Nigeria is located at the extreme Eastern corner of the tropical zone of West Africa along the Gulf of Guinea. With an estimated population of 177 million composed predominantly of young persons , Nigeria is the seventh most populous country in the world, the most populous in Africa, and the dominant population in West Africa.
Nigerian system of governance is premised on a federal system consisting of the Federal government, 36 State governments plus a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) administration and 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs).
Following the 1999 elections that returned the country back to civilian rule, Nigeria has conducted four general elections in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 with varied and mixed outcomes. While the 1999 and 2003 general elections were perceived as largely flawed by Nigerians and the international community, the 2007 general election was condemned for falling “far short of basic international and regional standards for democratic elections".
The implementation of some recommendations of the Electoral Reform Committee and the inauguration of a new EMB in June 2010 brought some noticeable improvements to the 2011 general elections. Although the elections threw up old and new challenges, it was adjudged as “an important step towards strengthening democratic elections in Nigeria”.
The 2015 elections meant a significant step forward in the consolidation of the democratic process, seeing the peaceful transition of power from the ruling party to the opposition party for the first time in Nigeria’s history. Nevertheless, the elections were far from perfect, marred by “incidence of violence, abuse of incumbency at state and federal levels, and attempts at manipulation”.
Certainly, some reforms, including key recommendations of the EU EOM on the 2015 general elections are desirable towards the 2019 general elections. These reforms relate to a broad range of issues involving the three arms of government - executive, legislature, judiciary, as well as varied stakeholders such as the Electoral Management Body (EMB), political parties, security agencies, media, religious and traditional institutions, civil society organizations and international development partners.
In this context, the challenge to the international donor community is to complement the efforts of the Government of Nigeria to improve and strengthen democracy. In fact, within the 11th European Development Fund (EDF), national authorities renewed their commitment to cooperate in the pursuit and achievement of the objectives foreseen in the EU Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) 2016 – 2020 Project.