Feb. 25: US, EU, ECOWAS, Commonwealth Observers Condemn INEC for Lack of Transparency in Election
By Our Reporter
The United States of America, the European Union (EU), African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Commonwealth have all described the presidential and National Assembly elections held on February 25 as totally lacking in transparency.
The international observers while condemning the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over the poor exercise pointed out irregularities and manipulations during the polls.
The International Republican Institute (IRI) and National Democratic Institute (NDI) Joint Election Observation Mission (IEOM), led by Her Excellency Dr. Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi said elections clearly fell short of reasonable expectations.
Banda said in a statement , “The mission notes that despite the much-needed reforms to the The Electoral Act 2022, the election fell well short of Nigerian citizens’ reasonable expectations. Logistical challenges and multiple incidents of political violence overshadowed the electoral process and impeded a substantial number of voters from participating. Ongoing currency and fuel shortages also imposed excessive burdens on voters and election officials, and Nigerian marginalized groups, especially women, continue to face barriers to seeking and obtaining political office.
“The delegation observed that late opening of polling locations and logistical failures created tensions and the secrecy of the ballot was compromised in some polling units given overcrowding.
“ At the close of the polls, challenges with the electronic transfer of results and their upload to a public portal in a timely manner, undermined citizen confidence at a crucial moment of the process.
“Moreover, inadequate communication and lack of transparency by the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) about their cause and extent created confusion and eroded voters’ trust in the process.
“The combined effect of these problems disenfranchised Nigerian voters in many areas, although the scope and scale is currently unknown. Despite these issues, Nigerians once again demonstrated their commitment to the democratic process. Voters displayed extraordinary resilience and resolve to have their voices heard through the ballot, and INEC administered a nationwide election according to the electoral calendar for the first time in the country’s recent history”.
The EU also noted that while Nigerians turned out for the elections despite challenges, yet the election witnessed insufficient planning and insecurity.
The statement read, “Abuse of incumbency by various political office holders distorted the playing field and there were widespread allegations of vote buying”.
Others who made their observations included Ambassador Johnnie Carson, a former Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, Constance Berry Newman, a former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and an IRI Board Member,
Others were American political leader, lawyer/ voting rights activist, Stacey Abrams and IRI Board Member, Dana White.
The foreign observers were of the view that the international community should sanction those who were found to have perpetrated electoral violence in the election.
Party agents who faulted the electoral process said if INEC had transmitted the result nobody would have tampered with it.
PDP agent, Senator Dino Melaye and other agents called for the cancellation of the result of Ekiti pointing out that there was over voting.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo accused the INEC officials of compromising in the use of Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).
Obasanjo said, “It is no secret that INEC officials, at operational level, have been allegedly compromised to make what should have worked not to work and to revert to manual transmission of results which is manipulated and the results doctored. The Chairman of INEC may claim ignorance but he cannot fold his hands and do nothing when he knows that election process has been corrupted and most of the results that are brought outside BVAS and Server are not true reflection of the will of Nigerians who have made their individual choice. At this stage, we do not need wittingly or unwittingly to set this country on fire with the greed, irresponsibility and unpatriotic act of those who allegedly gave money to INEC officials for perversion and those who collected the blood money. Let me appeal to the Chairman of INEC, if his hands are clean, to save Nigeria from the looming danger and disaster which is just waiting to happen. If the Chairman can postpone elections four days to the election, he can do everything to rectify the errors of the last two days – no BVAS, no result to be acceptable; and no uploading through Server, no result to be acceptable.
“Whereas, BVAS and Servers have been manipulated or rendered inactive, such results must be declared void and inadmissible for election declaration. Chairman INEC, I have thought that you would use this wonderful opportunity to mend your reputation and character for posterity”.
Obasanjo called on the President Buhari Muhammadu to cancel result in areas where elections were disrupted for March 4.
He Buhari, “tension is building up and please let all elections that do not pass the credibility and transparency test be cancelled and be brought back with areas where elections were disrupted for next Saturday, March 4, 2023, and BVAS and Server officials be changed. To know which stations or polling units were manipulated, let a Committee of INEC staff and representatives of the four major political parties with the Chairman of Nigerian Bar Association look into what must be done to have hitch-free elections next Saturday. Mr. President, may your plan and hope for leaving a legacy of free, fair, transparent and credible election be realised. Mr. President, please don’t let anybody say to you that it does not matter or it is the problem of INEC. On no account should you be seen as part of the collusion or compromise. When the die is cast, it will be your problem as the Chief Executive of the nation. The Chairman of INEC may sneak out of the country or go back to his ivory tower. Your Excellency, thank you for hearing me out”.
He also appealed to Nigerians to “please exercise patience until the wrong is righted. I strongly believe that nobody will toy with the future and fortune of Nigeria at this juncture”.
The INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, said the process can only be reviewed after the conclusion of the exercise.