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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
03ABUJA658
2003-04-09 16:34:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Abuja
Cable title:  

NIGERIA: ELECTION COMMISSION CHAIRMAN SAYS

Tags:  PGOV KDEM PREL EAID NI 
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 000658 

SIPDIS


CAIRO FOR MAXSTADT


E.O. 12958 DECL: 03/30/2008
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PREL EAID NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: ELECTION COMMISSION CHAIRMAN SAYS
EVERYTHING'S ON SCHEDULE

Classified by Ambassador Howard F. Jeter, reason 1.5 (b).




1. (C) Summary: During a March 12 meeting, Independent
National Election Commission (INEC) Chairman Abel Guobadia
told Ambassador Jeter that INEC preparations were on
schedule; INEC would be ready to conduct elections in April
and a postponement was not contemplated. To demonstrate
INEC's readiness, Guobadia said INEC had finalized 90% of
the voters list and was ahead of schedule on ordering
ballot boxes and ballot papers. However, he claimed INEC
needed an additional appropriation of 12 billion Naira (USG
approximately 920 million) for election day expenses
(travel expenses, workers stipends, etc.) Guobadia's
picture of readiness contrasted with one painted by
opposition political parties. They claim INEC is bumbling
and highly partisan; they also say the electoral fix is on.
The truth may lie somewhere between. INEC has exerted
itself more than the suspicious opposition parties will
acknowledge; however, its performance in many areas,
especially voter registration, has been substandard. Much
of the criticism of INEC continues to be legitimate even at
this late stage. Despite Guobadia's assurances, INEC has
must make a gigantic, late hour push before it is ready.
End Summary.




2. (C) During a March 12 meeting with INEC Chairman
Guobadia, Ambassador underscored the importance of
successful elections. Nigeria would take a momentous step
in the right direction by holding its first successful
elections under civilian government. INEC would have won
itself an enviable place when the history of this period is
written, the Ambassador stressed. The entire world is
watching and hoping. He added that Nigeria likewise owed a
special duty to the sub-region, a region where its
leadership was preeminent and much needed. Noting that
West Africa had become an increasingly troubled
neighborhood, Jeter emphasized that credible elections
could be a democratic fillip to Nigeria's neighbors.
Conversely, poor elections could dash the hopes of
democracy elsewhere in the region, and further afield on
the continent. Failed elections would inevitably spark
greater unrest and violence at home.




3. (C) Ambassador Jeter informed Guobadia that he had
hosted a March 11 meeting with political party leaders.
All the parties in attendance uniformly criticized INEC's
election management. He suggested that INEC might consider
calling a special meeting of political party chairmen along
with the police, State Security Services (SSS) and the
Police Service Commission (PSC) to discuss the parties'
concerns about electoral preparations and security. Jeter
added that such a meeting could address numerous doubts and
misgivings the parties had about INEC. Moreover, the
parties seemed keenly interested in such a meeting, the
Ambassador said.




4. (C) Chairman Guobadia responded that INEC stood ready to
meet the parties. In fact, he had hosted such a meeting
earlier that day but only 12 of the 30 parties attended.
At the previous regular meeting with the parties a few
weeks before, only four parties showed, the Chairman
asserted. (Comment: Guobadia's description of party
attendance was accurate. After his meeting with Ambassador
Jeter, Guobadia met party leaders on March 17 to discuss
the anti-violence Code of Conduct. At the March 17
unveiling of the Code, only nine parties attended the
session and signed the instrument. The ruling PDP and ANPP,
the two largest parties, failed to attend. During the March
19 special elections stakeholders meeting called by the
President, the remaining parties vowed their assent and all
but four have signed. Unfortunately, the PDP and ANPP have
yet to sign due to a feud over which one should go first.
End Comment.)




5. (U) Guobadia continued that INEC regularly conferred
with the Police, PSC and SSS regarding election day
security, particularly for INEC personnel and sensitive
election material such as ballots, ballot boxes and vote
tabulation sheets. He explained that the National Police
force had only 90,000 active officers, meaning a deployment
of less than one officer for each of the 120,000 polling
stations nationwide. To address the obvious gap, help would
be needed from the SSS and other security related agencies.




--------------------------



--------------------------


Voter's Registration - Is The Cup Half Full Or Half Empty?


--------------------------



--------------------------






6. (C) On the all important issue of voter registration,
The Chairman claimed INEC was 90% finished with finalizing
the voters rolls. He claimed that most states had begun to
display the list. He added that 10% of the total voter
applications were discarded for being fraudulent.




7. (C) Comment: Guobadia's portrayal of voter's
registration was inaccurate almost to the point of
dissimulation. According to our best evidence, lists were
displayed in only a few states and only a few areas in
those states. INEC has yet to finalize and display the
voters list in every state. INEC announced subsequent to
this meeting with the Ambassador that the lists would be
displayed and voters cards made available the second week
in April, just a few days before the April 12 National
Assembly elections. This probably will not provide
sufficient time for the statutorily required period for the
public to raise objections to the list. Moreover, INEC had
announced in early March that the claims period was March
11-12, although the lists were not ready for the vast
majority of voters to review. The litany of grievances with
the registration process has caused the political parties
and much of the public to believe that INEC has already
significantly undermined the election and to suspect that
INEC will not be prepared to handle election logistics. End
Comment)




8. (C) Guobadia acknowledged that INEC's late release of
the voters rolls had not gone unchallenged. The National
Democratic Party (NPD) had filed suit claiming INEC had
abrogated the electoral law by not publicizing the voters
lists at least 60 days before the April elections
commenced. In a legal interpretation not previously heard
from INEC, the Chairman contended the law simply required
INEC to have concluded the actual process of receiving
registration applications from the voters 60 days prior to
the election. INEC's contention was that the 60-day
requirement did not refer to displaying the voters roll.
(Comment: This interpretation is novel and expectant.
Simply put, INEC has not published the rolls. It needs to
defend itself from charges of flouting the law. This new,
facile interpretation will further diminish INEC
credibility; INEC's original timetable had scheduled the
publication of the voters roll prior to February in
observance of the 60 day requirement. End Comment.)




--------------------------

--
The Ballots Are Coming, The Ballots Are Coming!


--------------------------

--




9. (C) On the positive side, Guobadia announced that the
delivery of ballot paper and ballot boxes was on schedule,
in fact, he claimed that vendor had wanted to send ballots
and boxes ahead of time. Containers of ballot paper had
already been delivered but Guobadia had to inform his
suppliers in Canada, United Kingdom and Germany to halt
delivery as INEC lacked sufficient warehouse space.
Guobadia did not want the headache of procuring additional
storage space and he feared tampering if too many ballots
were in Nigeria too early. Guobadia remarked that the
ballot papers would be significantly bulkier than the 1999
version -- due to the increased number of parties this
time. Consequently, new boxes, manufactured in China, with
larger openings would replace the ones used in 1999.




--------------------------


I Need Money For Election Day


--------------------------






10. (C) While stating that funding had been sufficient to
meet pre-election day needs, Guobadia warned INEC required
another 12 billion Naira for election day expenses, four
billion for each of the three contests. (April 12 -
National Assembly, April 19 - Presidential and
gubernatorial, April 26 - possible run-off.) Major election
day expenses Guobadia mentioned were stipends and
transportation costs for several hundred thousand poll
workers, transport of material to and from polling stations
and logistical support at vote tabulation centers.
Guobadia expressed concern whether INEC would have
sufficiently qualified administrators to manage vote
tabulation centers properly. These collation centers were
where the real problems would arise. "Here is where a vote
of 1,000 can become 10,000," he contended. Because of the
need for non-partisan, qualified managers at these sites,
INEC has resorted to a special call to the private sector
and retired senior civil servants to staff these crucial
positions on election day. (Note: Newspapers report that
INEC has received over 9 billion Naira from FY 03
appropriations to help meet these expenses.)




--------------------------


Monitors


--------------------------






11. (C) Guobadia stated the Foreign Ministry not INEC
would vet the names of the foreign monitors. INEC's role
was limited to providing badges once the MFA had approved
the names. Regarding domestic monitors, INEC had the
primary responsibility to vet and clear these individuals.
INEC's main concern, in vetting the monitors, was that they
be non-partisan. He added that domestic monitors would not
have to register at INEC's national headquarters but could
obtain accreditation at the various state headquarters.
(Comment: Visiting Carter Center representatives expressed
fears about INEC's capacity to register and accredit the
expected 20,000-30,000 monitors. Ambassador arranged a
meeting for them with Guobadia where they proposed that
INEC simply register the organizations and provide them
with numbered badges corresponding to the number of
observers each organization planned to field. Guobadia
claimed he liked the idea, but we are uncertain if it was
implemented. End Comment.)




--------------------------


Comment


--------------------------






12. (C) Guobadia put his best foot forward but the road is
long and the destination cannot be reached with only one or
two steps. INEC is scrambling to be minimally ready for
the April 12 National Assembly election. The National
Assembly contests, in and of themselves, have not elicited
much public interest; however, most people are interested
or at least curious not because of the contests themselves
but because the April 12 elections may provide INEC a dry-
run for the big test -- the Presidential and Gubernatorial
elections on April 19. Thus, the quality of the National
Assembly will greatly influence perceptions going into the
Presidential contest. At this late date, INEC can do little
to improve voter registration. However, INEC may be
forgiven many of its pre-election lapses if it is seen as
conducting the balloting and the vote tabulation as a
competent neutral agent. This achievement is still within
INEC's reach but only if the Commission exerts itself
mightily during the last waning days.


JETER