By Udora Orizu in Abuja
In the run up to the 2019 general election, the European Union (EU) Group has expressed its plan to assess the conduct of the media by monitoring key television and radio stations, newspapers as well as the social media, even as it deploys 40 observers to monitor the polls.
The observer group also said it will observe the opening of the polling units, the voting process, the counting of votes, tabulation of results, any election complaints and appeals that arise before, during or after elections and will issue a preliminary statement giving their assessment of the electoral process up until that point.
The Chief Observer, Maria Arena, while addressing journalists in Abuja Tuesday, revealed that a team of 11 election experts are in Abuja, adding that 40 experienced long-term observers had been deployed in pairs around the country on Monday to cover all states.
In addition, she said over the two election days, a delegation of seven members of the European Parliament will also join the mission, as well as diplomatic staff from EU member state embassies in Nigeria, Canada, Norway and Switzerland.
The 2019 elections are scheduled for February 16 and March 2.
According to Arena, “I can’t say how large the mission will eventually be at this stage, but we are expecting it to be made up of more than 70 observers. We will be observing both election days and the post-election period.
“Our observers across the country, in all six geo-political zones, working out of 20 different locations. They are now starting to meet with election officials, candidates, parties, security agencies, media and religious leaders.”
The chief observer urged all the institutions involved in the elections to be transparent and accountable in order to get public confidence and trust.
She said: “We hope that INEC and also the security forces will provide clear real-time information on what they are doing and actions they have taken. INEC and the security forces need to be seen to work neutrally in all their actions from the leadership down.
“I hope that state bodies and political parties all play their part in promoting a fair and peaceful process before, during and after election day. This means working with integrity for the sake of the nation and promoting a calm response to any problems or frustrations.”
The elections, she said, provide an opportunity for Nigeria to build on what was achieved in 2015 and to further strengthen the country’s democracy.