Anambra Controversy Exposes Troubles Facing Nigeria’s Electoral Commission

With the 2015 presidential elections looming, Nigeria’s electoral body will have to learn from its recent mistakes, and quickly.

Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has continued to come under attack over its troubled handling of governorship elections in the south-eastern state of Anambra last month.

The 16 November vote, won by Willie Obiano of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), was seen as a critical test for INEC with the 2015 presidential polls fast approaching.

But unfortunately, the vote was fraught with irregularities, such as the delayed receipt of electoral materials at various polling stations, as well as accusations of outright fraud and collusion amongst INEC agents.

This led the All Progressives Congress (APC) to call for the election results to be annulled and the poll re-run.

INEC Chairman Attahiru Jega rejected this request, but acknowledged that the conduct of the elections had been flawed and emphasised his commitment to finding out what happened.

“We are not leaving any stone unturned at unravelling what actually transpired,” he said, adding, “We cannot afford to lose hope. We will do better in the future.”

The APC has now taken the issue to court, but the importance of INEC’s conduct exceeds far beyond just Anambra State.

With many Nigerians already preparing for the 2015 elections, and the presidential race looking like it could be tighter than any in Nigeria’s history, the electoral commission’s reputation for independence and competence could be more significant than ever.

Before the first votes were even cast in Anambra’s election last month, observers were watching keenly as INEC attempted to demonstrate that it had continued to evolve and improve since its founding in 1998.

Back then, and in the commission’s early years, its reputation was one of corruption and an inability to provide a suitable electoral environment.

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