The European Union (EU) election observers have released a statement following the just conclusion of the presidential and National Assembly elections in Nigeria.
According to the EU, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) lacked efficient planning and transparency during critical stages of the electoral process.
The EU noted that although the elections were generally peaceful, there were several issues that needed to be addressed. These included logistical challenges, inadequate communication, and poor management of polling units.
Additionally, the observers raised concerns about the level of violence and intimidation witnessed in some parts of the country.
EU observer statement reads;
On 25 February, Nigerians went to the polls in highly anticipated presidential and National Assembly elections that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) kept on schedule despite a volatile and challenging environment. Fundamental freedoms of assembly and movement were largely respected, yet the full enjoyment of the latter was impeded by insufficient planning, insecurity and the prevailing Naira and fuel shortages.
Abuse of incumbency by various political office holders distorted the playing field and there were widespread allegations of vote buying. Media provided an extensive coverage of three leading campaigns, while disinfonmation interfered with voters’ right to make an informed choice on election day. The EU EOM is continuing its observation of the ongoing collation and tabulation of results throughout the country.
INEC’s operational capacity was hampered by the ongoing fuel and Naira shortage, Insecurity prevented it from accessing some Local Government Areas (LGs), notably in the South.
Attacks on INEC premises, including just days before polling, hindered preparations in affected areas, while instilling fear in volers. Overall, stakeholders had expressed confidence in INEC’s independence, professionalism, and voter information efforts, but this decreased ahead of elections. INEC lacked efficient planning and transparency during critical stages of the electoral process, while on clection day trust in INEC was seen to further
reduce due to delayed polling processes and information gaps related to much anticipated access to results on its Results Viewing Portal (IReV).
In the lead-up to elections, the widely welcomed Elcctoral Act 2022 introduced measures aimed at building stakeholder trust, however caving some important gaps in terms of accountability and INEC’s power to enforce the law.
Weak points include a lack of INEC empowerment lo enforce sanctions for electoral offences and breaches of campaign finance rules. Positively, INEC benefited from more timely financing than for previous contests. Other new provisions also aimed to chance transparency of results.
The introduction of the Bimodal Voler Accreditation System (BVAS) and the IReV for the 2023 elections was perceived as an important step to ensure the integrity and credibility of elections.
However, delayed training of technical personnel, an inadequate mock lesting excreisc, and a lack of public information on the clection technologies diminished expectations and left room for speculation and uncertainty.
During the carly stages of collation, presidential result forms from polling units were not displayed on the IReV, while Senate and House of Representative results were slowly published.
Presidential election result forms started to be uploaded after 10pm on election day, raising concerns and reaching only 20 per cent by noon on 26 February. Later the same evening, INEC explained the delay with “technical hitches.”
Overall, the EU’s statement highlights the need for significant improvements in Nigeria’s electoral system to ensure that future elections are free and fair.