The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), set up in 1998, is the electoral body which was set up to oversee elections in Nigeria. The INEC has encountered several controversies in the run-up to elections in the country, most notably the April 2007 general elections, including criticism about its preparedness from Sada Abubakar, Sultan of Sokoto and a dispute over its “disqualification” of Vice president Atiku Abubakar’s candidacy. The Supreme Court ruled that the INEC can not disqualify candidates, so Abubakar’s name was added to ballots at the last minute.
On the subject of election irregularities, INEC spokesman Philip Umeadi said on April 19 that “We are not sitting on any crisis in Nigeria.”. The mission of INEC is to serve as an independent and effective EMB committed to the conduct of free, fair and credible elections for sustainable democracy in Nigeria. The vision of INEC is to be one of the best Election Management Bodies (EMB) in the world that meets the aspirations of the Nigerian people.
The chairmen of the first Nigerian Federal Electoral Commission was Chief Eyo Esua (1964–1966) in the First Republic. When General Olusegun Obasanjo prepared for a return to civilian power in the Second Republic, he established a new Federal Electoral Commission headed by Chief Michael Ani to supervise the 1979 elections. Ani was succeeded by Justice Victor Ovie Whisky. During the Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha regimes, which attempted returns to democracy, the National Electoral Commission of Nigeria was headed by Professor Eme Awa (1987–1989), Professor Humphrey Nwosu (1989–1993), Professor Okon Uya and Chief Sumner Dagogo-Jack (1994–1998).
General Abdulsalami Abubakar established the current INEC, with Justice Ephraim Akpata as chairman. Akpata had to deal with 26 political associations, giving only nine provisional registration as political parties for the 1998/1999 elections, eventually whittled down to three parties. Despite efforts to ensure free and fair elections, the process drew serious criticism from international observers. After Akpata died in January 2000, the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed Abel Guobadia Nigeria’s Chief Electoral Officer, a position that was confirmed by the Nigerian Senate in May 2000. Guobadia was responsible for the 2003 elections, which were marred by widespread violence and other irregularities.