The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), set up in 1998, is the electoral body which was set up to oversee elections in Nigeria. The INEC has encountered several controversies in the run-up to elections in the country, most notably the April 2007 general elections, including criticism about its preparedness from Sada Abubakar, Sultan of Sokoto and a dispute over its “disqualification” of Vice president Atiku Abubakar’s candidacy.The Supreme Court ruled that the INEC can not disqualify candidates, so Abubakar’s name was added to ballots at the last minute.
On the subject of election irregularities, INEC spokesman Philip Umeadi said on April 19 that “We are not sitting on any crisis in Nigeria.”. The mission of INEC is to serve as an independent and effective EMB committed to the conduct of free, fair and credible elections for sustainable democracy in Nigeria. The vision of INEC is to be one of the best Election Management Bodies (EMB) in the world that meets the aspirations of the Nigerian people.
The origin of the INEC goes back to the period before Independence when the Electoral Commission of Nigeria was established to conduct 1959 elections. The Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO), established in 1960 conducted the immediate post-independence federal and regional elections of 1964 and 1965. The electoral body was dissolved after the military coup of 1966. In 1978, the Federal Electoral Commission was constituted by the regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo, organizing the elections of 1979 which ushered in the Nigerian Second Republic under the leadership of Alhaji Shehu Shagari. It also conducted the general elections of 1983.
In December 1995, the military government of General Sani Abacha established the National Electoral Commission of Nigeria which conducted another set of elections. These elected institutions were not inaugurated before the sudden death of General Abacha on June 1998 aborted the process. In 1998 General Abdulsalam Abubakar’s Administration dissolved NECON and established the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). INEC organized the transitional elections that ushered in the Nigerian Fourth Republic on May 29, 1999.
In January 2015, the “#BringBackOurGirls group has raised the alarm over plans by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to exclude Chibok and some communities currently under the control of the Boko Haram from getting the permanent voter cards (PVCs) for the February elections.
The chairmen of the first Nigerian Federal Electoral Commission was Chief Eyo Esua (1964–1966) in the First Republic. When General Olusegun Obasanjo prepared for a return to civilian power in the Second Republic, he established a new Federal Electoral Commission headed by Chief Michael Ani to supervise the 1979 elections. Ani was succeeded by Justice Victor Ovie Whisky. During the Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha regimes, which attempted returns to democracy, the National Electoral Commission of Nigeria was headed by Professor Eme Awa (1987–1989), Professor Humphrey Nwosu (1989–1993), Professor Okon Uya and Chief Sumner Dagogo-Jack (1994–1998).
General Abdulsalami Abubakar established the current INEC, with Justice Ephraim Akpata as chairman. Akpata had to deal with 26 political associations, giving only nine provisional registration as political parties for the 1998/1999 elections, eventually whittled down to three parties. Despite efforts to ensure free and fair elections, the process drew serious criticism from international observers. After Akpata died in January 2000, the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed Abel Guobadia Nigeria’s Chief Electoral Officer, a position that was confirmed by the Nigerian Senate in May 2000. Guobadia was responsible for the 2003 elections, which were marred by widespread violence and other irregularities.
In June 2005, Guobadia retired and was succeeded by Professor Maurice Iwu. Soon after being appointed, Iwu announced that foreign monitors would not be allowed during elections, but only foreign election observers. This decision was condemned by politicians and civil society groups who called for his immediate removal from office.The conduct of the 2007 elections was again criticized as falling below acceptable democratic standards.
On 8 June, 2010, Professor Attahiru Muhammadu Jega was nominated by President Goodluck Jonathan as the new INEC Chairman, subject to Senate confirmation, as a replacement for Iwu, who had vacated the post on 28 April 2010. Jega’s nomination as INEC chairman followed approval by a meeting of the National Council of State called by President Jonathan and attended by former heads of state Yakubu Gowon, Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida, Abdulsalami Abubakar, Ernest Shonekan, Olusegun Obasanjo and Shehu Shagari. The Senate President David Mark, Speaker of the House of Representatives Oladimeji Bankole, and most of the state Governors also attended the meeting. Unanimous approval by the council of the nominee for this critical appointment avoided controversy about whether or not the President should appoint the chairman of the INEC.Reactions to the announcement from a broad spectrum of political leaders and organisations were positive, although some voiced concern that it could be too late to implement real reforms before the 2011 elections.
During the campaigning for the 2015 Nigerian general election, Attahiru Jega “faced fierce criticism from both the opposition and the ruling party.” Attahiru Jega’s five-year term came to an end on June 30, 2015, and though he was qualified for re-appointment, the chances of such became remote given the allegations of bias against him by campaign officials of President Goodluck.