Says Process Marred by Intimidation, Violence, Harassment of Journalists The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) to Nigeria for the 2019 General Elections Saturday released its final report, stating that that the electoral process was compromised. It also said the process was characterised by violence, intimidation and harassment of journalists. “Journalists were subject to
Says Process Marred by Intimidation, Violence, Harassment of Journalists
The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) to Nigeria for the 2019 General Elections Saturday released its final report, stating that that the electoral process was compromised. It also said the process was characterised by violence, intimidation and harassment of journalists.
“Journalists were subject to harassment, and scrutiny of the electoral process was at times compromised with some independent observers being obstructed in their work, including by security agencies”.
“The elections became increasingly marred by violence and intimidation, with the role of the security agencies becoming more contentious as the process progressed,” it said.
Giving its verdict on the election, the Chief Observer to the Mission, Ms Maria Arena, said the electoral process, from voting, collation and final declaration of results were not too transparent. She admonished the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) “to strengthen collation of results transparently to inspire confidence in the process.”
The report also said that the election was marred by incumbency factor in the presidential and governorship elections, while stating that the suspension of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, few weeks to the election was without due process and an intimidation of the judicial independence.
Ms Arena, said from cross references, 150 people were killed during the election.
It also recommended 30 areas of improvement which would help elections and electioneering campaigns in Nigeria.
On reforms and recommendations for subsequent elections, the EU Chief Observer further said that, “Such reform needs political leadership that is dedicated to the rights of Nigerian citizens, and an inclusive process of national dialogue involving state institutions, parties, civil society and the media.
“This needs to be urgently undertaken to allow time for debate, legislative changes and implementation well in advance of the next elections,” she added.
Accordingly, the EU EOM said, “Overall, the elections were marked by severe operational and transparency shortcomings, electoral security problems and low turnout.
“Positively, however, the elections were competitive, parties were able to campaign and civil society enhanced accountability.”
Leading parties, the EU EOM said, were at fault in not reining in acts of violence and intimidation by their supporters, and abuse of incumbency at federal and state level.
The EU EOM’s report state that, except for federal radio, state media primarily served the interests of the President or the Governor at state level.
The EU EOM noted that INEC worked in a difficult environment and made some improvements, such as simplifying voting procedures, but added that the considerable weaknesses remained.
“Operational deficiencies led to the postponement of the elections, there were insufficient checks and transparency in the results process, as well as a general lack of public communication and information.
“The EU EOM reported that this damaged the integrity of the electoral process and may deter future participation. During collation of the federal results, EU observers directly witnessed or received reports of intimidation of INEC officials in 20 states. While the legal framework broadly provides for democratic elections and some improvements were made to the Constitution, various legal shortcomings remained, including in relation to the use of smart card readers.
“Other issues highlighted in the report include: conflicting and late rulings on electoral disputes that undermined opportunity for remedy and created uncertainty; the dysfunctional regulation of political finance; very few electoral offences resulting in arrest or prosecution; problems with the collection of permanent voter cards; and the further fall in the number of women elected.
“Positively, however, the report noted that parties and candidates were able to campaign, with freedoms of assembly, expression and movement largely respected. The EU EOM also emphasised the effective role played by civil society organisations in promoting election reform and positively contributing to the accountability of the process.”
Although the report made 30 recommendations for consideration, it however prioritises the following seven: strengthen INEC procedures for the collation of results to improve integrity and confidence in electoral outcomes; establish requirements in law for full results transparency, with data easily accessible to the public; Considerably strengthen INEC’s organisational and operational capacity, as well as its internal communication; the inter-agency body responsible for electoral security to work more transparently and inclusively, with regular consultations with political parties and civil society; introduce a legal requirement for political parties to have a minimum representation of women among candidates; electoral tribunals to also cover pre-election cases in order to improve access to remedy and to avoid petitions being taken to different courts at the same time and; reform the licensing system for the broadcast media to provide for media pluralism and diversity in all of Nigeria’s states.
The EU Mission also observed,: “Inconsistent numbers during collation, lack of clear checks and explanations, and insufficient public information undermined the integrity of the elections.
“Citizens did not have sufficient means to scrutinise results. INEC did not provide centralised information on the declared results for the different locations and has not posted complete results data on its website.
“Similarly, there is a lack of disaggregated results by LGA, ward or polling unit, which would allow for thorough checking of results.”
It recommended that “legal requirements be established for full results transparency, with data easily accessible to the public.
“All results, including those from lower levels, be immediately displayed at collation centres. Results forms from all collation centres be scanned and published on the INEC website by the time of the declaration of final results. Results forms from all polling units be published before the deadline for submission of petitions against declared results.”
Expressing concern over the postponement of presidential and national assembly elections, “five hours before polling was due to start on February 16, the EU recommended “organisational and operational capacity within INEC be considerably strengthened. Improve the planning, tracking, and the required human and material resources for timely and accountable operations. In addition, improve internal communication within INEC.”
The EU Chief Observer, however, admitted: “that INEC worked in a difficult environment and made some improvements.” To strengthen Nigeria democracy, the EU called for a national dialogue involving state institutions, parties, civil society and the media.
She said: “This needs to be urgently undertaken to allow time for debate, legislative changes and implementation well in advance of the next elections.” She further noted that such national dialogue for future elections was imperative to instil sanity in the process before the next general elections.
Asked by newsmen if in her judgement the 2015 general elections were better than the 2019 exercise, Arena. said it was difficult for her to pass judgement.
“It is difficult to say one election was better than the other. What we can say is that there is room for more transparency. We need to improve on the system and it is a problem if we aren’t seeing improvement. If we want to sustain democracy, there must be more transparency in the process.”
The INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu said the full EU EOM report and recommendations would be useful for future elections.
“Indeed, the report is coming at the right time as it will feed into our ongoing review of the conduct of the elections.
“Let me assure you that the Commission will again quickly focus attention on the electoral legal framework in addition to several other areas of reform. We will study in detail all recommendations as part of our ongoing internal review of the 2019 general elections which we hope to conclude in the next two months.
“Immediately thereafter, we shall engage with the leadership of the 9th National Assembly on areas that require legislation while implementing aspects of the reform within the powers of the Commission in full consultation with stakeholders.”
The EU Election Observer Mission refused to comment on whether it observed how election results were communicated to INEC headquarters stating that it remains internal affair of the election body.
The EU deployed over 91 observers to 261 polling units and 94 collation centres in 31 states of the Federation during the last Presidential and National Assembly elections
It equally deployed 73 observers to 223 polling units and 81 collation centres in 22 states of the Federation for the Governorship, State Assembly and Federal Capital Territory, (FCT) Area Council elections.