By Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja
International observers for the just concluded presidential and National Assembly elections have called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to expeditiously release the results of the polls.
The observers also called on political gladiators to ensure that the processes are concluded in a peaceful atmosphere as they identified grey areas in the elections in their preliminary reports released Monday in Abuja.
In separate but similar press conferences, the African Union Observation Mission (AUEOM) led by former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who was the head of mission and former vice-president, Gambia, Mrs. Fatoumata Tambajang, who led the Joint International Observer team of International Republican Institute (IRI) National Democratic Institute (NDI) and other contributors, made important observations and gave recommendations on how to conduct better elections in the country.
According to Desalegn, “While congratulating INEC for being open and cooperative with electoral observers, the mission urged INEC to expeditiously and transparently collate and announce the results of the presidential and National Assembly elections as provided for by law.”
He also called on INEC to continue to improve election management to address the consistent postponement of elections through proper planning and execution of election logistics and operations, adding that the body should strengthen the capacity of polling staff through training on assisting voters, counting and other electoral procedures.
Urging political parties and young people to leverage on the opportunity created by the Not Too Young to Run Act to increase political participation and representation, Desalegn urged Nigerians and other stakeholders to act responsibly in the use of social media and refrain from disseminating false information on the elections, particularly the results.
In his conclusion, Desalegn, who noted that the 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections provided an opportunity for the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria, said: “The AUEOM observed that the political space has broadened as evidenced by the high number of political parties and candidates that took part in the elections. Furthermore, the mission is impressed by the patience and resilience demonstrated by Nigerians during the elections.
“Overall, the process was largely peaceful and orderly and in conformity with Nigeria’s legal framework.”
He, however, recommended that in the spirit of cooperation and solidarity, “political parties and candidates are urged to uphold the commitment to peaceful elections and resolution of disputes in keeping with the two peace accords signed in December 2018 and February 2019″.
“They are further urged to call on their supporters to remain calm and peaceful and refrain from any action that might incite post-election violence. In case of any grievances over the election results, political parties and candidates are encouraged to use the legal instruments at their disposal to seek redress,” he said.
On its part, the NDI/IRI mission, in its recommendation read by President, IRI, US, Daniel Twining, urged Nigerians to address immediate and longer-term challenges to inclusive and credible elections.
Particularly for the March 9 gubernatorial and state assembly elections, the IRI/NDI mission said the government should ensure adequate security to support and protect INEC’s deployment and voter engagement, intensify communication and outreach to the Nigerian public and relevant stakeholders in the electoral process.
It also called for improved plans for the distribution of sensitive election materials such as ballot papers and result sheets, ensure that ad hoc polling staff are adequately trained on polling procedures and to fully implement the disability framework by ensuring that all polling units are accessible to persons with disabilities.
While political parties are urged to respect the rule of law and call on supporters to remain peaceful, before, during, and after the polls and to adhere to the announcement of results, the NDI/IRI mission tasked the Nigerian government to immediately after the elections pursue a comprehensive and inclusive electoral reform process that draws upon the recommendations made by the Uwais Commission and Nnamani Committee.
The observer missions bemoaned the fact that the polling staff did not demonstrate sufficient knowledge and competence in the application of the opening procedures, late opening of voting, incidents of violence, and snatching of ballot materials at some polling units.
Others are impediments to voting for persons with disabilities and the elderly and the change of the location of polling units for internally displaced persons (lDPs) at the last minute from camps to wards in some locations, which could have impacted IDP enfranchisement.