A report by the United States Government suggests that security operatives in Nigeria intimidated voters, officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and election observers during the 2019 general elections.
In its 2019 country reports on human rights practices, the US Department of State noted that the elections in Nigeria within the year under review were marred by violence and practices which did not encourage enough voter participation in the electoral exercise.
“There was evidence military and security services intimidated voters, electoral officials, and election observers.
“In addition violence in several states contributed to lower voter participation and added to the sentiment the army is a tool of the ruling party in many parts of the country, particularly in the South.
“For example, widespread violence and military involvement in electoral processes, including during the vote collation process, significantly scarred the governorship election in Rivers State. Additionally several of INEC’s resident electoral commissioners (RECs) reported DSS operatives intimidated them when the RECs attempted to protect voting materials.
“Some RECs reported security service personnel visited them multiple times prior to the elections. Press reported certain RECs claimed the DSS was surveilling the RECs and that they had been brought to DSS offices for questioning,” the report partly read.
It further stated that there were reports that corruption including vote-buying were historically high during the 2018-19 electoral season.
The report cited events in Osun and Kano as examples of places where vote-buying took place.
The Department of State further stated in its report that the Nigerian judiciary was still susceptible to intimidation by the executive and the legislative arms of government, adding that there was corruption in the judiciary, which made it not to be able to function independently.
According to the 46-page report, court officials in Nigeria are poorly paid thereby making them susceptible to manipulation.
“Although the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, the judicial branch remained susceptible to pressure from the executive and legislative branches. Political leaders influenced the judiciary, particularly at the state and local levels.
“Understaffing, underfunding, inefficiency, and corruption prevented the judiciary from functioning adequately.
“There are no continuing education requirements for attorneys, and police officers were often assigned to serve as prosecutors.
“Judges frequently failed to appear for trials. In addition, the salaries of court officials were low, and they often lacked proper equipment and training.”
Staying on the judiciary issue, the US Department of State in its communique said there was a widespread public perception that judges were easily bribed and litigants could not rely on the courts to render impartial judgments.
According to the report, citizens encountered long delays and received requests from judicial officials for bribes to expedite cases or obtain favorable rulings.
“Although the Ministry of Justice implemented strict requirements for education and length of service for judges at the federal and state levels, no requirements or monitoring bodies existed for judges at the local level. This contributed to corruption and the miscarriage of justice in local courts,” the report partly read.