By Chika Otuchikere
The joint Nigeria International Election Observation Mission of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) have released its final report on the 2019 Nigerian elections, saying the standards of the election was a far cry from the 2015 elections.
The report which listed areas where the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) must improve upon, said many serious irregularities occurred, including vote buying, intimidation of voters and election officials, and election-related violence.
IRI president Dr. Daniel Twining, said; “The 2019 general elections fell significantly short of standards set in 2015. Citizens’ confidence in elections was shaken.
“Election stakeholders should take concrete steps to address the concerns of citizens with regards to the polls in order to rekindle their faith in the power and possibility of credible elections.”
While the NDI president, Ambassador Derek Mitchell, noted; “The 2019 elections highlighted for many Nigerians the need for a national conversation about the country’s democratization since the 1999 transition to civilian rule. We hope this report may both spur and contribute to enriching that national conversation.”
The agencies concluded that the 2019 elections did not meet the expectations of many Nigerians. They stated that the last-minute postponement of the presidential and National Assembly elections on the morning of Feb. 16 and delays in opening some polling units and other administrative challenges on Feb. 23 undermined public confidence in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
According to the NDI/IRI, the final report provides recommendations to enhance the credibility of elections in Nigeria going forward, including areas of improvement for political party conduct, civic engagement, election security, and legal frameworks around election disputes.
The agencies pointed out that in previous years suggestions for improvements by reputable citizen and international observation missions went unheeded and urged Nigerian stakeholders to seriously consider the recommendations to improve the country’s electoral process.
The NDI/IRI among others urged the federal government to pursue a comprehensive, inclusive and expeditious electoral reform process drawing from recommendations from Nigerian reform initiatives such as the Uwais Commission and the Nnamani Committee.
“The government should establish time limit for the adjudication of pre-election petitions to ensure that judgements are rendered before election ay and long enough not to interfere with INEC’s election preparations.
“Make continuous voter registration process more accessible to voters by pursuing technological advances that allow for immediate issuance of a PVC upon registration and simplify the process for voters seeking to change their registration location.
“Continue efforts to enhance the participation of marginalized groups, including women, youths, people with disabilities and IDPs as well as enforce electoral laws by investigating and prosecuting perpetrators of election-related criminal acts.”