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Cablegate: Nigeria: Civil Society Pushes for Electoral Reform

VZCZCXRO7053
OO RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHUJA #1642/01 2121526
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 311526Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY ABUJA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0456
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHWR/AMEMBASSY WARSAW 0491
RUEHCD/AMCONSUL CIUDAD JUAREZ 0486
RUEHOS/AMCONSUL LAGOS 7526
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 001642

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/W - SILSKI, AYBAR, INR - SANDERS
DOE FOR CAROLYN GAY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM NI ELECTIONS
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: CIVIL SOCIETY PUSHES FOR ELECTORAL REFORM

ABUJA 00001642 001.2 OF 003


THIS MESSAGE IS SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. NOT FOR INTERNET
DISTRIBUTION.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Three months after Nigeria's deeply flawed
elections, civil society is keeping the pressure on the new
administration to acknowledge the failures of the 2007
elections and reform the electoral process. The week of July
23, civil society held two events: (1) a citizens' electoral
tribunal to give a public opportunity for individuals to
testify on the electoral fraud they witnessed and how the
system could be reformed and (2) a conference aimed at
developing concrete recommendations for electoral reform.
Participants at the two events highlighted, among other
areas, the need for an independent INEC, removal of INEC's
authority to certify candidates, stiff penalties for INEC
officials participating in fraud, a published voter register,
staggered state elections, democratic reform within the
parties, and an empowered media. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) The Alliance for Credible Elections (ACE) held a
Citizens' Electoral Tribunal on July 24-25 in Abuja. The aim
of the tribunal was to give ordinary citizens a public
setting to describe the irregularities they personally
witnessed in the 2007 elections. In preparing for the
tribunal, ACE employees traveled to each of Nigeria's 36
states to interview private citizens about the election days.
ACE identified five individuals from each state who were
willing to talk about the irregularities. ACE employees
noted that individuals in the South South (particularly in
Bayelsa and Delta states) were very suspicious of anyone
"from Abuja" and they found almost no one willing to talk on
tape about what they had seen. Following their testimony,
each witness was asked to give their personal recommendations
on needed reforms. Most recommendations focused on the need
for an independent INEC with oversight either in the National
Assembly or by a multi-party committee and the need to
stagger future elections to allow government, NGO and media
resources to be focused on the state holding the elections.
ACE plans to publish its findings and to use the
recommendations to lobby the National Assembly.

3. (SBU) On July 25-26, the National Democratic Institute
(NDI), in collaboration with the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC)
and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) held the All Nigeria
Civil Society Conference on the April 2007 Elections. The
conference brought together members of civil society, media
and political parties to formulate concrete proposals for
electoral reform. Poloffs even met representatives of INEC
who, though they sat quietly and didn't advertise the fact
that they were INEC employees, appeared to be taking copious
notes. In the opening morning of the conference, speakers
highlighted the irregularities and shortcomings observed in
the pre-election, election day and post-election periods.
Recommendations will be drafted into an official communique
for use in lobbying the National Assembly.

PRE-ELECTION REFORMS
--------------------

4. (SBU) Discussion of reform of the pre-election process
focused on changes within INEC, amendments to the
Constitution and Electoral Act and reforming the political
parties. INEC was unanimously seen as the root of many of
the irregularities in the April polls. The need for an
independent INEC, both fiscally independent and removed from
the influence of the presidency, was a repeated theme. It
was suggested that the INEC budget should come directly from
the consolidated account of the Federation, as opposed to
being allocated by the Executive. A rigorous selection
process, similar to that of Chief Justice, was recommended
for the INEC Chairman. As well, participants noted the need
for a well-trained, professional INEC staff capable of
overseeing elections. With staggered state elections, this
well-trained staff could be deployed to oversee multiple
elections per year. Participants also stressed the need for
a comprehensive and published voter registry, noting the need
to begin the registration exercise now rather than
immediately prior to an election.


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5. (SBU) Though much of the problem with the legislative
basis for elections remains enforcement, participants noted
some specific legislative changes needed. They lamented that
the Nigerian Constitution is too specific, necessitating
Constitution amendments in order to amend procedures in the
Electoral Act. Participants called for the provision of the
Electoral Act allowing for INEC "certification" of candidates
to be removed. In addition, they noted that polling hours
should be set in the Act and that the Act should stipulate
the exact method of publishing (including online) the voter
registry. Participants also recommended that the polling
date be set for 3-6 months prior to the inauguration, to
allow sufficient time for resolution of appeals.

6. (SBU) Political parties were seen as the third area for
reform in the pre-election process. Participants expressed
frustration at the lack of internal democracy and defined
ideologies in Nigerian political parties. Party leaders
should be elected in a free and fair manner and should
involve party members in the decision making process.
Participants recommended that parties should independently
generate their funding through outreach to a broad membership
base, rather than the current system of handouts from INEC or
relying on a few wealthy individuals -- both of which provide
an avenue for influence and manipulation by a few individuals.

ELECTION DAY REFORMS
--------------------

7. (SBU) Many of the reforms suggested for INEC in the
pre-election period follow into election day. The
participants recommended a professional INEC staff oversee
staggered state elections throughout the year. As well, they
recommended the institution and enforcement of stiff
penalties for fraud, falsification of documents, or
intimidation by those in charge of polling stations. It was
recommended that each polling station supervisor be held
accountable for the authenticity of results at his polling
station. Despite the fact that many of these "reforms"
already exist in Nigerian law, participants called for their
enforcement in practice. Participants also noted the need
for an empowered domestic media that could announce election
results directly from polling stations and collation centers
as the count is completed. This would improve transparency
and accountability in the tabulation process.

POST-ELECTION REFORMS
---------------------

8. (SBU) The NBA noted that there were 1,260 petitions filed
before the electoral tribunals challenging the results of the
April 14 and 21 elections. (NOTE: Not all of these petitions
met the documentary requirements or were accepted by the
tribunals.) According to the NBA, the funding received by
the Judiciary to carry out the tribunals was only 20 percent
of that needed and roughly amounted to USG funding to NDI and
IRI to carry out elections support. One participant
recommended a clause in the constitution that would allow for
wholesale annulment of the elections in a case where there
were so many challenges. Participants felt strongly that a
group of voters (not just political parties or candidates)
should be allowed to petition and challenge the outcome --
after all, it was noted, the voters are the most aggrieved
party in bad elections. As well, participants recommended
that all records be deposited with the Supreme Court
following the conclusion of elections, to prevent INEC from
withholding or tampering with information. Participants
expressed concern that elected officials who knew their
election was likely to be overturned had increased incentive
to accumulate wealth quickly, before they could be removed
from their new positions.

9. (SBU) COMMENT. Nigerian civil society has been successful
to this point in keeping the discussion of the April 2007
elections alive and maintaining a focus on needed reforms.
The two events were well attended by civil society and media
alike and could lay the foundation for a coordinated lobbying
effort on the part of Nigerian NGOs within the National
Assembly. END COMMENT.

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