2023 polls: EU report sparks fresh controversy

Nigeria’s 2023 general elections comprising the presidential, National Assembly, governorship and state houses of assembly elections might have come and gone, but the echoes have continued to reverberate; they are not in a hurry to fizzle away.

Following the outcome of the elections, particularly the presidential election, and the Independent National Electoral Commission’s eventual declaration of the then candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as the winner, tongues have been wagging and discussions have continued around the process.

The two major opposition parties- the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the Labour Party, LP, and their presidential candidates, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi, respectively, as well as about three other political parties, disagreed with the outcome of the elections and have since gone to the Presidential Elections Petitions Tribunal to challenge it.

Recall that many Nigerians, particularly the youths who trooped out in their numbers to make a change for the first time with their voters’ cards, were disappointed at the level of violence that characterised the process.

The elections have been described by some local and international observer missions as having fallen below the minimum standard of what free, fair and credible elections should be

However, the APC has maintained its stand that the exercise was credible and a true reflection of the wishes of the people.

As the tribunal’s decision is being awaited, the hornet’s nest around discussions on the elections outcome appeared to have been stirred once more with the recent release of the final report on the findings by one of the foreign elections observer missions, the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU-EOM), on the February 25 and March 18 elections.

The EU-EOM, which worked for three months in Nigeria, between January 11 and April 11, 2023, had a total of 110 accredited observers from 25 EU member states, as well as Norway, Switzerland, and Canada.

Interestingly, they were in Nigeria at the behest of the country’s electoral umpire, the INEC.

According to the Chief Observer of the Mission and member of the European Parliament, Barry Andrews, the Mission was pleased to present its findings and recommendations after a three-month-long observation across Nigeria.

The report, which he said was in accordance with the EU-EOM’s usual practice, noted that shortcomings in law and electoral administration hindered the conduct of well-run and inclusive elections and damaged trust in the INEC.

The Mission, however, offered 23 recommendations for consideration by the Nigerian authorities as part of its contribution to improve the future elections in Nigeria.

“We are particularly concerned about the need for reforms in six areas, which we have identified as priority recommendations, and we believe, if implemented, could contribute to improvement in the conduct of future elections,” Andrews said.

According to the report, the six priority recommendations include the removal of ambiguities in the law, establishment of a publicly accountable selection process for the INEC members, ensuring that there is a real-time publication of and access to election results, providing greater protection for media practitioners, addressing the discrimination against women in political life, as well as addressing the impunity of the electoral officers.

Andrews further reiterated the need for political will to achieve improved democratic practices in Nigeria, stressing that dialogue between all stakeholders on electoral reforms remained crucial.

 

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