Professor Attahiru Jega
Chairman, Independent National Election Commission
Securing Elections, Vote Counting, Election Security
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), party consultative mechanisms, Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), code of conduct
Thu Nov 8 2012
Professor Attahiru Jega describes his work with Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). When he and the new commission began their work, they introduced a system of checks and balances to reduce corruption among INEC staff. The commissioners created a culture of following the rules through their own example as well as through rewards and punishments. Good compensation and insurance for the hazards of their jobs served as motivation for INEC staff to follow the rules governing their conduct. If staff members were found guilty of misconduct through due process, commissioners did not hesitate to punish them as guidelines permitted. Jega describes the role of the six advisors he brought in to support his work as chairman. He explains the importance of party consultative mechanisms. To improve dialogue between the election management body and political parties, the commission established the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC). IPAC served as a common platform for parties to share ideas and engage on electoral issues. INEC also had periodic meetings with all of the parties, including meetings to review and sign the code of conduct governing party behavior. Established prior to the 2007 elections, the code was reviewed with party input prior to the 2011 elections and will be updated again prior to 2015. In regards to ensuring election security, Jega says he found that visible security, such as unarmed policemen at polls or aerial surveillance by air force, reassured the electorate and made people comfortable to come out and vote. Jega describes Nigeria’s unique open secret ballot system under which voters are accredited early in the day and then everyone votes at the same time. This system, modified from a system created in 1992, prevents people from moving between polling places in order to vote multiple times. Poll workers then count votes immediately at each polling place, a process voters can stay and watch if they want, further increasing credibility. The commission also implemented reforms in INEC itself, trimming the structure and aligning people with the right jobs. At the end of the interview, Jega describes the lessons African countries have shared, stressing Nigeria’s use of open source technology for voter registration and the importance of security in the Nigerian and African contexts. He concludes by looking ahead to how the commission can keep raising the bar.
Professor Attahiru Jega was chairman of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to which he was appointed in 2010. He had also served on the Justice Muhammed Lawal Uwais Electoral Reform Committee. Prior to his appointment, Professor Jega was the Vice Chancellor of Bayero University, Kano, where he also served as a professor of political science. He previously served as the national president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities. He is a recipient of the Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR) award from Nigeria’s Federal Government and the founding director of the Centre for Democratic Research and Training, “Mambayya House.” He earned his doctorate in political science from Northwestern University and his bachelor’s of science in political science from Bayero University College, Kano.