TYPES OF ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA
There are various stages for election in Nigeria. Elections are conducted periodically into various political offices across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
The Independent National Elections Commission (INEC) is the Commission set up by the Constitution to conduct, supervise elections in Nigeria for the office of the President, Vice-President, members of the Senate and House of Representatives, Governors, Deputy- Governors, and members of the States Houses of Assembly.
Stages of Election Process in Nigeria
There are several stages and activities that are involved when conducting elections in Nigeria. These stages range from the pre-election to the result declaration. They will be briefly discussed below.
- Pre- Election Stage- this stage involves candidate of political parties presenting their manifesto to the general public. Before the general election, all persons qualified to vote are called upon to register themselves, and only those who are duly registered can vote. The age criteria to register as an eligible voter is 18 years and above. In this pre-stage, the Commission announces the date of the election for the process to begin.
- Primary- at the primary’s stage, the aspirants seeking to run for a political office through a platform of a political party shall face both the parties’ screening and primary elections. The party members will elect one aspirant, each among others contesting for the same position or office through the same political party. The winners at this stage shall be nominated by the various political parties to compete for the general election.
- Nominations- this stage involves each electoral political party nominating a candidate who would be the forerunner of the election. The candidate nominated must meet the basic qualification requirements as stipulated by the Constitution, Electoral Act, and INEC’s guidelines.
- Campaigning– this stage involves the electoral political parties and their nominated candidate campaigning actively for the support and votes of the general public. The INEC usually schedules the campaigning periods. Political parties generally do it by promoting their various ideas and promises using multiple media platforms such as television, radios, street outreach, pamphlets, and occasional visits to gain the support and followership of the voters.
- Accreditation- the INEC regulations states that the method of voting shall be by the Continuous Accreditation and Voting Systems (CAVS) procedure. According to the procedural system, no person will be allowed to vote at any polling unit other than the persons whose names appear on the register. At 8:00 am, the Presiding officer will declare the polling unit open for accreditation and voting. The accreditation process involves reading the permanent Voters Card (PCV) and the authentication of the voter’s fingerprint. The INEC is entitled to abandon fingerprint accreditations if their machines are malfunctioning or due to network issues.
- Producing Ballot Papers and other Polling Material- this election stage involves the Commission producing the ballot boxes, papers, and other materials to be used to conduct the election effectively. The ballot papers and boxes are printed and tagged with INEC, and they will be used by voters to cast their votes on election day. Candidates of all participating political parties are put on the ballot papers for various positions being contested.
- Voting – voting days in Nigeria are usually during the weekends, especially Saturdays. Under the current electoral law, election to the office of the President and Vice-President as well as National Assembly shall hold first, while election to the office of the Governor and Deputy Governor and State House of Assembly shall hold two (2) weeks after that. This is to ensure that opportunity is created for a rerun if need be. The polling units for voting are declared open, usually by 8 am, or 10 am in some voting centers. The polling officials appointed by INEC will be at the various units to conduct the election. The voters are allowed to cast their votes using the appropriate voter’s card after proper identification and accreditation.
- Collation or counting the votes– this is one of the crucial stages in the election process. In this stage, after successful voting, the ballots are counted, tabulated, and summarized at every polling center by the INEC Officials. Votes are counted differently for each candidate at every polling unit. The candidate who wins the majority of the votes after a scrutinized counting will be declared the winner. The failure to complete the collation and transmission of results in a quick, transparent, and accurate manner can jeopardize and affect the entire process of the election.
- Result Declaration– this is the final stage of an election process. After the successful counting of the votes cast, the candidate and party with the highest votes will be officially announced by INEC officials. The announcement of the result is a mandatory requirement of the electoral process. Upon the declaration of the result, the winners shall be presented with the Certificate of Return by the presiding or returning officers.
In announcing the electoral result, the winners will be declared at the various levels where the following occurs;
- Candidates contesting an election to the office of the Governor shall be declared the winner if he has the highest number of votes cast at the election and not less than one-quarter of all the votes cast in each of at least two-thirds of all the Local Government Areas in the state.
- Candidates contesting election to the office of the President shall be declared the winner if he has the highest number of votes cast at the election and not less than one-quarter of all the votes cast in each of at least two-thirds of all the States of the Federation and the FCT Abuja.
The success of any election conducted in Nigeria is dependent on effective planning. The INEC is constitutionally required to conduct elections in Nigeria. In conducting free and fair elections in Nigeria, INEC must always ensure that the accreditation, voting, counting, collation, and result declaration stages of an election are appropriately conducted following its guidelines and regulations.
By Political & Election Law Team at Resolution Law Firm