements and to rethink fresh ways of engagement as we move towards the 2015 general elections. As we do this, we should bear in mind the cardinal objective of the Commission, which is to ensure that the 2015 General Elections are even free, fairer, and more credible than the 2011 General Elections and of those that the Commission conducted since then.


More specifically, I would urge you to focus on enhancing citizen participation in the electoral process; thinking of newer and more creative ways of observing elections; and making input as to how INEC can continuously improve transparency and credibility of the electoral process.


Let me conclude by placing on record once more the Commission’s profound appreciation to all of you for your contributions to bringing about substantial improvements to the Nigerian electoral process. Of course, there is still room for improvements and the challenges that remain are still formidable. We cannot therefore rest on our Oars; we must remain engaged and we must continue to partner to bring about even more substantial and enduring improvements to the credibility of our electoral process in 2015 and beyond.


Thank you.


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