The European Union Election Observation Mission on the 2019 general elections formally unveiled its report and recommendations at the weekend in Abuja. The Chief Observer of the EU team, Maria Arena read to newsmen, excerpts of its reports which contained 30 recommendations to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Tribune Online findings revealed that the EU deployed over 91 observers to 261 polling units and 94 collation centres in 31 states of the Federation during the last Presidential and National Assembly elections.
It equally deployed 73 observers to 223 polling units and 81 collation centres in 22 states of the Federation for the Governorship, State Assembly and Federal Capital Territory, (FCT) Area Council elections.
Giving its verdict on the election, the EU Chief Observer said the electoral process, from voting, collation and final declaration of results were not too transparent. She admonished the Commission “to strengthen collation of results transparently to inspire confidence in the process.”
INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu in his prompt response said democracy was a work in progress and his Commission was determined to implement EU recommendations.
The EU observation in its report read in part: “Inconsistent numbers during collation, lack of clear checks and explanations, and insufficient public information undermined the integrity of the elections.
“Citizens did not have sufficient means to scrutinise results. INEC did not provide centralised information on the declared results for the different locations and has not posted complete results data on its website.
“Similarly, there is a lack of disaggregated results by LGA, ward or polling unit, which would allow for thorough checking of results.”
It recommended that “legal requirements be established for full results transparency, with data easily accessible to the public.
“All results, including those from lower levels, be immediately displayed at collation centres. Results forms from all collation centres be scanned and published on the INEC website by the time of the declaration of final results. Results forms from all polling units be published before the deadline for submission of petitions against declared results.”
Expressing concern over the postponement of presidential and national assembly elections, “five hours before polling was due to start on February 16, the EU recommended “organisational and operational capacity within INEC be considerably strengthened. Improve the planning, tracking, and the required human and material resources for timely and accountable operations. In addition, improve internal communication within INEC.”
The EU Chief Observer, however, admitted: “that INEC worked in a difficult environment and made some improvements.” To strengthen Nigeria democracy, the EU called for a national dialogue involving state institutions, parties, civil society and the media.
She said: “This needs to be urgently undertaken to allow time for debate, legislative changes and implementation well in advance of the next elections.” She further noted that such national dialogue for future elections was imperative to instil sanity in the process before the next general elections.
Asked by newsmen if in her judgement the 2015 general elections were better than the 2019 exercise, Maria Arena. said it was difficult for her to pass judgement.
“It is difficult to say one election was better than the other. What we can say is that there is room for more transparency. We need to improve on the system and it is a problem if we aren’t seeing improvement. If we want to sustain democracy, there must be more transparency in the process.”
The INEC chairman said the full EU EOM report and recommendations would be useful for future elections. “Indeed, the report is coming at the right time as it will feed into our ongoing review of the conduct of the elections.
“Let me assure you that the Commission will again quickly focus attention on the electoral legal framework in addition to several other areas of reform. We will study in detail all recommendations as part of our ongoing internal review of the 2019 general elections which we hope to conclude in the next two months.
“Immediately thereafter, we shall engage with the leadership of the 9th National Assembly on areas that require legislation while implementing aspects of the reform within the powers of the Commission in full consultation with stakeholders.”