The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) to Nigeria has concluded that the governorship and State House of Assembly elections on March 9 were marred by overall low turnout and violence including against election officials and voters.
The mission said while there were operational improvements in the elections, these were overshadowed by systemic failings, including a lack of transparency, incumbency advantage and a troubling electoral security environment.
The EU Chief Observer, Maria Arena, said this while presenting the mission’s preliminary statement in Abuja on Monday where she said the problems demonstrate the need for an inclusive national discussion on electoral reform.
Millions of Nigerians on Saturday voted in the elections. Governorship elections were held in 29 states while state assembly elections were held in all 36 states. Council elections were held in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.
While results have been announced in some states, collation is still ongoing in other states.
According to Ms Arena, the mission deployed 73 observers to monitor voting, counting and the collation of results in 22 states, in all the geopolitical zones.
Ms Arena condemned the violence and intimidation against election officials and voters, and also referred to the obstruction of citizen observers by the military and security agents on election day – observers, including EU observers, were denied access to collation centres in Rivers.
“Overall, the elections were competitive with freedom to campaign. However, there was misuse of incumbency, including on state-owned state media, which prevented a level playing field. In the two weeks leading up to the state elections, EU observers saw some misuse of state offices, as well as institutional websites being used for campaigning by both APC and PDP incumbent governors.
“State-level media broadcast political debates in 21 states, giving voters the opportunity to directly compare candidates. However, in 12 states, incumbents or their main challengers refused to participate.
“All nine state-owned radio stations monitored by the EU Election Observation Mission served the interests of incumbent governors. The mission also noted pressure on local media outlets and journalists before and on election day.
“The systemic problems evident in the 2019 electoral process show the need for an inclusive national discussion on reform for greater electoral integrity and participation.