According to human rights attorney Femi Falana, SAN, “plutocracy has replaced democracy in Nigeria,” and as a result, “people have lost faith in the democratic process.”
Only 22 million of the 93 million registered voters cast ballots in the presidential election, according to Falana.
This was declared by Falana in a keynote speech at the 2023 Law Week Programme of the Nigerian Bar Association, Benin Branch, held in Benin City, Edo State, and titled “General Elections in Nigeria 2023: A Review of the Nation’s Political Culture and Electoral Integrity.”
Falana pleaded with the NBA to apply pressure to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to “address the problems of late arrival of INEC officials and ballot materials at the polling stations, malfunctioning BVAS machines, and limited or non-transmission of the results from the polling units to Results Viewing Portal (IReV).”
The paper stated, in part, that “INEC must also address insecurity at some polling units, including violent attacks on voters and officials, voter intimidation, snatching and destruction of voting materials, significant cases of vote-buying, and limited access facilities for persons living with disabilities.”
As soon as the various election petition tribunals, the Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court have concluded their consideration of the election petitions, the Benin chapter of the NBA should persuade the national body of attorneys to convene a national summit to evaluate the 2023 general elections.
“The NBA should make sure that all necessary parties are represented at the summit. In order to institutionalize legitimate elections in Nigeria, the NBA should work with the judiciary committees of both chambers of the national assembly to prepare modifications to the Constitution and the Electoral Act at the program’s conclusion.
All mass-based organizations must encourage the Nigerian people to participate in democracy and take control of their political future.
“Even though we are prohibited by ethical rules from commenting on the petitions that are pending before the Court of Appeal and the various election petition tribunals, we are not prohibited from reviewing the recent rulings of the Supreme Court that have reshaped the country’s electoral jurisprudence,” the statement reads.
The Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended] and several human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to which Nigeria is a state party, recognize and enshrine the democracy and human rights of the Nigerian people. Accordingly, the NBA must defend these rights.
The federal republic of Nigeria must be a nation built on the values of democracy and social justice, according to sections 14(1) and (2) of the Constitution.
In light of this, “sovereignty belongs to the people from whom government shall derive all of its powers and authority through the Constitution, the security of the people shall be the primary purpose of government, and the participation of the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.”
According to article 13(1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, which states that “every citizen shall have the right to participate in the government of their country, either directly or indirectly or through chosen representatives in accordance with the law, it may be argued that the provisions of section 14 of the Constitution relate to merely political objectives which are not justiciable.
But in contrast to the Constitution and the African Charter, which call for popular democracy, the political class in Nigeria has made money off of the democratic process.
The APC and PDP made the decision to limit participation in the 2022 party primaries by imposing nomination fees that the majority of party members cannot afford. In the APC’s presidential primary, for instance, each candidate paid a nomination price of N100 million, whilst the PDP only received N40 million from each candidate.
“And several of the candidates bribed delegates with millions of dollars at the location of the conventions of both parties held in Abuja last year. Billions of Naira and millions of dollars were consumed throughout the campaigns and elections. The purchasers acted in an environment of impunity despite the anti-graft agencies’ threats to stop the monetization of the elections.
“Democracy has subsequently been supplanted by plutocracy as a result of moneybags’ complete influence over the political system. As if that weren’t bad enough, armed thugs attacked voters who didn’t support particular political figures.
“137 individuals lost their lives as a result of the violence that ruined the polls in several areas of the nation. The electioneering campaign was based on religion and ethnicity rather than the socioeconomic issues the populace was facing. Members of the national assembly gave INEC authority to deregister political parties that failed to secure any seats in the legislature rather than increasing the democratic space.
“The members of the ruling class have completely excluded the majority of the people from the democratic process by hijacking it.”
“Mass-based organizations should be motivated to engage in politics since the ruling class will not peacefully cede power to the people. It is the only option to end Nigeria’s winner-take-all presidential system, which is extremely expensive and violent and has rendered democracy moot.
However, it is important to highlight that the deployment of BVAS devices stopped vote inflation. As a result, numerous politicians suffered election losses. Many sitting senators lost their seats, while some governors lost their bids for the Senate.
“Even if the democratic process took place between February and March 2023 under difficulties, the legal struggle to confirm the election’s real winners may not be settled until the beginning of next year. The rationale is that courts now serve as the new polling places for elections.
“It is argued that, despite the flaws that marred the general elections of 2023, INEC’s limited use of technology was to blame for the decline in the number of election petitions submitted by disgruntled candidates.”
“The National Assembly and state electoral bodies must ensure full technology deployment in the conduct of national and local elections in Nigeria.”
“Electoral bodies in three African nations, namely Angola, Kenya, and Nigeria, conducted general elections in 2022.”
The Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court both issued decisions in response to petitions filed challenging the presidential election results in Angola and Kenya that had been announced by the election administration agencies.
“But in the case of Nigeria, the results of the presidential and legislative elections will be confirmed after 8 months, while the results of the governorship elections will be confirmed after 10 months.”
“INEC announced the winners and presented them with certificates of return at the conclusion of the 2023 general elections.”
However, despite the general election’s flaws, 436 election petitions have been filed with the Court of Appeal and other election petition courts.
“It is interesting to note that there haven’t been as few election petitions filed against Nigerian elections since 2007!”
The Constitution and the Electoral Act require the courts to evaluate the ultimate results of the democratic exercise because the election results have been contested by numerous disgruntled parties.
“The judiciary is in the eye of the storm because in a number of recent political cases the courts had relied on technicalities and thus granted victories to those who had never won elections.”
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, the Honourable Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, has issued a warning to tribunal judges urging them to avoid using money and technicalities in their decisions over ongoing election disputes in acknowledgment of the predicament in which the judiciary has found itself.
The NBA has offered to mobilize attorneys to carry out the prosecution of the accused electoral offenders who were detained during the most recent elections because INEC lacks the competence to do so. The identities of the prosecutors for the prosecution have been prepared based on the information I have available. In fact, the prosecution is about to start right now.
The bulk of political parties’ primary elections were conducted worse by the political parties and leaders that have accused the Independent National Electoral Commission of mismanaging the 2023 general elections, according to the records.
“It is well known that every one of the so-called party chieftains imposed candidates. As a result, 1,878 pre-election complaints in total were filed in 2022 as opposed to 370 instances in total in 2019.
“While 807 post-election cases were filed in 2019, 436 post-election petitions have been filed in relation to the general elections of 2023.”