Cablegate: Meeting with Inec National Chairman Guobadia

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

110721Z Feb 04




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Meeting with INEC National Chairman Guobadia


1. (SBU) Summary: Independent National Electoral
Commission (INEC) Chairman Dr. Abel Guobadia believes
that the upcoming Local Government Area elections will
go well and that the National Assembly will release
budgeted funds to INEC sooner this year, allowing for
proper funding of programs. The chairman again blamed
INEC problems on funding and passed the buck on several
issues to the State Independent Electoral Commissions.
End Summary

Relationship of INEC to SIEC

2. (SBU) Desk officer for Nigeria Dan Epstein, along
with Pol/Econ Counselor Maxstadt, Poloff Werner, and
Aidoff Wright, met with INEC Chairman Dr. Abel Guobadia
on February 9. Dr. Guobadia evaded questions about the
upcoming Local Government Area (LGA) elections, saying
they are managed by the State Independent Electoral
Commissions (SIECs). Guobadia said the National Voters
Register had been completed before the April 2003
general elections, and sent to the SIECs. He mentioned
that the SIECs had a potentially more serious problem
with funding: while INEC receives funding directly from
the Presidency, SIECs rely on funds passed by the
Presidency to the governors, and each governor funds
his state's SIEC as he sees fit. In addition, Guobadia
stated that the SIECs appoint and select all presiding
officers, so INEC cannot be held accountable for their
actions or training. All that said, Guobadia expected
the LGA elections to proceed fairly smoothly. He said
he could not comment on the recent elections in Niger
and Sokoto States nor on the dispute over whether
elections conducted in newly created LGAs in those
states would stand. He said newly created LGAs were a
constitutional issue to be resolved by the presidency.
We will report on all LGA elections after they are
conducted on March 27.

Election Tribunals

3. (U) Guobadia seemed frustrated by the need for INEC
to appear in every election tribunal case. This has
had a serious impact on INEC staffing and funds, and
Guobadia estimated that 40 percent of all 1000 plus
seats in the 2003 general elections had been
challenged. When asked about how INEC reconciled its
non-partisan "honest broker" role with its role of
defending cases in Nigeria's adversarial legal system,
Guobadia was quick to state that INEC only presents
documents and defends the announced results, not
actions taken or not taken during the election. 85
percent of tribunal cases were thrown out in the first
round for technicalities, but he thought the Appeals
Courts were moving beyond technicalities (in the cases
that remain). He stated that a handful of election
results had been overturned, mainly due to candidate's
not having the required qualifications. Guobadia
believed that most other cases would be resolved over
the next three months. The Buhari presidential
tribunal, however, could go to the Supreme Court. In
the handful of overturned cases, by-elections have been
ordered, but currently a party cannot field another
candidate if the original candidate was disqualified by
the election tribunal, although this is being
challenged in court.

Funding and Staffing Issues

4. (U) Guobadia believed that the way to avoid problems
in the 2007 elections revolved around receiving
sufficient funding for INEC. Guobadia said that INEC
has already proposed its funding needs to the National
Assembly, but still awaits confirmation. The FY 2003
budget allocation was more than 1 billion naira (about
$7.4 million), but INEC has only received 250 million
naira from the presidency to date. While declaring his
appreciation for USG funding for INEC's implementing
partner, IFES, Guobadia asked that the USG do whatever
it can to push funding from the GON. He said that the
funding delay in 2002 affected the start of voter
registration, which then pushed back all other INEC
initiatives for the 2003 elections. He believed that
legislators now understand the problems the lack of
funds had caused and probably will not make the same
mistakes in 2007.

5. (U) Guobadia seemed unconcerned about staffing
issues, even the controversial use of ad hoc staff in
the running of elections. He agreed that the recent by-
election in Abuja went well without ad hoc staff, but
said INEC would continue using ad hoc staff for future
elections, and he expects to be able to train more of
them better in time for the 2007 general elections.

The Future

6. (U) Guobadia said INEC still has not started
updating the national voter register, although they
hope to have a computer database functional by mid-
2004. Guobadia hopes to integrate fingerprint matching
in the database by 2007. In addition to a more
advanced voter register, Guobadia hoped to change the
Electoral Law to allow absentee ballots.


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