The European Union Election Observation Mission, EU EOM, has delivered a damning report on the 2019 elections.
On the March 9 governorship and state assembly elections in the country, the EU EOM said the elections were marred by cases of violence that were targeted at election officials and voters.
Admitting that there were operational improvements in the elections, the mission said these were overshadowed by systemic failings, which included a lack of transparency, incumbency advantage and a troubling electoral security environment.
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Maria Arena, the EU Chief Observer, stated this during the presentation of the mission’s preliminary statement in Abuja on Monday.
Arena also said the identified problems have made the need for an inclusive national discussion on electoral reform necessary.
The EU chief observer also disclosed that the mission deployed 73 observers to monitor voting, counting and the collation of results in 22 states, in all the geopolitical zones.
Ms Arena condemned the violence and intimidation against election officials and voters, and also referred to the obstruction of citizen observers by the military and security agents on election day – observers, including EU observers, were denied access to collation centres in Rivers.
“Overall, the elections were competitive with freedom to campaign. However, there was misuse of incumbency, including on state-owned state media, which prevented a level playing field. In the two weeks leading up to the state elections, EU observers saw some misuse of state offices, as well as institutional websites being used for campaigning by both APC and PDP incumbent governors.
“State-level media broadcast political debates in 21 states, giving voters the opportunity to directly compare candidates. However, in 12 states, incumbents or their main challengers refused to participate.
“All nine state-owned radio stations monitored by the EU Election Observation Mission served the interests of incumbent governors. The mission also noted pressure on local media outlets and journalists before and on election day.
“The systemic problems evident in the 2019 electoral process show the need for an inclusive national discussion on reform for greater electoral integrity and participation.
“We echo the view of leading civil society organisations that say that there is an urgent need to restore faith in the electoral process. We encourage a national conversation on electoral reform and strongly believe that it would meaningfully contribute to Nigeria’s democratic development,” she added.
On the collation process for the presidential election, the EU EOM concluded that inconsistent numbers, lack of clear checks and explanations, and insufficient public information undermined confidence in the integrity of the process.
The mission also emphasised the need for better training of collation staff, improved data management and, in particular, more information and explanation from INEC on such an important phase of the election process.
“The systemic failing and electoral security problems of the last few weeks and months show that there is a real need for serious reform in Nigeria. We echo the view of leading civil society organisations that say there is an urgent need to restore faith in the electoral process.
“While there can be many reasons for a low turnout, and it is not for me to speculate, it is surely disappointing that, overall, only a relatively small portion of what is by far and away Africa’s largest electorate actually cast a vote on both election days.
“As the 2019 elections in Nigeria have demonstrated, there are important improvements to be made. Elections can always be better. The systemic problems evident in the 2019 electoral process show the need for an inclusive national discussion on reform for greater electoral integrity and participation.”