The European Union Election Observation Mission to Nigeria has indicted the Independent electoral Commission (INEC), security agencies, some political parties over 2019 elections, calling for a reform of the nation’s electoral process ahead of the 2023 polls.
This was contained in the EU EOM final report on the 2019 elections, which was presented by the EU Chief Observer, Maria Arena, and her deputy, Hannah Roberts, at a press conference in Abuja on Saturday.
It stated that lack of transparency and inconsistent numbers during the collation of results by INEC cast a long shadow over the integrity of the 2019 elections, amking therefore 30 recommendations on electoral reform for better elections in the future.
Overall, the EU EOM concluded that the elections were charaterized by severe operational and transparency shortcomings, security problems and low turnout.
The report partly read, “The EU observed 94 collation centres. In almost all, the results forms and smart card readers were not packed in tamper-evident envelopes as required.
“Numerical discrepancies and anomalies on polling unit results forms were identified and were mostly corrected by collation officers on the spot, but without a clear system of record-keeping.”
It added, “Leading parties were at fault in not reining in acts of violence and intimidation by their supporters, and abuse of incumbency at federal and state levels.”
“Inconsistent numbers during collation, “lack of clear checks and explanations, and insufficient public information undermined the integrity of the elections.
“Citizens did not have sufficient means to scrutinise results. INEC did not provide centralised information on the declared results for the different locations and has not posted complete results data on its website.
“Similarly, there is a lack of disaggregated results by local government, ward or polling unit, which would allow for thorough checking of results.”
It further noted that the discrepancies and the insufficient public information were not in line with international standards for access to information and public accountability.
It added that the citizens did not have sufficient means to scrutinise results, saying INEC did not provide centralised information on the declared results for the different elections.
There is need to strengthen the procedures for the collation of results to improve integrity and confidence in electoral outcomes, the report said as it made recommendations.
“Such reform needs political leadership that is dedicated to the rights of Nigerian citizens, and an inclusive process of national dialogue involving state institutions, parties, civil society and the media. This needs to be urgently undertaken to allow time for debate, legislative changes and implementation well in advance of the next elections.”
The mission said the the seven priority areas for electoral reform included requirements in law for full results transparency with data easily accessible to the public.
The EU EOM also called for the introduction of a legal requirement for parties to have a minimum representation of women among candidates, faulting the low number of female candidates for the polls.
It further recommended that election tribunals should cover pre-election cases in order to improve access to remedy and to avoid petitions being taken to different courts at the same time.
Notwithstanding the reported said, “Positively, however, the elections were competitive, parties were able to campaign and civil society enhanced accountability. Leading parties were at fault in not reining in acts of violence and intimidation by their supporters, and abuse of incumbency at federal and state levels.”
INEC is yet to respond to the report. The Commission’s Director of Voter Education and Publicity, Osaze Oluwole-Uzezi, who claimed not to have seen the EU observers’ report, said they would implement the recommendations in accordance with Nigeria’s laws.
“We can’t react to a report which we haven’t seen. We will, on receipt, study it and react appropriately. The recommendations, which we find suitable and within our purview and consistent with our laws, will be implemented accordingly while we will engage other stakeholders, including the National Assembly, to see about other desirable changes to the process,” he said.
INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, while receiving the report on Friday, assured that the recommendations made by the mission in its report would form a major part of the reform process.
Meanwhile, spokesman for the Buhari Presidential Campaign Organisation, Festus Keyamo, insisted on Saturday, while reacting to the EU EOM report, that the 2019 presidential election, won by President Muhammadu Buhari reflected the wishes of Nigerians.
Keyamo said this in his reaction to the report of EU EOM, which faulted the integrity of the general elections.
The told journalists in Abuja that even if anomalies were witnessed in a few polling units, they were not enough to substantially affect the overall results.
Mr. Keyamo argued that the shortcomings were not peculiar to Nigeria as they were also being witnessed in the United States and United Kingdom.
But the Peoples Democratic Party has said it is not among the major parties indicted by the report for allegedly not preventing their members from unleashing violence during the last elections.
National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus said on Saturday, “The world watched what happened to our members during the last general elections. We campaigned, preached peace and love. But what did we get in return?
“The Independent National Electoral Commission colluded with the APC and the security officials to deny us victory in many states. Officials of the commission and security officials looked the other way while our members were being harassed, molested or even killed.
“Members of the APC were seen on camera, seizing electoral materials in states like Kano, Lagos and Rivers. What did the security officials do? They looked the other way.
“That is why 2019 elections will go into record as one of the worst elections to be conducted in the history of Nigeria.”