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Observers spend more over election postponement

Foreign observers who mobilised to cover the general elections in Nigeria are spending more in terms of logistics following the postponement of the elections by…

Foreign observers who mobilised to cover the general elections in Nigeria are spending more in terms of logistics following the postponement of the elections by INEC, Daily Trust reports.

The situation is the same with domestic observers who also mobilised before the abrupt postponement on the eve of the election.

Some of the foreign observers flew into Nigeria days before the election and met with various stakeholders including political parties, INEC and civil society organisations with the intent to cover the presidential election earlier slated for Feb. 16 but postponed to Feb. 23.

Daily Trust reports that dozens of observer groups had obtained accreditation to cover the election; secured accommodation in leading hotels in Abuja and dispatched their personnel across the country.

However, the postponement had forced some to shelve the plan to cover the election while others had to make new budgets to remain in Nigeria.

Beside the issue of finance, most of the foreign observer groups were led by former heads of state or senior diplomats who have other engagements elsewhere and could not wait. Some have already left with the assurance of returning, though it is not certain if all could return before Feb. 23.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Election Observation Mission is led by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of Liberia.

She, on Monday, returned to her country following the postponement of the general elections.

Mr Jonathan Bara-Hart of the Directorate of Communications, ECOWAS Commission, had told NAN that Mrs Sirleaf would be back in Nigeria on Thursday.

“You are asking of the observers; they were given the option of staying, most of them are staying. I do not know if some left,” he said.

It was also gathered that ex-president Mogae would also leave today for another commitment.

When contacted through WhatsApp, yesterday, Josephine Latu-Sanft who is the Communications Officer of the Commonwealth Observer Group, said her team led by ex- President Kikwete would remain in Nigeria till Feb. 28.

The African Union Observation Mission also said it would remain in Nigeria until after the elections.

The Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said the postponement of the presidential and National Assembly elections would undoubtedly cost both local and international observers additional resources.

CISLAC, which is one of the local observers accredited by INEC, said though they were not happy with the postponement, they would not allow that to “frustrate” them from ensuring free and fair elections in Nigeria.

‎”This postponement came with serious consequences, especially given the fact that election observers, both local and international, don’t have enough resources to do this exercise. They usually have limited budgets, and this came up, so there will be additional cost implication,” he said.

“But we, as observers, believe that it is ‎part of our responsibility to do everything to ensure that these elections are free, credible and non-violent. It is only through the civil society observation that we can guarantee the process,” he said.

“We have realised from the tone of these politicians that they are actually not interested in holding an election that is free and fair. They want an election that is staggered and declared inconclusive. Therefore, we’re reasoning with INEC. It is obvious that there has been some sabotage both internally and externally,” he added.

The Acting Executive Director of  Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA), Faith Nwadishi,  said they are going to spend almost 100 per cent of what they expended before the postponement.

“We already paid for a hall in a big hotel where we opened our situation room; we also brought in experts who would be conducting analysis of the election,” she said.

“We have to demobilize all the arrangements and then mobilize again, paying bill in the hotels and air tickets for the guests but we have to do it to ensure a hitch free and fair election. We all have a role to play,” she said.

Asked if she feels some of the observer groups would seek for compensation, she said, “I don’t think so; what we are doing is voluntary and for the sake of democracy; I don’t think if somebody will also think of going to court,” she added.

The African Union Election Observation Mission is led by Hailemariam Desalegn, former Prime Minister of Ethiopia; the Commonwealth Observer Group is led by Dr Jakaya Kikwete, former President of the United Republic of Tanzania.

Others are the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa Election Observation Mission led by Rupiah Banda, former President of Zambia; the European Union Election Observation Mission led by Maria Arena, the Belgian Member of the European Parliament; the National Democratic Institute/International Republican Institute Election Observation Mission led by Festus Mogae, the former President of Botswana and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation led by Ambassador Boubakar Adamou, Director of African Political Affairs.

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