The joint election observation mission of the National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute to Nigeria has said the 2019 general elections fell below the 2015 election standard.
The group also noted in its report the exercise failed to meet the expectations of Nigerians, noting that there were delays in some polling units, violence and other administrative challenges during the Presidential and National Assembly elections.
The report also stated that the last-minute postponement of the Presidential and National Assembly elections eroded the electorate’s confidence in the Independent National Electoral Commission.
These were contained in the NDI/IRI final report of the elections presented in Abuja on Tuesday by IRI Africa Regional Deputy Director, Elizabeth Lewis, and the Senior Associate and Regional Director for Central and West Africa, NDI, Dr Christopher Fomunyoh.
IRI President, Daniel Twining, said, “The 2019 general elections fell significantly short of the standard set in 2015. Citizens’ confidence in elections was shaken. Election stakeholders should take concrete steps to address the concerns of citizens regarding the polls in order to rekindle their faith in the power and possibility of credible elections.”
In the report, NDI President, Derek Mitchell, said the elections highlighted the need for a national conservation about the nation’s democracy.
The report knocked parties for their flawed candidate nomination processes, stressing that intra-and inter-party disputes after the primaries led to more than 800 court cases.
It stated that the elections were marred by vote-buying, delay in distributing electoral materials and violations of the secrecy of the ballot.
The report read in part, “Notably, observers reported many instances of party agents overstepping their responsibilities, often directing operations in the polling unit and in a few cases ‘assisting’ voters to cast their ballots.
“While observers noted few cases of overt vote-buying, they reported that less visible forms of voter coercion such as the distribution of gift items may have tainted the process.”
It said that security officials, particularly the police, overall acted professionally and impartially, adding, however, that the military disrupted the polls in some areas, including in Rivers State.
The mission also noted that frequent failure of the smart card readers to authenticate fingerprints frustrated polling officials and voters and stymied the process.
The mission recommended a comprehensive electoral reform, noting that it could draw on the recommendations from the Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Committee (2008) and the Nnamani Committee on Electoral Reforms (2017).
The report added, “INEC should update its data management and communications process to ensure that information about the election process and results are shared with the public promptly and transparently; INEC should establish clear procedures for the transmission of results from the polling unit directly to its headquarters in Abuja or the state INEC office.”
The mission advised parties to develop issue-based platforms that reflected citizen priorities and build a capacity to monitor elections, stating that INEC should commence preparations for the 2023 elections now.
However, the Presidency said on Tuesday that it welcomed the report, but insisted that President Muhammadu Buhari “clearly won” the February 23 presidential election.
In a statement by Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, the Presidency recalled that despite some recorded shortcomings, the election “was acknowledged to have been a success by Economic Community of West African States, Observer Mission and YIAGA AFRICA, whose parallel vote tabulation verified Independent National Electoral Commission’s presidential election results as announced.”