Sunday, December 14, 2008

Nigeria: President promises to work towards an end to vote-rigging, ballot-stuffing and intimidation

Nigeria's President Umaru Yar'Adua says he would speed up electoral reforms after surviving a legal challenge to his election.

President Umaru Yar'Adua welcomed the Supreme Court verdict which affirmed his election in the April 2007 vote. The court Friday dismissed an appeal by two opposition candidates that the election be annulled on grounds of irregularities.

Receiving the report of a 22-member electoral reform committee, Mr.Yar'Adua pledged to work on the shortcomings in the electoral process.

"We will carefully study and faithfully implement, with the support of the national assembly, those recommendations that will guarantee popular participation, ensure fairness and justice, and bring credibility to the electoral process in Nigeria," he said.

The panel of experts recommended radical changes to the voting system. Former chief justice Muhammadu Uwais, who led the committee, said the lack of an independent election regulator was undermining the credibility of elections in Nigeria.

"The independent national electoral commission and the state independent electoral commission lack the requisite independence," he said. "This is a key deficiency of our electoral process. Accordingly, the committee has made appropriate recommendations to address the focal issues of their composition, administrative autonomy and funding. We have also made recommendations aimed at improving the performance of various institutions and stakeholders in the electoral process."

The panel was set up in August last year to examine voting rules in the wake of the criticisms that greeted the 2007 vote. Last year's polls were billed as a democratic milestone in Africa's top oil producer, marking the first transfer of power from one elected leader to another since 1960 when Nigeria gained independence from Britain.

But the elections were so chaotic, with widespread vote-rigging, ballot-stuffing and intimidation that local and international observers said the results were not credible.

Published with the permission of Voice of America
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
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