It took President Muhammadu Buhari 54 days after his second term began to send a list of ministerial nominees to the Nigerian Senate for screening. This is a better record than his first term, which began in May 2015. Then Nigerians had to wait six months before the list of ministerial portfolios and offices was announced.

This time around the Senate took just a few days to approve the list, the vast majority of whom served in Buhari’s previous cabinet. Only 14 out of 43 were first-term cabinet members.

The big change was that Buhari elected to expand cabinet positions from 36 to 43. This is likely to mean an expansion of the ministries from the current 23 to accommodate all the appointees.

In Buhari’s first term there were 15 women. That number has more than halved to seven.

In 2015 the excuse for the lengthy delay was that the president needed time to make the selection. This was because he was seeking to appoint individuals untainted by the endemic corruption that has come to typify politics in Nigeria. Back then, Nigerians were open to giving the president a grace period. Several analysts agreed that the blatant corruption seen under Goodluck Jonathan’s administration played a major role in the goodwill towards Buhari.

But it soon became clear that Buhari’s administration would not be radically different. The first cabinet was made up of individuals who were known more for being the president’s political bedfellows than for their technocratic qualifications or achievements. That in itself is not out of the ordinary in almost any political dispensation across the globe. An easily agreeable cabinet makes for swifter and less contentious decision-making.

In Nigeria, however, it is viewed more like compensation for previous political support than selections made on merit.

Buhari’s new cabinet is just like the last. But his supporters are likely to argue that politics, especially in contemporary Nigeria, requires a heavy amount of pragmatism.

What, then, have we learned from Buhari’s appointments?

In my view, the second term cabinet make-up reflects the moribund state of political governance in Nigeria and the tone-deafness of Buhari’s government. Some of the names on the ministerial list are of politicians who have previously been charged with corruption. Others have been associated with corrupt practices while in political office .

And almost all the names on the list are politicians who have served in government in one form or another before – former governors, senators, and political office holders. This raises questions about the sincerity of the president’s pledge in 2015 to select incorruptible people as ministers.

Issues to be considered

There’s a lot that’s wrong with the cabinet.

Firstly, choosing a ministerial cabinet in Nigeria isn’t as simple as just selecting random individuals, even if they are the most qualified candidates. Nigeria has a complex political reality that has to be taken into consideration to fully appreciate the rationale that underlies the way governance looks within the country.

One factor that must be considered is Nigeria’s ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity. To ensure equal representation, the Nigerian Constitution stipulates that each of the country’s 36 states must be represented in the cabinet.

This was necessitated by the ethnic marginalisation that came about after the “forced” amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria by the British, the Biafran Civil War, and several other difficult historical episodes. So, in choosing prospective ministers from each of the 36 states in the country, it could be argued that Buhari is simply following standard political precedent.

It’s also clear that Buhari has again found it prudent to reward political allies with positions. In truth, this is normal practice in most countries. One must ask, then, why the expectations were different where Buhari’s cabinet was concerned. The answer is that he has been a self-declared anti-corruption reformer since his first term. Going against the political grain by choosing merit over kinship might have alienated some of his allies. But it would have gained him goodwill among the Nigerian people.

The gender imbalance of Buhari’s cabinet also serves to advance a common refrain that his government is tone-deaf. The president was criticised during his first term for not appointing enough women ministers. Buhari made a promise to address this during his second term. But the opposite has happened.

This gives the impression of a government that is resistant to progressive ideas and change and makes no pretence about it.

What now?

For cynical observers of the current administration, the adverse effect the drawn-out wait for the ministerial list has had on Nigeria’s economy has not been worth it. If anything, it is a reminder of the snailspeed approach that the current administration has adopted in managing the nation’s affairs.

The nation’s security sector is in poor shape; abductions and terror attacks are becoming commonplace. There seems to be no end in sight to the Fulani herdsmen crisis either. The economy is still being supported by foreign loans, and there have been grim prognostications from the likes of the International Monetary Fund. There is a very real risk of recession.

Adding to that, the early criticisms of Buhari’s government for its lack of a coherent fiscal policy still have currency.

In conclusion, if there is a recurring theme to be picked up from Buhari’s cabinet, it is that things are set to remain the same for the next four years in terms of the political governance, and the administration’s poor management of the Nigerian economy.The Conversation

 

Ini Dele-Adedeji, Research Associate, Politics & Development Studies, University of York

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Nigerian central bank held a treasury auction on Wednesday to try to lure foreign investors, traders said, hours after it was announced that the president told the bank to ban access to dollars for food imports to curb demand.

Pressure has been building on the naira currency as oil prices drop and foreign investors book profits on local bonds in response to falling yields. Crude sales account for 90% of foreign exchange earnings and two-thirds of government revenues in Nigeria, Africa's top oil producer.

Banking stocks fell 1.26% on Wednesday, to help drag the main share index to a more than two-year low as negative sentiment persisted on the stock market.

Traders said the central bank asked them to increase their rates at a bills auction on Wednesday compared with rates that the bank paid at the last sale in July.

The move led to a spike in yields on the one-year treasury bill which rose to 12% on Wednesday from around 10% on Friday after the bank told dealers to bid higher rates at its auction, traders said.

Traders said the central bank wanted to offer bills at higher rates to attract foreign investors to boost liquidity on the currency market, which would help support the naira.

On Friday, the naira eased to 364 per dollar, from a quote of 363.50 as falling oil prices tightened liquidity on the currency market.

A dollar shortage was initially caused by a slowdown of foreign inflows after local debt market yields declined.

UNCERTAINTY

"As the naira came under increasing pressure ... stepping up demand management policies in the foreign exchange market furthermore suggests that the central bank faces increasing problems propping up the currency through open market operations," said Malte Liewerscheidt, vice president of Teneo Intelligence.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday told the central bank to stop providing funding for food imports, his spokesman said, in a further sign of pressure on the currency.

A spokesman for the central bank, which is an independent body, has not responded to text messages and phone calls seeking a comment on whether or not the request will be heeded.

Traders said the market was waiting for more information on how such a ban would be implemented, especially for importers with existing lines of credit.

"This adds to the level of uncertainty in the market. How the central bank would implement this remains unclear," one trader said. "Some of the items may already be included in the earlier ban."

The central bank in 2015 banned access to foreign exchange for 43 items in a bid to curb dollar demand, though it continued to sell dollars to offshore investors to boost confidence.

Nigeria, which has Africa's biggest economy, operates a multiple exchange rate regime, which it has used to manage pressure on the currency.

The official rate of 306.90 is supported by the central bank but the traded rate of 364 is widely quoted by foreign investors and exporters.

 

There is growing concern about the potential for the message and media sharing platform WhatsApp to undermine democracy in a number of countries across the world including Brazil and India.

Because WhatsApp is encrypted – and so offers users far greater protection from prosecution than Twitter or Facebook – it has become particularly notorious for spreading “fake news”.

This is a major concern in Africa, where WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app in 40 countries. This is due to its low cost and the ability to easily share messages with both individuals and groups.

But is this really how WhatApp is used? And if it is, to what extent does this compromise the quality of elections?

A joint team from the Centre for Democracy and Development (Nigeria) and the University of Birmingham (UK) has spent the last few months researching the impact of WhatsApp on the 2019 Nigerian elections held in May.

Their report comes to conclusions that are both troubling, as well as encouraging.

The research reveals that the platform was used to mislead voters in increasingly sophisticated ways. But it also shows that Whatsapp strengthened democracy in other areas.

Misinformation and disinformation

The term “fake news has become widely used over the past few years. However, it is problematic because it lumps together very different kinds of information and behaviour. For example, we need to separate out deliberate attempts to mislead others by creating false stories (disinformation) from the innocent sharing of made up stories by people who believe it to be true (misinformation).

The 2019 Nigerian elections saw both disinformation and misinformation. We studied this by conducting 46 interviews in the states of Abuja, Oyo and Kano, as well as seven focus groups and a survey of 1,005 people.

During the course of conducting the research candidates consistently told us that they predominantly used WhatsApp to share information about their qualities and campaign pledges. But many WhatsApp users said that at a high proportion of the messages they received were designed to undermine a rival leader’s reputation – to "decampaign” them.

There were some high profile examples of disinformation. The most notorious story circulated on social media was that the president had died while undergoing medical treatment outside of the country, and had been replaced by a clone from Sudan.

Other fabricated communications were less outlandish but no less significant. Many ordinary citizens shared these messages, in some cases because they knew they were false and wanted to amplify their impact, but in many cases because they thought they were true.

The most effective decampaigning strategies were those that shared messages that resonated with individuals because they contained an element of the truth, or played on recent experiences.

WhatsApp takes over

The political influence of WhatsApp has expanded rapidly in line with its growing penetration. As a result, it has become part of the fabric of election campaigns and is now a key mechanism through which political leaders seek to communicate with their campaign teams and supporters.

Fully 91% of the people we interviewed were active WhatsApp users; as one person put it:

I use WhatsApp more than I use the toilet.

In Nigeria, election candidates were already using the platform to push messages in 2015. But the people we interviewed agreed that the 2019 elections saw a significant step up in terms of how the leading parties organised their social media strategy.

Politically, WhatsApp was used in an increasingly sophisticated way at the presidential level. In 2019, the two main presidential candidates – President Muhammadu Buhari and opposition leader Atiku Abubakar – both had dedicated teams pushing out messages over social media: the Buhari New Media Centre and Atikulated Youth Force. By forming hundreds of Whatsapp groups of 256 members, these organisations could send messages to tens of thousands of people at the touch of a button.

Buhari’s effort was better funded and particularly impressive. It established a network of local and regional representatives connected to a “central command” in Abuja. This enabled the campaign to rapidly send messages from the national to the local level, while also responding to hostile messages and rumours shared by its rivals.

While those in power typically had more money to invest in their campaigns, many opposition leaders pointed out that in important ways WhatsApp had created a more level political playing field. Those who had been involved in politics for some time explained that “fake news” was nothing new in Nigeria, but that in the past it was sometimes impossible to counteract these messages because there was no way to get airtime on government aligned radio.

WhatsApp had changed this situation. Opposition leaders now have a cheap way of fighting back. It has also been used to coordinate anti-corruption campaigns and election observation, strengthening democracy.

Evolution or revolution?

It’s also important not to overstate the significance of WhatsApp. Things look very different below the national level, for example, where campaign structures were less developed and a significant proportion of activity remained informal.

We found that while candidates for Governor and Member of Parliament did set up WhatsApp groups, they were much less organised. In many cases, candidates relied on existing networks and social influencers to get the message out.

Candidates were also keen to stress that while they used WhatsApp during their campaigns, they did not rely on it. Voters expect to see their leaders on the ground, and expected them to provide a range of services for the community. Advertising good deeds over WhatsApp could help a leader get credit, but only if they had fulfilled their responsibilities in the first place.

In other words, WhatsApp can amplify and complement a candidate’s ground campaign. But it cannot replace it.

Throwing out the water but keeping the baby

These findings suggest that solutions to the power of social media platforms like WhatsApp isn’t to ban them, or to allow governments to censor them. This would merely exaggerate the vast advantages of incumbency that ruling parties already enjoy.

A better solution would be to promote digital literacy, develop social media codes of conduct around elections, and empower WhatsApp uses to control which groups they are added to, and what information they receive.

 

 

The research was conducted, and publications authored by, Jamie Hitchen, Idayat Hassan, Jonathan Fisher and Nic Cheeseman.The Conversation

Nic Cheeseman, Professor of Democracy, University of Birmingham

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

African superpower Nigeria has signed an agreement which aims to increase trade between African countries.

This leaves Eritrea as the only African country not to be part of the trading bloc.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari signed the landmark agreement at the African Union (AU) summit in Niger.

The first step is to cut tariffs for goods from countries within the bloc but the timeframe to do this is yet to be announced. 

The AU says that the African Continental Free Trade Area - called AfCFTA - will create the world's largest free trade area.

It also estimates that implementing AfCFTA will lead to around a 60% boost in intra-African trade by 2022. Only 16% of international trade by African countries takes place between African countries, according to research by the African Development Bank in 2014.

At the moment some of that intra-Africa trade ranges from fresh fish from the Seychelles to petrol from Angola.

Why is it a big deal that Nigeria signed up?

AfCFTA hit a hurdle last year when Nigeria pulled out days before the country was due to sign the agreement. 

Nigeria is Africa's biggest economy and has long been a regional leader so, when it stalled, observers questioned if the African trade bloc would ever actually happen.

President Muhammadu Buhari said he needed further consultations in Nigeria.

Since then, the Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiation says it has consulted with 27 groups, including trade unions.

Nigeria has a lot to gain from increasing access to its goods and services to a wider African market. But many of those consulted also feared increased regional integration would lead to unfair competition for jobs and the goods they produce.

With Nigeria signed up, AfCFTA's dream of increasing intra-Africa trade, which currently lags behind the volume of trade the continent does with Europe, is now one step closer.

Now that AfCFTA can offer access to the enormous Nigerian market, they are in a much stronger position to negotiate with regional bodies in other parts of the world.

Why was Eritrea left out?

Eritrea did not participate in the negotiations because of their conflict with Ethiopia, according to the Commissioner for Trade and Industry of the AU Commission Albert Muchanga.

He adds that now the two countries are at peace and Eritrea has asked the AU to go through the agreement with them.

"So over time they are going to come on board" he said.

What are free trade agreements?

Free trade agreements are designed to cut trade tariffs between member countries.

Tariffs are a form of tax, like a border tax.

They are placed on goods coming into a country for a range of reasons, sometimes to try and protect a home-made product. The purest free trade agreement (FTA) removes all border taxes or trade barriers on goods.

They get rid of quotas too, so there is no limit to the amount of trade you can do. FTAs also help make a country's exports cheaper and give easier entry to other markets. They come in all sorts of forms and with different rules but in short, they make trade between countries as liberal as possible and allow for more rules-based competition.

 

Credit: BBC

The Nigerian government has accused former President Goodluck Jonathan and his then oil minister of accepting bribes and breaking the country's laws to broker a $1.3 billion oil deal eight years ago, a London court filing shows.

The deal, in which Anglo-Dutch company Royal Dutch Shell and Italian peer Eni jointly acquired the rights to the OPL 245 offshore oilfield, has spawned legal cases spanning several countries.

In papers advancing a London commercial court suit against Shell and Eni, lawyers for the Nigerian government said Jonathan and former oil minister Diezani Alison-Madueke conspired to "receive bribes and make a secret profit", keeping the government from getting what it was owed from the deal.

"Bribes were paid," the filing, reviewed by Reuters, states. It says "the receipt of those bribes and the participation in the scheme of said officials was in breach of their fiduciary duties and Nigerian criminal law."

A spokesman for Jonathan declined to comment and said the former president was in South Africa as part of an election monitoring team. A London-based lawyer for Madueke did not immediately respond to a request for comment.Goodluck Jonathan

Nigerian attorney general Abubakar Malami did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The 2011 deal is also the subject of a corruption trial in Milan in which two middlemen have been convicted and former and current Shell and Eni officials are also on trial.

An Eni spokesman said the Italian firm was assessing whether UK courts had jurisdiction on a case of "such duplication" to the Milan proceedings and repeated its view on "the correctness and compliance of every aspect of the transaction."

Shell did not immediately comment, but has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in relation to OPL 245.

The London lawsuit relates to payments that Shell and Eni made to acquire the license.

The companies transferred more than $1 billion to the Nigerian government, according to the filing. Milan prosecutors have argued in their case that the bulk of that money was sent on to Malabu Oil and Gas, which was controlled by another former oil minister, Dan Etete.

Eni and Shell retain the rights to develop the field, which has yet to enter production but is one of the biggest untapped oil resources in Africa, with reserves estimated at 9 billion barrels.

In the London court filing, the Nigerian government said it only received a $209 million signature bonus in relation to the deal, and that it estimates the value of the oilfield to have been "at least $3.5 billion". It said it would seek to calculate damages on that basis.

The Nigerian government has also filed a London case against U.S. bank JPMorgan for its role in transferring over $800 million of government funds to Etete, who has been convicted of money laundering. JPMorgan has denied any wrongdoing.

Dutch prosecutors are also preparing criminal charges against Shell.

Despite the international cases, only Nigerian officials can rescind the rights to the block. Oil minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu has said the case should not hinder development of the field. His office did not immediately reply to a further request for comment. [reut.rs/2HcyAnu]

Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is pursuing a criminal case against other former officials in relation to OPL 245.

President Muhammadu Buhari was re-elected in February, campaigning on the same anti-corruption message that helped him defeat Jonathan in 2015. But opinions within the cabinet differ over how to handle OPL 245.

Some have cited what they view as a lack of evidence, while others point to concerns that taking away the rights could hinder the field's development in a nation where oil accounts for around 90 percent of foreign exchange earnings.

 

Source: Reuters

When Barack Obama took office as America's 44th president, he was faced with an acute, three pronged economic challenges.
 
The American financial system was in crisis to  a greater extent than at any time since 1933. 
America's international imbalances  was  on a worsening downward slide, The economy was  in  a deep  recession supercharged by falling consumer purchasing power, declining house values, and cascading business losses. 
 
In addition to the above mentioned, he was faced with four chronic problems viz 
A worsening  thirty years trend of inequality and insecurity Energy crisis and climate change, Increasing cost of health care Decay of America's public spaces and facilities. 
 
All of the above mentioned scenario sounds familiar? That was the situation in  Almighty America  barely up to 8 years ago And this is our story in Nigeria today Now you will agree with me the story has changed for America. 
America is out of recession  thanks to  a brilliant,  hardworking  and tireless  president 
 
How was the feat achieved ? 
 
He blamed the out gone republican government most especially the two George Bush for the Economic mess? 
NO ! 
 
He clamped  down on any discerning voice of opposition and threw them into jail  with spurious, unfounded criminal and fraud charges? 
NO 
 
He restored confidence in the American economy not just with inspiring words /vague promises  or as in the case with our Nigerian president by engaging in  series of" blame it on Jonathan" propaganda, but by demonstrating that help was on the way. The American economy was vigorously restructured,  
necessary stimuli were injected into the economy, the  federal government embarked on  a  more robust housing and mortgage rescue program. 
 
Let's learn from United States of America. 
We can kick out recession, We can jump-start the Nigerian economy But we need to be aware of the cost of borrowing because Unnecessary borrowing may further kill our economy rather than revive it.
 
I advocate for a moderate deficit expenditure based budget. As at January 2015  our GDP stood at $574 billion making Nigeria the largest economy in Africa  and about the 24th largest in the world. 
 
What Nigeria needs therefore is not a large deficit budget but an ambitious tax hike to increase government income and  an aggressive Industrialisation drive followed by massive increase in employment. 
 
This is what is required to stimulate the economy and drive us out of recession.
 
 
Mr Itohoimo Udosen
Public/Political Affairs Analyst
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

A close race was predicted between Muhammadu Buhari and his main rival Atiku Abubakar. In the end the incumbent won the Nigerian presidential election with almost four million votes.

After the results were declared, Atiku cried foul, pointing out numerous flaws and manipulations of the electoral process. He also threatened legal action although it remains to be seen if the Peoples Democratic Party candidate will file suit within 21 days of the vote as required.

Meanwhile, international leaders have already congratulated Buhari and his All Progressives’ Congress. This is to be expected. External actors have often tended to prefer stability over denunciation when it comes to incredulous election results.

Hence this still begs the question: did Buhari actually win? Several problems marked the electoral process itself. But, in my view, while the election results were prone to manipulation, the result indicates that Buhari’s party did in fact win.

The question is: how did he do it given his poor track record in his first term? Several factors stand out from the election results: Buhari’s continued popularity in the north, combined with voter apathy in the south. And the fact that Atiku was an uninspiring contestant.

Buhari’s failures

Buhari came to power in 2015 after defeating incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan with around 2.5 million votes. His victory at the time can be attributed to his tough stance on corruption, his poverty alleviation promises, and the Jonathan administration’s failure to curb the Boko Haram crisis.

In addition, Jonathan’s decision to run again as a Southern candidate had caused rifts in the Peoples Democratic Party with many, especially northern, political stalwarts defecting to the All Progressives’ Congress during his presidency. Buhari’s candidacy had already been strengthened by his coalition with the south-western Action Congress of Nigeria.

Buhari’s first term in office can be rated rather poorly.

His administration was struck with the double whammy of a severe recession and a drop in revenues from oil due to falling oil prices. The government’s responses were slow and mostly inadequate. This was partly due to Buhari’s long absence from home undergoing treatment for an undisclosed illness.

The Buhari government also didn’t perform very well on the security. While the Boko Haram crisis was pushed back during his first year in office, it resurfaced as the group split into several deadly factions. Farmer-herder conflict in the Middle Belt has also spun out of control. And the roots of new violent crises may have been laid with the brutal repression of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra movement as well as the arrest of Muslim clerk El-Zakzaky and violence against his followers.

Finally, while Buhari has indeed taken actions against corruption, the battle against graft has often appeared to be a battle against political enemies. And little has been achieved at the policy level due to severe legislative-executive gridlock during his first term.

So why the win?

In the end the electoral map of 2019 closely resembles that of 2015 with most northern and south-western states going to the All Progressives’ Congress. In Lagos, the All Progressives’ Congress won a slight majority in the face of economic decline, but campaigned primarily to get voters to go to the polls. This only partly succeeded.

In the north, the All Progressives’ Congress’s vote share generally dropped on a state-by-state level, but turnout was high enough vis-à-vis the south to win the elections overall.

The Peoples Democratic Party did not substantially increase its leverage in the Middle Belt states, which are most affected by the herdsmen-farmer conflict. Particularly noteworthy is Atiku’s poor performance in the North in general. His home state of Adamawa was only won with a slim majority.

Buhari’s continued popularity in the North can partly be explained by the fact that the region is more insulated from international market dynamics. This means that the effects of the recession were less severe. While poverty remains more entrenched in the region, this was to some extent alleviated by the government’s subsidy programmes. These also extended patronage to localities which had before largely been excluded from such networks.

Besides this, and from a more emotional perspective, many of Buhari’s supporters still continue to view him as their political messiah.

Atiku had his weaknesses

After its loss to the All Progressives’ Congress in 2015, the Peoples Democratic Party itself remained for a long time mired in internal conflict. In the middle of a leadership crisis, the party lost political elites and followers, also due to the sudden cut-off from patronage resources.

The party came together again near the end of 2017, but had to rebuild its grassroots structures in many areas. This could have led to the lack of mobilisation in the south. While the All Progressives’ Congress lost important political figures, the party also convinced some powerful Peoples Democratic Party politicians in the South to defect in the run-up to the elections.

Another factor was that, while rotational politics necessitated a northern candidate, Atiku’s candidacy may not have resonated particularly strongly in the south.

Besides his regional origin, Atiku as a candidate also had his weaknesses, including a credibility problem due to the riches he collected during his time in office as vice-president and his old age. For many voters in both the north and the south, Atiku represented a return to the past rather than a break from traditional Nigerian politics.

Buhari’s first term record has little to show for it, but it is in the end still possible that he did win the elections, simply because the Peoples Democratic Party could not provide any viable alternative.The Conversation

 

Leila Demarest, Assistant Professor of African Politics, Institute of Political Science, Leiden University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

President Muhammadu Buhari has said only those with integrity and interest of Nigeria will be considered in the next cabinet.
 
He also promised to appoint more women and youth during his second tenure, acknowledging the “significant role” they played toward his re-election.
 
While the leading opposition candidate, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, is challenging the outcome of the 2019 presidential polls, Buhari has since been announcing his plans for the second tenure.
 
The president had earlier said that his next four years in office as Nigeria’s leader will be tough.
 
Femi Adesina, the Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to the President, had also revealed that Buhari will likely dissolve his cabinet before his May 29 swearing-in.
 
While speaking at a dinner organized by All Progressives Congress (APC) women and youth organised to celebrate his re-election, on Saturday, Buhari assured that his administration would not disappoint them.
 
He explained that more fertilizers were being made available to Nigerian farmers at a lower rate, adding that this has resulted in an increase in agricultural production and reduction in food importation.
 
Buhari also called on Nigerian youth to embrace agriculture to ensure more food sufficiency and food export.
 
He again faulted the 16-year rule of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which he said, “wasted the nation’s resources”.
 
According to him, the country witnessed “rampant infrastructure decay” in spite of the huge resources earned during the period.
 
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has been re-elected for a second four-year term, results from Saturday's general election show.
 
The 76-year-old defeated his main rival, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, with a margin of just under four million votes.
 
Mr Abubakar's People's Democratic Party has rejected the result.
 
Delays and violence marred the run-up to the poll but no independent observer has cited electoral fraud.
 
Final results released by the Nigerian electoral commission (Inec) show Mr Buhari was re-elected with a margin of just under four million votes.
 
Turnout was just below 35% of registered voters.
 
A former soldier, Mr Buhari led a military regime in the 1980s, and was first elected president in 2015. He will face a range of problems including power shortages, corruption, security threats, and an economic slowdown.
 
The president has quelled a militant Islamist rebellion in Nigeria's north-east, but Boko Haram remains active. There has also been an upsurge in violence in the Middle Belt as traditional herders and more settled farmers have clashed.

Nigeria has postponed its 2019 presidential elections. The presidential and parliamentary votes have been rescheduled for February 23rd and the gubernatorial, state assembly and federal area council elections have been rescheduled for March 9th.

The Independent National Electoral Commission made the announcement hours before voting was scheduled to start on February 16.

The country’s electoral commission had three years in which to prepare for the poll. The postponement can therefore be viewed as a display of utter incompetence and inefficiency. It is the first time since 1999 – when Nigeria shunned military rule for democracy – that a Nigerian electoral commission has failed so spectacularly.

This is not the first time an election has been postponed in Nigeria. But reasons cited on previous occasions – such as the threat posed by Boko Haram – had more substance and felt more legitimate.

This time the electoral commission cited logistics as the reason for the postponement. This was despite the fact that just 24 hours before the poll it said all systems were in place for the election to go ahead.

The postponement therefore raises a number of serious questions. For example, where the logistical problems foreseeable and preventable? What will be done to ensure the safekeeping of ballot materials that have been deployed to various polling agencies? How will this affect the competitive edge of smaller political parties with limited resources who have already planned on elections happening on the scheduled dates? And how does this affect the future participation of millions of Nigerians who already travelled to their home states to vote and may not be able to do so on the new scheduled dates?

As a result, the decision has left many Nigerians wondering about the effectiveness of the electoral commission. Since the announcement of the election, various political parties and political analysts have debated its ability to run an efficient poll. This in turn has fuelled a sense that the commission doesn’t have the ability to conduct free and fair elections.

Members of the main political parties – the ruling All Progressives Congress and the main opposition People’s Democratic Party – are already trading allegations over what could be interpreted as a plan to rig the elections.

In their press statement the All Progressives Congress alleged that supporters of the main opposition party were confident a day before the election that the poll was going to be postponed. The suggestion is that the People’s Democratic Party strategy had always been to orchestrate the postponement of the elections as it did during the 2015 elections when it was the ruling party.

For their part, members of the People’s Democratic Party allege that the postponement is an indication that the ruling party is afraid of losing. They claim that the party is plotting to rig the poll.

These allegations and counter-allegations lend credence to the notion that it is near impossible to hold free and fair elections in Nigeria. They affirm those who long claimed that the election process often usurps the will of the people.

A new record

Most Nigerians believe that rigging is a very familiar strategy in Nigerian political circles. This postponement, however, coming just hours before the poll, sets a new record.

There have been previous postponements. A week before the 2015 presidential elections, the poll was postponed for six weeks. This happened after the former head of the electoral commission announced that the military needed more time to manage the Boko Haram menace in Borno State if residents were to vote in peace.

In 2011, the elections were postponed when voting for Members of Parliament had already started in some states. This was ostensibly due to the late deployment of ballot materials.

This postponement, in particular, led to accusations that the decision was taken to weaken the main opposition party. Although there was never any formal evidence for this, the delay fuelled the general sense of mistrust among Nigerians that the election process can’t be trusted.

Implications

There are mixed perceptions about the credibility of the electoral commission to hold free and fair elections. Some political parties have expressed confidence in its ability to implement a successful election while others have called on the resignation of the chairperson.

The electoral commission will have to work wonders to regain the electorate’s trust. It will need to let Nigerians know exactly what happened to scuttle the vote given that it has had three years to prepare.

It will also need to be clear about which states were affected by poor planning, and how it intends to come up to speed in before the new election dates.

The commission must also assure Nigerians that the ballot materials that were already transferred to polling stations will be safeguarded.

There are also implications for voters who had to take time off work to travel to their home states to cast their ballots. The sudden postponement means that they may not have the time or the money to participate in the new polls.

In addition, the postponement has disrupted the lives of workers and businesses who have lost income and will continue to do so until the election cycle is completed.

Next steps

If indeed the Independent National Electoral Commission postponed the presidential election due to logistical reasons, the competence of its officials comes into play.

A great deal of emphasis has been placed on their perceived independence. And in the past there have been calls by several civil rights groups that the powers to appoint the chairperson of the electoral commission should not exclusively rest with the President.

But, in fact, the problem may lie elsewhere – too little attention has been given to the technical competence of the officials the commission employs.

They are often professors or retired judges, people who clearly do not have the technical ability to run a body like the commission where logistics play a huge role in the success of elections.

Going forward, Nigeria’s National Assembly needs to take its vetting exercise more seriously as it selects officials to run elections in the country.The Conversation

 

Fola Adeleke, Senior Research Fellow, University of the Witwatersrand

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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