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While Nigeria has made significant improvements to the quality of its elections since the transition to democratic rule in 1999, the 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections, which saw President Muhammadu Buhari reelected and the All Progressives Caucus (APC) regain its legislative majority, were marred by consistent irregularities. Corruption also remains endemic in the petroleum industry, a key sector of the economy. Security challenges, including the ongoing insurgency by the Boko Haram militant group, kidnappings, and communal and sectarian violence in the restive Middle Belt region, threaten the human rights of millions of Nigerians. The response by the military and law enforcement agencies to the widespread insecurity often involves extrajudicial killings, torture, and other abuses. Civil liberties are also undermined by religious and ethnic bias, and discrimination against women and LGBT+ people remains pervasive. The vibrant media landscape is impeded by criminal defamation laws, as well as the frequent harassment and arrests of journalists who cover politically sensitive topics.

Political Rights News Blog

Electoral Process
Members of the bicameral National Assembly, consisting of the 109-seat Senate and the 360-seat House of Representatives, are elected for four-year terms. The APC won 217 seats in the House of Representatives, with the PDP winning 115, candidates from other parties winning 20, and 8 going undeclared. In the Senate, the APC won 65 seats, while the PDP won 39 and the Young Progressives Party (YPP) won 1. Three seats went undeclared in the upper house.The 2019 National Assembly election took place concurrently with the presidential race, and election observers reported similar irregularities, including violence, intimidation of voters and officials, vote buying, and other forms of interference and coercion; election observers noted incidents where political party officials directed some voters on how to cast their ballots at polling stations. READ MORE

INEC declined to certify winning candidates in two Assembly races because their local returning officers operated under duress.in the electoral process, including a last-minute postponement of voting, delays at polling places that disenfranchised voters, insufficient transparency surrounding vote counting, the obstruction of observers, and violence and intimidation, including by the security forces.

Political Pluralism and Participation
Nigerians generally have the right to organize in different political parties. There were 91 registered political parties and 73 candidates for president in the 2019 contest, the largest number of parties and candidates since the country’s 1999 transition to democracy.A constitutional amendment signed by President Buhari in May 2018 allowed independent candidates to compete in federal and state elections for the first time. The president also signed a “Not Too Young to Run” bill that same month, lowering the age of eligibility to run for political office from 40 to 35 years. However, a lack of internal party democracy and high fees make it difficult for prospective candidates to vie for major party nominations. ill overshadow their competitors, occupying most elected offices in the country. READ MORE

Nigeria’s multiparty system provides an opportunity for opposition parties to gain power through elections, as demonstrated by President Buhari’s victory over his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, in 2015. Buhari’s election marked the first time in Nigerian history that a sitting president was peacefully replaced. Opposition parties can also gain influence when legislators cross the aisle; a wave of APC legislators defected to the PDP during the 2015–19 legislative session, ultimately depriving that party of its majority.New political parties have successfully entered the National Assembly in recent years; the new YPP won its first Senate seat in 2019. The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), which was formed in 2003, won nine seats in the lower house in 2019. However, two parties—the APC and PDP—st

Functioning of Government
Elected officials generally make and implement policy in Nigeria, but their ability to do so is impaired by factors including corruption, partisan conflict, poor control over areas of the country where militant groups are active, and the president’s undisclosed health problems, which have caused him to seek treatment outside the country in recent years.In addition, the president has demonstrated a willingness to obstruct government bodies while in office. In September 2019, President Buhari appointed an economic advisory council that superseded a constitutionally mandated economic management body chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. In November, Nigerian media reported that Buhari dismissed 35 of Osinbajo’s aides, and the vice president had been bypassed on several presidential decisions. The Nigerian government has attempted to reduce corruption in public and private institutions, but the practice remains pervasive, particularly in the oil and security sectors. A whistleblower policy introduced in 2016, which rewards Nigerians who provide information on government corruption, led to the recovery of 594 billion naira ($1.6 billion) in stolen funds by November 2019, according to the finance ministry.Nigerian politicians have been locked in an effort to curb corruption in the oil sector since atleast2001, when legislators first considered an expansive Petroleum Industry Bill. Since then, legislators have split the massive bill into three components in an effort to secure its passage. The National Assembly passed the first of these items, the long-awaited Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), in 2018, but President Buhari refused to sign it, objecting to large budgetary allocations for the proposed Petroleum Regulatory Commission (PRC). The Senate passed the bill again in April 2019, removing the PRC budget mechanism in an effort to resolve the impasse. Efforts to pass the bill were still ongoing at the end of the year.Anticorruption groups have voiced concern over President Buhari’s commitment to keep corrupt individuals from the cabinet after he appointed Timipre Sylva as a deputy petroleum minister in July 2019. Sylva, a former governor of Bayelsa State, was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on charges of fraud in 2013. The EFCC alleged he stole 19 billion naira ($53 million), but the case was dismissed in 2015, with the Federal High Court ruling that Sylva was denied due process by the EFCC.Nigerian customs officials have also been susceptible to corruption, allowing smuggled goods to enter the country through porous customs checks in return for bribes. In response, Nigeria took the step of closing its borders with neighboring Benin in August 2019 and with Niger in September. The Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), an umbrella organization for private businesses in the country, criticized the decision and called for a campaign to improve customs practices instead. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which counts all three countries as members, also objected to the move, warning that the border closure would hamper the region’s free trade agreement. The land border remained closed at the end of 2019.