The Nigerian Federal Government has been urged to ensure it puts plans on the ground to end the history of electoral impunity and to create an independent Electoral Offences, before the general elections in April.
The Senior West Africa Researcher at Human Rights Watch, Corinne Dufka who stated this in a release said failure to do so would risk further entrenching violence and corruption in the electoral process and continue the disenfranchisement of Nigerian citizens.
She recounted that between independence in 1960 and 1999, Nigeria produced only two elected governments – both were overthrown in military coups. Nigeria’s military ruled the country for nearly 30 of its first 40 years of independence.
She noted that however, in 1999, Nigeria made a transition to civilian rule and that the 1999 elections, which brought a retired general,, to power, were blighted by such widespread fraud that observers from the Carter Center concluded that “it is not possible for us to make an accurate judgment about the outcome of the presidential election.”
According to Dufka, federal and state elections in 2003 were again marred by fraud as well as serious incidents of violence that left at least 100 people dead and many others injured adding that HRW found that members and supporters of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) were responsible for the majority of abuses, though opposition parties also engaged in political violence.
“Most deaths occurred when opposing bands of armed thugs fought each other in an effort to control an area and displace supporters of the opposing party,” she stated.
She continued: “HRW documented how ruling party politicians in the oil-rich Niger Delta mobilized and funded armed groups to help rig elections. That led to a sustained increase in violence and criminality in the region. In some locations elections simply did not take place, yet the electoral commission reported PDP victories with high voter turnout.”
Dufka said that despite the abysmal record of the 1999 and 2003 elections, the government did not correct the problems stressing that observers from the European Union described the 2007 elections, which brought late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to power, as among the worst they had witnessed anywhere in the world.
“At least 300 people were killed, and many others injured, in violence linked to the elections. Many of the results led to court challenges. In December 2008, the Supreme Court narrowly upheld Yar’Adua’s election, although courts overturned 12 of the PDP’s 28 gubernatorial victories from 2007 on the grounds of electoral malpractices or other irregularities, she also recounted.