Furore Over EU Mission’s 2023 Election Report as FG Rejects Findings

Furore Over EU Mission’s 2023 Election Report as FG Rejects Findings

The 92-page European Union Election Observation Mission report on Nigeria’s 2023 general election has continued to generate diverse reactions as the government issued a statement on Sunday rejecting the report which has been largely corroborated by several Civil Society Organisations who also monitored the elections. The EU report took a holistic look at the entire

The 92-page European Union Election Observation Mission report on Nigeria’s 2023 general election has continued to generate diverse reactions as the government issued a statement on Sunday rejecting the report which has been largely corroborated by several Civil Society Organisations who also monitored the elections.

The EU report took a holistic look at the entire electoral process detailing its report on the pre-election, election day, and post-election activities and in different sectors and highlighting some shortcomings including that of transparency of the process saying: “the 2023 general elections did not ensure a well-run transparent, and inclusive democratic process as assured by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)” are in agreement with the conclusions of the EU EOM on the elections.

Senator George Akume, Secretary to the Federation of Nigeria receives the report from Mr. Barry Andrews, Head of the EU-Election Observation Mission in Nigeria

The EU-EOM has already divided the pollical class with the government of the APC rejecting the report describing it as biased and aimed as discrediting its victory at the polls while both the PDP and Labour Party find merits in the report. The final verdict on what happened during the election, however, lies with the judiciary.

The EU report made recommendations for institutional reforms and amendments of the Electoral Act to improve inclusivity in the electoral process and noted that “Public confidence and trust in INEC were severely damaged during the presidential poll and was not restored in state level elections, leading civil society to call for an independent audit of the entire process. The pre-poll environment was volatile and challenging, affected by economic crises. Fundamental freedoms of assembly and movement were broadly respected, yet the full enjoyment of the latter was impeded by insecurity in some parts of the country.

But barely one week after, the federal government of Bola Ahmed Tinubu has come out to reject the EU report saying it finds it “preposterous and unconscionable that in this day and age, any foreign organisation of whatever hue can continue to insist on its own yardstick and assessment as the only way to determine the credibility and transparency of our elections”.

Mr. Dele Alake

A 3-page statement issued by Mr. Dele Alake, Special Adviser, Special Duties, Communication and Strategy to President Tinubu accused the multilateral body’s report of “unfounded bias and claims on the election outcomes”.

The Tinubu government went on to give its own verdict: “For emphasis, we want to reiterate that the 2023 general elections, most especially the presidential election, won by President Bola Tinubu/All Progressives Congress, were credible, peaceful, free, fair and the best organised general elections in Nigeria since 1999.

“There is no substantial evidence provided by the European Union or any foreign and local organisation that is viable enough to impeach the integrity of the 2023 election outcomes.

But some analysts have observed that the EU report goes deeper than the final outcome of the election and neither validates nor invalidates the announced result. The report made 23 recommendations and highlighted the following six as s priority recommendations to improve Nigeria’s electoral environment and processes:

1. Protect the interests of voters through certainty of law for all stages and aspects of electoral processes by eliminating from electoral law and regulations errors and ambiguities to avoid potential for conflicting interpretations, and ensuring the revision processes are inclusive.

2. Establish a robust operational framework for the independence, integrity, and efficiency of electoral administration through an inclusive and publicly accountable mechanism for selecting candidates to the posts of INEC commissioners and RECs based on clear criteria of evaluation of merits, qualifications, and verified non-partisanship.

3. Protect the free expression of the will of the voter and integrity of elections by establishing a robust, transparent, and easily verifiable results processing system with clear rules. These include uploading polling unit results from the polling unit only and in real time, at each level of collation results forms to be uploaded in real time, and all forms to be published in an easily trackable and scrapable database format.

4. Afford adequate protection to freedom of expression by developing a comprehensive operational framework underpinned by the skills and means for ensuring prompt investigation and prosecution of all types of attacks against media practitioners.

5. Undertake urgent and robust affirmative action to ensure meaningful women’s representation through special measures in line with the Beijing principles and the National Gender Policy to increase the representation of women as candidates and in elected office, further supported by cross-sectoral, intensified, and sustained capacity building and sensitisation to eliminate discrimination.

6. Address impunity for electoral offences through robust, well-defined, and effective inter-agency co-ordination governed by clear rules on non-partisanship, optimisation of resources, delivery of effective investigation and sanctioning, and provision of regular public consolidated information on outcomes.

It would appear the reaction of the government is to discredit the EU-EOM report. This is not the first kind of that report would be given. The latest reaction from the government would also appear to be a volte face because the report had earlier been well received by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator George Akume, who assured the delegation that government would study the recommendations.

The EU report has also been presented to the election management body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The Electoral body’s reaction is that the report did not essentially reflect the true state of things during the election. Festus Okoye, the INEC national commissioner for information and voter education, said deepening electoral process in the country is a marathon and not a sprint. The INEC would study the report and do the needful.

But argued that it was unfair to judge the commission and the entirety of the polls off a few glitches, stressing that Nigeria is on course to achieving optimal democracy and noted that other reports submitted, domestic and international observers attested to the fact that in terms of voter accreditation, the BVAS performed optimally.

The national commissioner, however, noted that certain factors contributed to issues encountered in the conduct of the elections. “If you look at those challenges, you must also look at the context of the elections, also the environment which was surrounded by, one, insecurity in so many parts of the country. Nobody can dispute that,” he said.

PDP, Labour Party Agree with Report

Atiku PDP, Obi Labour Party

A spokesperson of the presidential candidate of the PDP. Mr. Phrank Shuaibu has however, urged the federal government to accept the mission’s final report on the poll. Atiku’s Special Assistant on Public Communications, accused the Presidency of trying to discredit the EU report. He argued that the incomplete uploading of the election results on INEC’s portal raised doubts about the credibility of the polls. Shuaibu also called on the US and UK to impose visa bans on election riggers.

In his own statement, acting National Publicity Secretary of the Labour Party, Obiora Ifoh, described the Federal Government’s response to the EU report as ‘medicine after death.’

Ifoh said: “Labour Party stands by the position of the EU observation mission. We have always said that this election was massively rigged in favour of the APC and their candidate.

“What the FG is saying is just medicine after death. Even the blind can see, the deaf can hear and they know this election was manipulated. Without sounding immodest, evidence was given at the tribunal, as you are aware.


Below is the full text of the Federal Government’s Reaction to the EU-EOM Report

WE REJECT EUROPEAN UNION’S CONCLUSIONS ON 2023 GENERAL ELECTIONS
Sometimes in May, we alerted the nation, through a press statement, to the plan by a continental multi-lateral institution to discredit the 2023 general elections conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission. The main target was the presidential election, clearly and fairly won by the then candidate of All Progressives Congress, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

While we did not mention the name of the organisation in the said statement, we made it abundantly clear to Nigerians how this foreign institution had been unrelenting in its assault on the credibility of the electoral process, the sovereignty of our country and on our ability as a people to organise ourselves. We find it preposterous and unconscionable that in this day and age, any foreign organisation of whatever hue can continue to insist on its own yardstick and assessment as the only way to determine the credibility and transparency of our elections.

Now that the organisation has submitted what it claimed to be its final report on the elections, we can now categorically let Nigerians and the entire world know that we were not unaware of the machinations of the European Union to sustain its, largely, unfounded bias and claims on the election outcomes.

For emphasis, we want to reiterate that the 2023 general elections, most especially the presidential election, won by President Bola Tinubu/All Progressives Congress, were credible, peaceful, free, fair and the best organised general elections in Nigeria since 1999.

There is no substantial evidence provided by the European Union or any foreign and local organisation that is viable enough to impeach the integrity of the 2023 election outcomes.

It is worth restating that the limitation of EU final assessment and conclusions on our elections was made very bare in the text of the press conference addressed by the Head of its Electoral Observation Mission, Barry Andrews. While addressing journalists in Abuja on the so-called final report, Andrews noted that EU-EOM monitored the pre-election and post-election processes in Nigeria from January 11 to April 11, 2023 as an INEC accredited election monitoring group.

Within this period, EU-EOM observed the elections through 11 Abuja-based analysts, and 40 election observers spread across 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. With the level of personnel deployed, which was barely an average of one person per state, we wonder how EU-EOM independently monitored election in over 176,000 polling units across Nigeria.

We would like to know and even ask EU, how it reached the conclusions in the submitted final report with the very limited coverage of the elections by their observers who, without doubt, relied more on rumours, hearsay, cocktails of prejudiced and uninformed social media commentaries and opposition talking heads.

We are convinced that what EU-EOM called final report on our recent elections is a product of a poorly done desk job that relied heavily on few instances of skirmishes in less than 1000 polling units out of over 176,000 where Nigerians voted on election day.

We have many reasons to believe the jaundiced report, based on the views of fewer than 50 observers, was to merely sustain the same premature denunciatory stance contained in EU’s preliminary report released in March.
We strongly reject, in its entirety, any notion and idea from any organisation, group and individual remotely suggesting that the 2023 election was fraudulent.

Our earlier position that the technology-aided 2023 general elections were the most transparent and best organised elections since the return of civil rule in Nigeria has been validated by all non-partisan foreign and local observers such are the African Union, ECOWAS, Commonwealth Observer Mission and the Nigerian Bar Association.

Unlike EU-EOM that deployed fewer than 50 observers, the Nigerian Bar Association that sent out over 1000 observers spread across the entire country for same election gave a more holistic and accurate assessment of the elections in their own report.

NBA, an organisation of eminent lawyers and an important voice within the civic space, reported that 91.8 per cent of Nigerians rated the conduct of the national and state elections as credible and satisfactory. Any election that over 90% of the citizens considered transparent should be celebrated anywhere in the world.

It is heart-warming that INEC, through its National Commissioner for Information and Voter Education, Mr. Festus Okoye, has come out to defend the integrity of the election it conducted by rejecting the false narratives in the EU report.
It is also gratifying that the electoral umpire, as an institution that is open to learning and continuous improvements, has also committed to taking on board more ideas, innovation and reforms that will further enhance the integrity and credibility of our electoral process.

As a country, we have put the elections behind us. President Tinubu is facing the arduous task of nation-building, while those who have reasons to challenge the process continue to do so through the courts. In just one month in office, Nigerians appear satisfied with the decisive leadership of President Tinubu and the manner he is redirecting the country to the path of fiscal sustainability and socio-economic reforms. We urge the EU and other foreign interests to be objective in all their assessments of the internal affairs of our country and allow Nigeria to breathe.

Dele Alake
Special Adviser to the President
(Special Duties, Communications and Strategy)
July 2, 2023

Ayo Aluko-Olokun
ADMINISTRATOR
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