2019 Elections: EU scores Nigeria below par
The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) to Nigeria, in its final report on 2019 general elections concluded that there is a need for serious electoral reforms due to the systemic failings and low level of voter participation recorded during the polls.
The mission observed that the elections were marked by severe operational and transparency deficiencies, including electoral security problems, low turnout and abuse of incumbency power.
The EU Chief Observer, Maria Arena, while presenting the mission’s final statement in Abuja, yesterday, however said even with the challenges, there were positive improvements as the elections were competitive, parties and candidates were allowed to campaign and freedom of expression and movement largely respected.
“The EU EOM noted that INEC worked in a difficult environment and made some improvements, such as simplifying voting procedures.
However, considerable weaknesses remained. Operational deficiencies led to the postponement of the elections, there were insufficient checks and transparency in the results process, as well as a general lack of public communication and information.
The elections became increasingly marred by violence and intimidation, with the role of the security agencies becoming more contentious as the process progressed. The EU EOM reported that this damaged the integrity of the electoral process and may deter future participation. During collation of the federal results, EU observers directly witnessed or received reports of intimidation of INEC officials in 20 states.”
The EU EOM also expressed concern on further decrease in the number of women elected, saying contrary to international standards, Nigeria has no temporary measures for promoting the participation of women in politics.
It therefore, sought for a legal requirement for political parties to have a minimum representation of women among candidates, advocating that non-compliance with such legal rules should be sanctioned with proportionate and deterrent penalties.
Asked whether the election results reflected the will of electorate, the EU declared that only the voters could determine that, adding it was only mandated to scrutinise and observe the electoral process.
Other highlights of the recommendations include, the need to strengthen INEC procedures for the collation of results and its operational capacity; inter-agency collaboration responsible for electoral security to work more transparently; electoral tribunal to cover pre-election cases in order to improve access to remedy and avoid petitions being taken to different courts at the same time, and also the need to reform the licensing system for the broadcast media to provide for media pluralism.
WHILE commending the EU EOM for showing interest in the country’s elections, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said steps are already being taken to reform the nation’s electoral process ahead of the 2023 polls.
He said recommendations to be provided by the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) in the 2019 polls would form major inputs in the areas of reform expected to be submitted to the 9th National Assembly soon.
Mahmood spoke in Abuja on Friday, at a meeting with the Chief Observer of the EU EU EOM, Maria Arena.
According to him, “Every election in any democracy around the world is work in progress. We therefore, look forward to the full EU EOM report and recommendations on the elections.
“We are confident that there will be useful lessons for the commission as we prepare for future elections. Indeed, the report is coming at the right time as it will feed into our ongoing review of the conduct of the elections.”
According to Mahmood, the 30 observations and recommendations provided by the EU election observation mission in 2015 were instrumental in improving the country’s electoral processes, including consolidating our democratic system since 1999.
While commending the EU for its interest in the country’s democratic processes, especially for the deployment of 91 observers to 261 polling units and 94 collation centres in 31 states of the Federation during the last presidential and National Assembly elections, Mahmood disclosed that INEC has already merged accreditation and voting process as recommended by the mission.
MEANWHILE, the Presidency welcomed the report and promised to analyse it fully and act on the recommendations.
A statement, the by Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to President Buhari, Garba Shehu, read: “The administration of President Buhari will work with all Nigerian citizens, state institutions, parties, civil society, the media and other experts to make sure that the improvements recommended by the EU are implemented, and that these areas of concern are addressed.
“It is noteworthy that INEC is in receipt of a number of recommendations that form a part of the EU report.
“We believe that the commission conducted a good election and will continue to improve on its processes and procedures.
“While it is regretted that the elections in a few parts of the country witnessed some violence, among other shortcomings highlighted.
However, a member of the Muhammadu Buhari campaign team, Festus Keyamo, (SAN) said the EU should come out clear and state its position on the election.
Keyamo said: “If they say the result collation process was not transparent enough, we expect them to be very clear on what they expect to happen over and beyond what we have in the Electoral Act presently. For example, they said they expected that each result in each polling units are made known and published, but we can see that the Electoral Act allows for form EC8As to be given to agents of political parties and they did agree in their report that those result sheets were obtained by agents of parties across the country. We did not see cases where agents were denied result sheets. Also, the electoral Act allows for result sheets to be pasted in each polling unit.”
Keyamo added: “Some local and international observers already commended the conduct of the election and said it reflected the wishes of Nigerians. The EU should also come out and be definite about their position.”