A lack of transparency at Nigeria’s Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) has reduced trust in the general electoral process, election monitors say.
In a press statement, the European Union Election Observation Mission to Nigeria (EU EOM) noted that the “abuse of incumbency by various political office holders has distorted the playing field.”
Speaking at the presentation of their initial findings in Abuja on Feb 27, Chief Observer for the EU Observer Mission Barry Andrews said: “We took note of these issues as they fall well short of international standards.”
There had been instances of voter intimidation, Mr Andrews added. “We encourage these cases to be prosecuted, because impunity discourages people from taking part.”
Cash and fuel
On Saturday, Feb. 25 Nigerians went to the polls to participate in a highly anticipated presidential and National Assembly elections.
The scarcity of cash and fuel, and the insecurity in various parts of the country hindered the electoral commission from accessing some Local Governments Areas (LGAs), the EU states.
Stakeholders had been confident that the commission would maintain professionalism, independence and strengthen voter information efforts, “but this decreased ahead of elections” the statement said.
The EU added the newly introduced Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the result viewing portal known as the IReV for the 2023 elections was perceived as an assurance of fair and credible elections.
The EU statement said: “Delayed training of technical personnel, an inadequate mock testing exercise, and a lack of public information on the election technologies diminished expectations and left room for speculation and uncertainty.”
Officials at the Lamisula Collation Centre in Maiduguri were yet to be deployed to units due to BVAS not booting on time because “the network was not good enough,” one of the observers notes.
Delay in arrival of officials was also recorded in Anambra state in the southeast, where an observer stated that there were voters and up to 15 party agents at a polling unit at Ojota Obofia ward with no sight of officials making some voters return to their homes.
While on election day trust in INEC was seen to further reduce due to delayed polling processes, EU states that information gaps related to access to results on its IReV further created room for incredulity.
Other forms of malpractices and violence were also recorded across the country.
The EU notes that although the Electoral Act 2022 was a welcome development aimed at building stakeholder trust, it has left gaps in terms of accountability and INEC’s power to enforce the law.
In Paikoro LGA of Niger State, north-central Nigeria, inducements were suspected as party agents interfered with voters’ choice. In Dekina, Kogi state, also in the north-central, ballot boxes were said to have been destroyed and carted away.
In Amuwo Odofin LGA in Lagos, southwest Nigeria, HumAngle observed as party agents engaged in a fight over vote lobbying. The Presiding Officer also threatened HumAngle’s reporter for taking videos of the chaos. No security official was present at the polling unit.
Although the voting process has concluded the EU says it “is continuing its observation of the ongoing collation and tabulation of results throughout the country.”
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