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Furore over EU report on 2023 polls

The dust raised by the release of the European Union Electoral Observer Mission (EU EOM) final report of its observation of the 2023 general elections…

The dust raised by the release of the European Union Electoral Observer Mission (EU EOM) final report of its observation of the 2023 general elections may not have been unexpected, Daily Trust reports.

The international body recently released the 94-page report with 23 recommendations for consideration by Nigerian authorities, with a view to reforming six priority areas.

The Chief Observer of the Mission, Mr Barry Andrews, said that shortcomings in electoral law and administration hindered the smooth conduct of the 2023 general elections and damaged trust in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

According to him, while Nigerians demonstrated commitment to the democratic option, the nation’s electoral process exposed systemic weaknesses, signalling a need for legal and operational reforms and enhancement of transparency, inclusiveness and accountability.

He listed six priority recommendations: removing ambiguities in the law; establishing a publicly accountable selection process for INEC staff; ensuring real-time publication of and access to election results; providing greater protection for media practitioners; addressing discrimination against women in politics; and preventing impunity regarding electoral offences.

Andrews said the mission observed deceit and misuse of the power of incumbency by governors, who tilted the playing field, leading to increased polarisation and divisive rhetoric based on ethnicity and religion.

The mission also noted that there were over 1,000 pre-election court cases and more than 100 campaign-related incidents of violence, including assassinations.

He added that public confidence and trust in INEC were severely damaged during the presidential poll and was not restored in state-level elections, leading civil society to call for an independent audit of the entire process.

He said, “Abuse of incumbency by various political office holders distorted the playing field and widespread vote-buying detracted from appropriate conduct of the elections.

The mission also said that it recorded 101 violent incidents during the campaign, including at least 74 fatalities.

It said, “Assassination attempts and killings increased closer to the polls, creating a particularly insecure environment in the southern states. In several northern states, systematic attacks by political thugs on rallies and political opponents were observed. Use of violence obstructed the campaign, disturbed the elections, and suppressed voter participation.”

On vote buying, the report said, “Campaigning was also distorted by an influx of unrecorded money and despite campaign finance being comprehensively regulated the law appears largely ineffective”.

INEC kicks

However, responding to the EU EOM mission position, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye, who was at the presentation of the report, said it was unfair to judge the entire performance of the commission in the just concluded 2023 general elections on the basis of a glitch in the upload of the presidential election results.

Okoye said that in assessing the process, Nigerians must start from the positives.

“Were there positives to this election? My answer is in the affirmative. One, the commission registered a lot of Nigerians to vote during this election and the commission also engaged in a lot of voter and civic education that engaged the Nigerian people with the electoral process.

The INEC commissioner said that INEC also introduced technology in the electoral process itself.

According to him, Nigerians have commended the commission for the introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for purposes of voter accreditation and that in terms of voter accreditation; nobody has faulted the functionality of the BVAS in all the elections INEC conducted.

He said, “The only challenge this commission has had is the issue of result upload for presidential election only and I believe it is not fair to judge the entire performance of the commission on the basis of glitch in result upload for the presidential election.”

Presidency, parties differ

Equally, the Nigerian presidency rejected the EU report, describing it as a product of a poorly done desk job that relied heavily on a few instances of skirmishes in less than 1,000 polling units (PUs) out of over 176,000 PUs where Nigerians voted on Election Day.

Dele Alake, Special Adviser to the President on Special Duties, Communications and Strategy, in a statement, said the report relied more on rumours, hearsay, cocktails of prejudiced and uninformed social media commentaries and opposition talking heads.

According to Alake, there was no substantial evidence provided by the EU or any foreign and local organisation that was viable enough to impeach the integrity of the 2023 elections.

He said, “We strongly reject, in its entirety, any notion and idea from any organisation, group and individual remotely suggesting that the 2023 elections were fraudulent.

“Our earlier position that the technology-aided 2023 general elections were the most transparent and best-organised elections since the return of civil rule in Nigeria has been validated by all non-partisan foreign and local observers such as the African Union, ECOWAS, Commonwealth Observer Mission and the Nigerian Bar Association.”

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s candidate during the 2023 presidential election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, accused the federal government of failing to acknowledge the truth.

Atiku also questioned the credibility of the presidential poll; citing delayed result uploads by the INEC.

The PDP flag bearer in a statement signed by his spokesperson, Phrank Shaibu, said the EU’s final report on the 2023 polls showed that the outcome of the election was not a true reflection of the people’s will.

“It is hypocritical for the federal government to receive support from the EU for the elections and discard its findings because it is not in their favour,” Shaibu stated.

Also, the National Publicity Secretary of the Labour Party (LP), Obiora Ifoh, in a statement described the presidency’s comment as medicine after death.

The party expressed disappointment with the government for discrediting the EU report on the 2023 General Elections.

“It will interest the government to note that the European Union’s report is only one out of numerous submissions by other international observers who have described the outcome of the election as a sham and an exercise that did not reflect the will of the majority of Nigerians.”

“Labour Party stands by the position of the EU observation mission. We have always said that this election was massively rigged in favour of the APC and their candidate. What the FG is saying is just an afterthought and a shameless effort to mask the obvious. Even the blind can see, the deaf can hear and they know this election was manipulated,” Ifoh said.

CSOs divided

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) faulted the EU EOM team’s final report on Nigeria’s 2023 general election.

The MURIC Director, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, in a statement, described the report as an imperialist agenda.

“We are nonplussed by this blatant attempt to push an imperialist agenda down the throat of Nigerians. The report is a premeditated attempt at inciting anarchy in the country with the hope of gaining political and economic influence at the outbreak of commotion.

“The EU EOM final report is the odd one out when juxtaposed with those of other election monitoring groups. We saw nothing close to this in the report of the US-based International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI).

“NDI/IRI came with 40 observers from 20 countries led by Dr Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi. They did not sow any seed of confusion,” Akintola said.

However, the Executive Director of the Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Dr Ibrahim Zikirullahi, expressed dismay, over the wave of uncharitable attacks targeted at the EU EOM over its pertinent observations about the irregularities, which undermined and tainted the credibility of the 2023 Presidential election.

“As a nonpartisan observer of the electoral process and an advocate of democracy and governance reforms in Nigeria, CHRICED strongly condemns the recent onslaughts, including the ill-tempered press statement from the Presidency denouncing the EU EOM report.

“For us, the statement credited to the Special Adviser to the President on Special Duties, Communications and Strategy gives the impression to Nigerians and the international community that current power holders are unwilling to learn the key reform-related lessons from the 2023 General Elections.

 Protesters storm EU office in Abuja

A new twist was introduced over the EU Report as hundreds of angry Nigerians on Thursday last week stormed the EU office in Abuja, condemning what they described as attempts to plunge Nigeria into chaos.

The protesters under the aegis of the Coalition of Civil Society Organisations and Political Parties for Good Governance, specifically faulted the report of the EU EOM Nigeria’s 2023 general elections, which rated the polls as generally falling short of acceptable global standards.

They asked the EU to withdraw its report and allow Nigeria to grow like other countries.

National Coordinator of the coalition, Dr. Lilian Ene Ogbole who led the protesters said it was time Western countries stopped meddling in the internal affairs of Nigeria.

She said; “We have come to register unequivocally, our dissatisfaction with the report of the European Union. As a matter of fact, we are of the opinion that the report is not just ridiculous but a deliberate act to slight Nigeria and of course by implication, our leaders and the government of Nigeria.

 

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