By Progress Godfrey, Abuja
A joint US Election Observation Mission has said the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, conducted the 2023 general election below the expectations of Nigerians.
The Election Observation Mission (IEOM) consisting of the International Republican Institute (IRI) and National Democratic Institute (NDI), led by Her Excellency Dr Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi, made this known during a press conference in Abuja on Monday.
The NDI/IRI 40-member joint IEOM was deployed across all six geopolitical regions of the country and observed all stages of the voting process. Their observations informed preliminary findings and 27 practical recommendations to improve future elections.
In their preliminary statement about the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections in Nigeria, the joint mission noted that incidents of political violence overshadowed the electoral process.
The delegation, however, congratulated Nigerians for their resilience and enthusiasm to participate in the process despite the large crowds and long waits in some polling units.
“The mission notes that despite the much-needed reforms to the The Electoral Act 2022, the election fell well short of Nigerian citizens’ reasonable expectations. Logistical challenges and multiple incidents of political violence overshadowed the electoral process and impeded a substantial number of voters from participating. Ongoing currency and fuel shortages also imposed excessive burdens on voters and election officials, and Nigerian marginalized groups, especially women, continue to face barriers to seeking and obtaining political office,” said Her Excellency Dr Brenda.
The delegation observed that late opening of polling locations and logistical failures created tensions and the secrecy of the ballot was compromised in some polling units, given overcrowding. At the close of the polls, challenges with the electronic transfer of results and their upload to a public portal in a timely manner, undermined citizen confidence at a crucial moment of the process.
Moreover, the joint mission said “inadequate communication and lack of transparency by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) about their cause and extent created confusion and eroded voters’ trust in the process.
“The combined effect of these problems disenfranchised Nigerian voters in many areas, although the scope and scale is currently unknown. Despite these issues, Nigerians once again demonstrated their commitment to the democratic process. Voters displayed extraordinary resilience and resolve to have their voices heard through the ballot, and INEC administered a nationwide election according to the electoral calendar for the first time in the country’s recent history,” she added.
The mission, therefore, urged political actors and their supporters to remain calm and exercise restraint as the nation prepares for upcoming gubernatorial elections.
“The mission encourages INEC, the government, political actors and civil society to redouble their efforts. “