[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] and the Nigerian Bar Association [association website] called Sunday for Nigeria’s National Assembly (NASS) [official website] to pass legislation creating a special electoral offenses commission [statement]. The commission would be tasked with investigating and prosecuting election-related abuses, including violence. Presidential elections are scheduled in Nigeria for April 9, while voting for National Assembly members will occur on April 2, and voting for state governors and state assembly representatives will occur on April 16. These will be the first elections since the death of former president Umaru Yar’Adua [BBC obituary] in May. Former vice president Goodluck Jonathan [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] assumed the presidency in February 2010 after parliament voted [JURIST report] for him to step in for the ailing Yar’Adua. Previous elections in Nigeria have been marred by violence and fraud [JURIST reports]. HRW Senior West Africa Researcher Corinne Dufka said:
The National Assembly should use the last few weeks before elections in April to end the history of electoral impunity and to create an independent Electoral Offences Commission. Failure to do so would risk further entrenching violence and corruption in the electoral process and continue the disenfranchisement of Nigerian citizens.
According to HRW, more than 50 people have been killed since November in politically-motivated and election-related violence.
In November, a judge for Nigeria’s Federal High Court [official website] in Lagos ruled [JURIST report] that an amendment to the 1999 Nigerian Constitution [text] made by NASS cannot become operational law without the assent of the president. The amendment, known as the Constitution (First Amendment) Act 2010 [text, PDF] was passed in June. It repeals the Independent National Electoral Commission Act 2006 in order to re-instate the Nigerian Independent National Election Commission (INEC) [official website]. Also in June, the legislature passed [JURIST report] revisions to the constitution to clarify the exercise of executive authority in absence of the president. The constitutional revisions changed federal election law by removing a provision of the constitution that disallowed people who had been charged with fraud from standing for election and requiring candidates for federal office to have a degree beyond secondary education.