By Sadiq Umar – The International Election Observation Mission of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) Tuesday said the 2019 general elections in Nigeria fell significantly short of standards set in 2015.
The US and UK based civil society bodies also observed that “citizens’ confidence in elections was shaken,” adding that “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.”
The IEO group while making known its final report on the February and March general elections in Abuja Tuesday noted that “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.”
NDI President, Derek Mitchell, said expressed hope that the report would contribute to national dialogue on elections. “We hope this report may both spur and contribute to enriching that national conversation,” he added.
However, the Presidency said it welcomed the report with “reservations” while rejecting the groups’ criticism of the removal of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, ahead of the polls.
This final report builds on the findings and recommendations of three pre-election assessment missions in July 2018, September 2018, and December 2018 as well as preliminary statements released following the February 23, 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections and the March 9, 2019 gubernatorial and state House of Assembly elections.
The IRI/NDI mission said it conducted its activities in accordance with Nigerian law and the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation.
The NDI/IRI observation mission concluded that the 2019 elections did not meet the expectations of many Nigerians.
It said the last-minute postponement of the presidential and National Assembly elections on the morning of February 16 and delays in opening some polling units and other administrative challenges on February 23 undermined public confidence in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The report said four years ago, Nigeria held elections that were recognized internationally as free, fair and credible.
The report recommended improvement for political party conduct, civic engagement, election security, and legal frameworks around election disputes as means of enhancing credible future elections.
It further observed that suggestions for improvements by reputable citizen and international observation missions went unheeded in previous years.
The high-level delegation for the joint Nigeria International Election Observation Mission included Festus Mogae, former president of Botswana; Vaira Vike-Freiberga, former president of Latvia; Fatoumata Tambajang, former vice president of The Gambia; Johnnie Carson, former U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs.
Others are: Randy Scheunemann, vice chairman of IRI’s board of directors; Derek Mitchell, NDI president; and Daniel Twining, IRI president, along with 40 observers from Africa, Europe, and North America. Five thematic experts were also deployed to provide in-depth analysis on key issues identified during the pre-election assessments: electoral violence, election administration, inclusivity and the political environment.