The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) has identified violence as a major obstacle to limiting the free expression of the will of the voters in the 2023 general election in Nigeria.

This was disclosed in the mission’s second preliminary statement before the completion of the entire electoral process signed by Agnes Doka, EU EOM Press Officer on 27th February 2023.

It said incidents of organized violence in several states created an environment of fear for voters, while Public confidence and trust in INEC were severely damaged due to a lack of transparency and operational failures in the conduct of the federal-level polls.

According to the statement, it said INEC has continued to abstain from providing information, limiting its communication
to a few press releases and ceremonial statements and hence failing to address public grievances and rebuild confidence in the electoral process.

Noting that from 11 March INEC introduced various corrective measures to render a timely delivery of electoral materials, efficient use of election technologies, and ensure prompt publication of result forms, some were effective, hence suing for more commitment to regain trust.

“This governorship and State House of Assembly elections, postponed from 11 to 18 March 2023,
following the presidential and National Assembly elections held on 25 February. This second EU Election Observation Mission preliminary statement supplements the first issued on 27 February.

“Elections for 36 State House of Assembly (SHoA) and 28 Governors took place on 18 March after contentious presidential polls. Opposition parties had gone to court to seek access to key election technology-linked presidential data, precipitating a chain of events that led to the postponement of state elections by one week. The postponement was observed to have a calming effect on the highly charged political environment, shifting public attention to gubernatorial polls. Low-key canvassing replaced costly large-scale rallies, but some incumbents used their powers to tilt the playing field.

“Civil society called for INEC’s accountability; media fostered voter awareness, while fact-checkers stood up against disinformation. Overall, on election day, multiple incidents of thuggery and intimidation interrupted polling in various locations, primarily across the south but also in states in the central and northern areas.

“There were reportedly some 21 fatalities. In polling units in several states, violent incidents targeted
voters, INEC personnel, citizen observers, and journalists. Most polling units opened with materials and personnel deployed on time, although a dismal level of voter participation meant less pressure on INEC operations throughout the day. Vote-buying, also observed by EU EOM observers, further detracted from the appropriate conduct of the elections.

“The 18 March elections did not face the same problems with the use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) as on 25 February. Result forms for the gubernatorial races were uploaded and displayed for public scrutiny. At the time of the declaration of presidential results, only one-quarter of result forms were visible; by midday on 19 March, gubernatorial race result forms available online ranged from 62 to 97 percent depending on the state.”

The report further laments the low representation of women in the 2023 general election, thus describing it as underrepresentation in politics.

“Some 11,000 candidates were competing for state elections, among whom a bare 10 percent were women. Notably, leading political parties fielded only two female candidates for highly prized governor seats. This demonstrates a radical underrepresentation of women in political life and a lack of internal party policies to support constitutionally prescribed inclusion and is contrary to Nigeria’s international commitments to eradicate discrimination against women.“Intraparty conflicts, compounded by protracted legal deadlines for solving candidacy disputes,
created uncertainty for voters and electoral contestants alike. Some court decisions were taken only a few days before the polls, effectively reducing candidates’ prospects to meaningfully campaign.

“The campaign for state-level elections was highly competitive and interlinked with parties’ canvass for votes at the federal level. Fundamental freedoms of assembly and movement were largely respected, with the latter being impeded in some states by insecurity and state executive actions.”

It stresses that “EU EOM observers noted that in several states the abuse of incumbency
gave undue advantage to the party in power.
Attacks and harassment of journalists that occurred on 25 February went unprosecuted.
“Between the elections, civil society played a crucial positive role in raising awareness and providing electoral information of public interest to voters. Their statements highlighted INEC’s failures, while their leadership actively participated in online and offline discussions, calling for greater transparency and accountability of INEC ahead of the state elections. After the polls, CSOs raised further concerns for the conduct of polling and collations, but with a clear focus on the impact of thuggery, violence, and intimidation.”

The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) has been in Nigeria since 11
January 2023. The mission includes a core team of 11 experts and 40 long-term observers deployed to 20 locations on 29 January. The EU EOM issued its first preliminary statement on 27 February after the presidential and National Assembly elections. On 18 March, the EU EOM deployed 63 observers from 25 EU member states, Canada, Norway, and Switzerland across 20 states. On
election day, observers visited 183 polling units in 20 states. Observers assess the whole electoral process against international obligations and commitments for democratic elections to which Nigeria is a signatory, as well as the laws of Nigeria. The EU EOM is independent of EU institutions and member states. EU EOMs adhere to the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation was endorsed at the United Nations in 2005.

 

 

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