- EU says 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.
- Public confidence and trust in INEC were severely damaged on 25 February due to a lack of transparency and operational failures in the conduct of the federal-level polls.
- Court decisions taken only a few days before the polls reduced candidates’ prospects to meaningfully campaign.
The European Union released its second preliminary statement following the close of the gubernatorial elections in Nigeria stating that obstruction and organised violence limited the free expression of the will of the voters, despite efforts by civil society to promote democratic standards.
This was disclosed in a report by the European Union Election Observation Mission Nigeria 2023 on Monday.
The EU EOM said it is now in a position to comment only on observation undertaken to date, and will later publish a final report, including full analysis and recommendations for electoral reform.
Second Preliminary Statement
EU noted that its second preliminary statement of the EU Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) is delivered before the completion of the entire electoral process.
They added that Critical stages of the state elections remain, including the collation of results and adjudication of petitions.
- “The EU EOM is now in a position to comment only on observation undertaken to date, and will later publish a final report, including full analysis and recommendations for electoral reform.
- “The EU EOM may also make additional statements on election-related matters as and when it considers it appropriate.”
- “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.
EU added that the preliminary statement supplements the first issued on 27 February, citing Elections for 36 State House of Assembly (SHoA) and 28 Governors took place on 18 March after contentious presidential polls.
Organised Violence and low Public confidence
EU said after the Presidential elections that 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.
- “Shortly before, and on election day, incidents of organised violence in several states created an environment of fear for voters.
- “Public confidence and trust in INEC were severely damaged on 25 February due to lack of transparency and operational failures in the conduct of the federal level polls.
They added that until the postponement, INEC 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.
Thuggery and Vote-buying
EU stated that 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.
They added the 18 March elections did not face the same problems with the use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) as on 25 February, adding that Result forms for the gubernatorial races were uploaded and displayed for public scrutiny.
- “At the time of the declaration of presidential results, only EU Election Observation Mission Nigeria General Elections – 25 February and 18 March 2023Second Preliminary Statement one-quarter of result forms were visible; by midday 19 March, gubernatorial race result forms available online ranged from 62 to 97 per cent depending on the state.”
They also added that Some court decisions were taken only a few days before the polls, effectively reducing candidates’ prospects to meaningfully campaign.
In its first preliminary report, The EU acknowledged that holding the 25 February Presidential election in Nigeria was a major undertaking, representing a key opportunity for the consolidation of democracy. They added that despite a challenging context and operational failures, the Nigerian people demonstrated their commitment to democracy. They said:
- “The EU observation mission said the elections were held on schedule but lack of transparency and operational failures reduced trust in the process and called for the right to vote.
- “Fundamental freedom of assembly and movement were largely respected, yet the full enrolment of the latter was impeded by insufficient planning, insecurity, and the prevailing Naira and fuel shortages
- “However, lack of public information on election technologies (Bimodal Voter Accreditation System and IreV) diminished expectations and left room for speculation and uncertainty.”
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