Barring any changes, like in 2015 and 2019, more than 84 million voters are registered to decide who will be the 16th Nigerian head of state and the 6th democratically elected President in February 2023.
In past elections, voter turnout has been an issue of serious concern, and this is mostly linked to the shrinking status of voter rights. A study carried out by Saheed Olasunkanmi on “Voter’s Education and Credible Election In Nigeria: Issues and Challenges of 2019 General Elections” indicates there is a dearth of information on voter awareness due to interference of military rule in the country.
To forestall apathy, voters’ education and effective electoral institutions remain integral to the successful conduct of the electoral process, especially, in a bid to grow and sustain the democratic process in Nigeria.
With the Electoral Acts Amendment bill passed on February 25, 2022, many changes for candidates, parties, and other stakeholders are still unknown.
What rights do voters possess on election day, and how can they defend them?
- Exercise franchise
Entrenched in the 1999 Constitution (as amended), every citizen who has satisfied the requirements laid down by the law is eligible to vote and be voted for.
With a valid voter’s card displaying his/her identity, a voter can exercise his/her rights after verifying the validity of his or her Voters Register before the election begins.
A candidate contesting in the election is not excluded from this. With all legal requirements fulfilled before the election day, a candidate under the sponsorship of a political party has the right to vote.
- Privacy of choice
Voters have the right to mark their ballot papers (make their choices) in secret. The presence of polling booths ensures the secrecy and safety of voters’ choices are maintained.
In case of violence or other vices, common in African elections, polling booths provide privacy and security for voters.
- Right to information about the election
During the election, a voter is entitled to make enquiries without fear of punishment from security officers and electoral officials. Officials present at the polling unit must attend to electorates’ questions relating to the voting processes.
Also, a voter has a right to be informed about the details of the election after the end of the voting period. The Freedom of Information Act bill, passed into law in 2011, gives everyone -including voters- the right to request any recorded information held by a public authority. Elections are supported by public funds, making voters eligible to ask for any information at the poll.
- Election results observation
Electorates can wait after voting to follow the outcome properly. No official is allowed to intimidate a voter into leaving the polling unit before, during or after the vote-counting process.
Voters at the polling unit can engage in the counting process with the election Presiding Officer to ensure transparency. Electorates can also question election officials in cases of discrepancies. However, no voter must intimidate an election official into manipulating the counting process.