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Benchmarking The Integrity Of The 2019 National Elections – By Jaye Gaskia



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– The Journey So Far: The Perspective Of The African Charter On Democracy, Elections And Governance:

[Being The Text Of A Keynote Address At A One Day Policy Dialogue On The 2019 Elections Convened By Actionaid Nigeria]: Thursday, 7th February 2019.


The 2019 general elections are almost upon us, and only in a matter of days, not weeks we shall be done with the Presidential and National Assembly [NASS] elections scheduled by INEC for 16th February 2019. This shall be followed two weeks later by the State elections into both the executive and legislative arms of government at the state level.

This one-day policy dialogue on Benchmarking the preparations towards the 2019 general elections against the backdrop of the Africa Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance [ACDEG], which is coming barely nine days to the first phase of that elections could not have come at a more apt time than this.

Towards achieving this purpose, I have been invited to present a lead paper at this one-day discussion that is focused on Bench-Marking the 2019 Electoral Process and how it complies in particular with Articles 17, 18, 19 20, 21 and 22 of the ACDEG.

Given that the design of the dialogue is to focus conversations on critical issues below, around which my presentation shall be based:

a.            INEC and the 2019 pre-election preparation

b.            Campaign Financing

c.             Youth and Women Participation/inclusion

d.            Critical controversies around the election

e.            Election Observation and Observers status

f.             Election induced vote buying

g.            Media coverage around the election and other critical issue that the ACDEG supports as practice of democratic elections.

It is important at this juncture to note that the African Charter is designed to foster the adherence to Democracy, Good Governance and Rule of Law and respect for Human rights by all state parties that have ratified it.


To begin this conversation let us undertake a brief excursion into the relevant provisions of the ACDEG.

First, we Look at the Objectives of the charter in provisions under Chapter two, Article two of the charter. The most relevant sections are 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, and 13 of Article 2. They are reproduced bellow as follows:

 ‘’The objectives of this Charter are to:

1. Promote adherence, by each State Party, to the universal values and

principles of democracy and respect for human rights;

2. Promote and enhance adherence to the principle of the rule of law

premised upon the respect for, and the supremacy of, the Constitution

and constitutional order in the political arrangements of the State


3. Promote the holding of regular free and fair elections to institutionalize

legitimate authority of representative government as well as

democratic change of governments;

4. Prohibit, reject and condemn unconstitutional change of government in

any Member State as a serious threat to stability, peace, security and


5. Promote and protect the independence of the judiciary;

6. Nurture, support and consolidate good governance by promoting

democratic culture and practice, building and strengthening

governance institutions and inculcating political pluralism and


10. Promote the establishment of the necessary conditions to foster citizen

participation, transparency, access to information, freedom of the press

and accountability in the management of public affairs;

11. Promote gender balance and equality in the governance and

development processes;

13. Promote best practices in the management of elections for purposes of

political stability and good governance.’’

The next relevant set of provisions are to be found in Sections 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10 and 11 of the Principles of the charter under Chapter three quoted below:

‘’State Parties shall implement this Charter in accordance with the following


1. Respect for human rights and democratic principles;

3. Promotion of a system of government that is representative;

4. Holding of regular, transparent, free and fair elections;

5. Separation of powers;

6. Promotion of gender equality in public and private institutions;

7. Effective participation of citizens in democratic and development

processes and in governance of public affairs;

10. Condemnation and total rejection of unconstitutional changes of


11. Strengthening political pluralism and recognising the role, rights and

responsibilities of legally constituted political parties, including

opposition political parties, which should be given a status under

national law’’.

Furthermore, the provisions of the two sections [1 & 2] of Chapter Four, titled ‘’Democracy, Rule of law and Human Rights’’ given below are also relevant to any serious benchmarking exercise:

‘’1. State Parties shall commit themselves to promote democracy, the

principle of the rule of law and human rights.

2. State Parties shall recognize popular participation through universal

suffrage as the inalienable right of the people’’.

Finally, the most directly relevant sections with respect to the aims and objectives of this policy dialogue are to be found in the provisions of Articles 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, & 22 of Chapter Seven of the Charter under the title ‘’Democratic Elections’’. These directly relevant provisions are given here:

‘’Article 17

State Parties re-affirm their commitment to regularly holding transparent, free and

fair elections in accordance with the Union’s Declaration on the Principles

Governing Democratic Elections in Africa.

To this end, State Parties shall:

1. Establish and strengthen independent and impartial national electoral

bodies responsible for the management of elections.

2. Establish and strengthen national mechanisms that redress election related

disputes in a timely manner.

3. Ensure fair and equitable access by contesting parties and

candidates to state controlled media during elections.

4. Ensure that there is a binding code of conduct governing legally

recognized political stakeholders, government and other political

actors prior, during and after elections. The code shall include a

commitment by political stakeholders to accept the results of the

election or challenge them in through exclusively legal channels.

Article 18

1. State Parties may request the Commission, through the Democracy and

Electoral Assistance Unit and the Democracy and Electoral Assistance

Fund, to provide advisory services or assistance for strengthening and

developing their electoral institutions and processes.

2. The Commission may at any time, in consultation with the State Party

concerned, send special advisory missions to provide assistance to that

State Party for strengthening its electoral institutions and processes.

Article 19

1. Each State Party shall inform the Commission of scheduled elections and

invite it to send an electoral observer mission.

2. Each State Party shall guarantee conditions of security, free access to

information, non-interference, freedom of movement and full cooperation

with the electoral observer mission.

Article 20

The Chairperson of the Commission shall first send an exploratory mission

during the period prior to elections. This mission shall obtain any useful

information and documentation, and brief the Chairperson, stating whether the

necessary conditions have been established and if the environment is conducive

to the holding of transparent, free and fair elections in conformity with the

principles of the Union governing democratic elections.

Article 21

1. The Commission shall ensure that these missions are independent and

shall provide them with the necessary resources for that purpose.

2. Electoral observer missions shall be conducted by appropriate and

competent experts in the area of election monitoring, drawn from

continental and national institutions such as, but not limited to, the Pan-

African Parliament, national electoral bodies, national legislatures and

eminent persons taking due cognizance of the principles of regional

representation and gender equality.

3. Electoral observer missions shall be conducted in an objective, impartial

and transparent manner.

4. All electoral observer missions shall present the report of their activities to

the Chairperson of the Commission within a reasonable time.

5. A copy of the report shall be submitted to the State Party concerned within

a reasonable time.

Article 22

State Parties shall create a conducive environment for independent and impartial

national monitoring or observation mechanisms’’.

We have quoted the relevant provisions elaborately and in full in order to aid us in making informed observations and judgements as we undertake the benchmarking.


Now let us review each of the set of seven broad categories of areas of focus defined for the purpose of this one-day policy dialogue.

But before we go ahead with this task, let me reiterate the point that I will be making repeatedly all through this presentation, one that forms the central thrust of my submission: the fact that any careful reading and serious, rational, and critical analysis of the challenges of our political and electoral processes will be compelled to come to the conclusion that the most serious threat to our democracy, to the process of democratic consolidation, and which most undermine the process of deepening of our democratic practice, is our ruling class, and in particular our country’s political elite.

Nigeria’s current political elite, in power since 1999, was nurtured under military dictatorship, is thoroughly undemocratic, and has demonstrated a persistent knack for authoritarian organising and mobilising, and its resultant zero sum mutually antagonistic political practice, and culture of political contestation.


The Electoral Management Body [EMB], in our case, INEC, began its preparation long enough, announcing the dates of the 2019 general elections [February 16th for national level, and March 2nd for state level elections] on March 9th 2017, followed by the release of the time table and schedule for the same elections on January 9th 2018.

INEC also released the Guidelines and regulations for the 2019 general elections after consultations with stakeholders in early January 2019.

Prior to this, INEC had announced in two waves, the registration of over 40 additional political parties during the first half of 2018 and monitored the primaries of the 92 political parties between 18th August and 7th October 2018 for Federal and state candidates; and between 4th September and 27th October 2018 for the FCT candidates.

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However, as we all know, as widely covered by the media, and as INEC Itself has recognised and publicly stated, the party primaries of 2018 in preparation for the 2019 general elections were the most rancorous in the history of our country in general, and the 4th republic in particular; largely as a result of the undermining of internal party democracy by virtually all the parties.

According to facts released by INEC, the EMB is currently joined in 396 pending court cases arising from contentious party primaries; while it has also received a further 302 requests for Certified True Copies [CTC] of documents, mainly monitoring reports of party primaries, as prelude to further court cases.

Relatedly, INEC is also in receipt of 52 petitions from political party members aggrieved by the conduct of various party primaries.

With respect to registration of voters and the voters register, INEC has undertaken a number of efforts to clean up the register, including undertaking a Continuous Voters Registration [CVR] exercise between April 27th, 2017 and August 31st 2018 in the course of which 14.5 million additional potential voters were added to the voters register bringing the total number of registered voters across 176,000 voting points, to 84.004 million citizens as at the end of the CVR at the end of August 2018, representing a 21% increase over the 69.72 million total of registered voters as of the 2015 general elections.

These 84 million registered voters are distributed geo-politically thus: South-South – 12, 841, 279 – 15.29%; South Est – 10,057,130 – 11.97%; South West – 16, 292, 212 – 19.39%; North West – 20, 158, 100 – 24.00%; North East – 11, 289, 293 – 13.44%; and North Central – 13, 366, 070 – 15.91%.

Furthermore, according to INEC, the 2019 elections will take place from 120,000 voting locations or polling units, where a total of 23,316 candidates will be jostling for 1,558 elective seats and offices at Federal, State and FCT levels across the federation.

Additionally, as of January 21st 2019, according to INEC, only 79% of PVCs have been collected [that is only 66.3 million of the registered 84 million voters], leaving 21% [more than 18 million PVCs] of the PVCs from the 84 million registered voters yet to be collected. In the meantime, the deadline for collection of PVCs has been scheduled for 8th February 2019.

In its preparations, INEC has been plagued by logistics issues relating to voter’s registration, as well as to the ease of collection of PVCs.

But the most significant challenge faced by INEC is the accusation and allegations, oftentimes unsubstantiated, and based on outright falsehoods, of bias by opposition elements within the political elites.

The current INEC is probably the most deliberately maligned, and the most deliberately lied against in the history of the 4th Republic, with leading politicians and political actors, in government and in opposition; as well as major political parties, ruling and opposition, along with their retinue of earlier making unfounded, unwarranted, and quite frankly baseless accusations against the EMB.

In these circumstances, under these conditions, the result is the creation of a climate of distrust and outright disbelieve in the integrity of the electoral process. It is almost as if the politicians, are deliberately creating a groundswell of falsehood, as a basis for their eventual rejection of the outcome of the elections, regardless of what the facts about the process and the results.


The issue of campaign financing is arguably one of the most pressing challenges, with the greatest potential for undermining our democratic process.

It is an issue that is directly contingent to and at the heart of the question of inclusion and participation; and it is in its very essence, a problem driven by, and contrived by the ruling political elite.

Virtually all of the political parties are guilty of manipulating campaign financing and circumventing the law through clever ways, sometimes covert, and oftentimes quite overtly brazen.

INEC has been building a relationship with the Anti-Corruption Agencies [ACAs] and other stakeholders, including, in particular civil society to monitor campaign financing.

The fact though is that campaign financing is only a subset of political party financing, and therefore tied directly to the nature and character of our political parties. And unless it is approached and tackled in this holistic manner, every attempt to clean up campaign financing will be met with failure, or at best will amount to half measures.

Our political parties are in reality, incorporated trading corporations owned by certain persons, the Godfathers, Godmothers, and even now, the emergent Godchildren.

They are not membership based and are not driven by any ideological and or programmatic motivations, other than the desperate necessity to capture power, or be in the corridors of power. Our political parties are not vehicles for organising national development efforts, nor are they instruments for nation building; they are in the overwhelming majority of cases, merely vehicles for gaining control of or acquiring access to power, and through that political power, access to or control of the treasury.

This is why any cursory look at the manifestoes and constitutions of 99% of the 92 registered political parties will reveal that in virtually all of the cases, the manifestoes and constitutions are plagiarised versions of one another, across the board.

In such a situation and under such a circumstance, political parties have no life except during party primaries, conventions, and general elections.

Membership of these parties are often not direct, they are through gate keepers, who control membership registers under their care like stocks in business, and who frequently trade with such stocks.

Against this backdrop, party funding is opaque, and usually involves back channels, and will often require breach of laws, including the parties’ own constitutions.

The point being made is that this nature and character of our political parties is a direct reflection of the nature and character of our ruling class; and that without a root and branch reform of the political party process, we are not likely going to be well positioned to qualitatively deepen our democracy, and reform political party, and campaign financing.

Also, it should be noted that campaign financing should, and is often shaped by the nature and character of internal party primaries campaign financing.


As stated earlier, one of the major barriers to the participation and inclusion of women and youths in the political and electoral processes is hinged around the question of access to funds to run exorbitant campaigns for both internal party elections and external general elections.

However, let me begin with my own conclusion; and this is that the question and challenge of the participation of women, youths and other maginalised groups, is primarily a direct manifestation of inequality and is thus at heart primarily a crisis of class exploitation, rather than one of purely gender, culture, generational, or sectional crisis.

Let me explain. For the avoidance of doubt, I understand, recognise and accept the reality of the exclusion and marginalisation of women and youths, and other vulnerable; and consequently accept, and also calls for an implacable program of action to tackle and overcome these challenges.

My insistence is that these vulnerabilities are essentially heightened, amplified and enhanced by class.

What do I mean? Women, and young persons of the ruling class, have always had greater opportunities for participation and inclusion in the political process than people from poor, and lower classes, even though in relation to men and the older generation of the ruling elites, they are relatively excluded.

Class, poverty, lack of power, is often the greatest barrier to political participation and inclusion.

But with respect to the 2019 general elections, what does the facts say? Of the 84 million registered voters, 44.4 million [52.86%] are males, while 39.6 million [47.14%] are females. Furthermore, youths from 18 to 35 years constitute 51.11% of the registered voters; with the middle aged [36 to 50] constituting 29.97%; Elderly [aged 51 to 70 years] – 15.22%; and Old [over 70 years old] – 3.69%.

In occupational terms, according to INEC, the 84 million registered voters is broken down thus: Public Servant – 2,292,167 – 2.73%; Student – 22,320,990 – 26.57%; Trading – 7,568,012 – 9.01%; Artisan – 4,478,202 – 5.33%; Business – 10,810,006 – 12.87%; Civil Servant – 5,038,671 – 6%; Farming/Fishing – 13,630,216 – 16.23%; House Wife – 11,844,079 – 14.10%; Other – 6,021,741 – 7.17%.

A cursory look at these figures shows that young persons aged 18 to 35 constitute more than half of the voters registers; and that of this figure, nearly 40% of these are students. Furthermore, Nigerians 50 years and below actually constitute a total of 81.08% of the registered voters. Significantly, women also constitute over 47% of the registered voters.

This unfortunately has not translated into any significant improvements in the number of women and youth candidates in the elections.

According to figures released by INEC, a total number of 23,316 candidates are jostling for 1,558 elective positions nationwide.

For the Presidential election, there are 144 Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates, of which only 28 are women [that is 91.7% male & 8.3% female for presidential candidates; and 69.4% male and 30.6% female for VP position];

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There are 1,904 candidates for 109 seats [87.7% male & 12.3% female]; while for the House Of Reps [HoR], there are 4,680 candidates for 360 seats [88.4% male & 11.6% female]. There are also 14,000 candidates for a total of 991 State House Of Assembly [SHA] seats across the federation.

With respect to youth representation, according to analysis done by YIAGA, the figures are thus: Of the 1,904 candidates for the Senate, 253 [13.5%; compared to 10% in 2015] are youths; while for the HoR, of the 4,680 candidates, 1,262 are youths [27.4%, compared to 18% in 2015] are youths.

Furthermore, Female youth candidacy for senate was 17% in 2015, dropping to 16% in 2019; while for HoR it was 15% in 2015, dropping to 13.4% in 2019. From the foregoing it can be seen that inspite of improvement in legislation, female representation dropped in 2019 compared to 2015.

Additionally, with respect to Party distribution of youth candidacy, the top five parties for the Senate are: DA – 85; PPN – 80; ADC – 72; PT – 43; & GPN – 43. The corresponding situation with the HoR are: DDA – 25; PPN – 14; JMPP – 11; ADC – 11; & A – 10.

In terms of zonal distribution of youth candidacy, the North West has the highest figures for the Senate [34.8%] and the HoR [30.17%]; while the South West has the lowest figure for the senate [10.3%], and the North East has the lowest figure for the HoR [9.7%].

Again, it can be seen from the figures that the big parties, with any chance of actually winning the contested positions performed woefully, placing financial and other obstacles on the part of young and female contestants, thus making it more difficult for their emergence as party candidates.

The implication of this is that, the chances of the youth candidates eventually getting elected are very slim indeed, given the money politics character of our current democratic and electoral practice.

Although it may be said that there are some relevant policies and legislations in place to encourage the participation of women, youth and the vulnerable groups, the challenge has been the near total absence of mechanisms put in place to ensure compliance with, and enforcement of these policy frameworks.

For instance, both the National gender policy and the national youth policy in their stated objectives, principles and strategies encourage the participation of women and youth in political processes, the development process, and community development, placing emphasis on participation and inclusion in decision making and implementation processes.

In the case of youth and people living with disability [PWD], there have even been recent legislations, the PWD Act recently signed into law by the president, and with respect to youth, the constitutional amendment promoted by the Not Too Young To Run Movement lowering age limits for respective elective positions.

And with respect to women, the national gender policy promotes affirmative action with the aim of realising 35% representation of women in elective and appointive positions.

Inspite of these, as we have seen, there are no mechanisms in place for realising these goals, and enforcing their implementation, leaving only affluent and upper middle-class women, youths and PWDs with the ability and capacity to access any existing or emergent opportunities for participation and inclusion in the political process.

What will be required to address exclusion, will be stronger legislations and regulations that make it mandatory for certain percentages of elective and appointive political positions to be reserved for women, young persons and PWDs respectively.

For instance, with respect to women representation, I will propose enforceable mandatory legislation and regulation that will state clearly that ‘’No gender shall constitute less than 40% or more than 60% of elective and appointive political positions.

And with respect to Youths and PWDs, similar legislation should also make it mandatory that no less than 30 to 40% of elective and appointive positions must be occupied by young persons. And for PWDs, this should be cross cutting in such a way that PWDs must make up at least 15% of elective and appointive positions whether of male, female or youths across the board.

Additionally, there will need to be put in place an institution like an Equal Opportunities Commission to monitor compliance and enforce the mandatory requirements.

The point being made is that, although some progress has been made with respect to policy and legal reforms, some more critical reforms of policy, legislation, and in particular enforcement mechanisms are still required to counter the imbalance occasioned by powerlessness, inequality and poverty. And it is only by so doing that we can hope to curb the excesses and recklessness of the ruling political elite.

The overall implication of the foregoing is that women, youths and PWDs will need to organise and build mass political movements, around their respective Charters of Demand [Women, Youth, and PWD Political Charters Of Demand]; around which they will mobilise alliances, and with which they will engage with the political process and the ruling political elites.

Without such political organising and mobilising around concrete minimum political demands, the sorely needed and required legislative, policy and institutional reforms proposed here cannot be realised.


INEC already has in place a tried, tested and improving system and multi-stakeholder mechanism for selection and accreditation of election observers and monitors, with guidelines and regulations in place and issued to guide their conduct.

Towards the 2019 general elections, for instance, INEC has accredited 144 domestic, and 28 foreign observer missions.

INEC has also indicated its intention for closer collaboration with stakeholders undertaking election observation, including granting civil society access to the INEC Realtime situation room.

With respect to election observation however, the most significant improvement that is sorely required, is for the character of election observation and monitoring to be redesigned to include the documentation of election infractions, in such a manner that they can be used for evidence gathering and investigation by appropriate law enforcement and security agencies for the prosecution of electoral offences and electoral offenders. We probably need to reform our laws and procedures to make this enhance this potential and make it realisable.


Although the share number of political parties fielding candidates presents its own unique challenge, some of the major Television Networks have opened up their platforms for all the 73 presidential candidates through structured programs designed specifically for that purpose.

There have issues though with the major platform for organising political debates among candidates, particularly presidential and governorship candidates. These platforms, including the Nigeria Elections Debate Group [NEDG], have been accused of bias and lack of transparency in the processes for shortlisting and selecting candidates for the debates.

In general, candidates of the so-called two major political parties, the ruling APC, and the opposition PDP, seemed to have been routinely unfairly favoured, driven by the mistaken, ingrained, and erroneous believe and notion, that only those parties, and their candidates are viable, and that the election is in reality a two-way contest between the two.

Thus, overall, media coverage has favoured the so-called most, and only viable parties and their candidates. In a majority of instances, the extent to which other candidates and their parties have been given coverage is often dependent on their political pedigree within these two parties, prior to their leaving those parties for some other parties after acrimonious party primaries.

Once again, as with other issues being discussed, it does seem like the most effective way to reverse this media stranglehold of the establishment candidates and parties, can only be through collective political organising and mobilising.

New entrants into the political process, will need to articulate distinct and fundamentally different ideas and visions; and they will need to organise and mobilise within the context of a mass nationwide political movement in order to be able to effectively break this stranglehold, and literally force themselves unto the agenda of the media.

So, as with the question of participation and representation, the major obstacle is class in character, one defined by power dynamics and wealth. The media is controlled and owned by the establishment and the ruling class, and the new media is dominated by the middle class and the upper classes, hence the character of their coverage, and the nature of their narrative.

In addition to these, and seriously complicating this scenario is the competitive and mutually antagonistic nature of the factories for the manufacture and dissemination of outright falsehood by the dominant establishment platforms.

Much more than at any other time in our history, our political parties, and their candidates, have abandoned decency, thrown all caution to the winds, sand stepped up from bending the truth to tell lies, to simply manufacturing dangerous falsehoods with no basis in reality, and no iota fact.


Throughout the history of the fourth republic since its inauguration on 29th May, 1999, Nigeria’s ruling class and political elites, have always engaged in vote buying, in one form or another.

However, the scale of the problem has grown exponentially, in tandem with improvements in the electoral process, that seemed to have closed off the other hitherto preferred, and much cruder avenues for vote rigging.

In the past snatching ballot boxes, stuffing ballot boxes, and declaring false results by simply allocating entire numbers on the voters register at polling units to preferred candidates of preferred parties, very easily translated into victory for the perpetrator and perpetuators of electoral fraud.

But now with improvements to the security and integrity of the ballot paper and ballot box, as

 Well as with the introduction of biometric registration, the PVC, and the card readers; it almost totally impossible for anyone to benefit directly from snatching and stuffing ballot boxes, or from multiple voting.

It is this context that has set the condition for the enhanced and more prominent avenue for vote rigging that is still available.

The real challenge though is that whereas it is possible to reduce to its barest minimum, or even eradicate Point Of Voting [POV – ala POS] Transactional voting, through improved measures, extra vigilance, and the imposition of punitive sanctions; all of which can be undertaken by INEC in conjunction with other stakeholders like security agencies, civil society, the media, etc; It will require efforts beyond INEC and civic/voter education, to completely eradicate the practice.

Again, this will require massive, principled, structured political organising and mobilisation to achieve.

Take for instance, a coalition of Mass, nationwide unapologetically political, but nonpartisan, with respect to party affiliation, Women, Youth, PWD, Labour, Students, etc Movements, undertaking political education and civic awareness raising around an agreed common minimum political charter of demands; and strategically engaging with the political actors and dissuading their members, supporters and citizens from selling their votes; Only such a coalition of movements can ensure eradication of vote buying.

The more politically organised, conscious, and aware citizens are, the more they are likely to engage with the political processes on the basis of programs, issues, ideas, and principles, rather than on a transactional basis.


To conclude, it is important to note and state that enforcement of, compelling compliance with the ACDEG, requires conscious political organising and mobilising, the emergence and nurturing of mas political movements; the return to the central stage by a political labour movement, providing leadership for all the other organised and politically conscious social forces.

It remains to emphasise that the ACDEG is in consonance with the provisions of the 1999 CFRN as amended, and in particular, with the provisions of both Chapters Two and Four of the constitution; both of which chapters are enforceable.

One small question of detail as I round up. Although the ACDEG has been ratified by Nigeria and ratified by enough member states of the AU to make it operational; it is not quite clear, whether in accordance with the provisions of Nigeria’s constitution, the charter has been domesticated by Nigeria.

JAYE GASKIA: 06/02/2019



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