The Commonwealth Election Observer Group to Nigeria’s Elections has made a call on all stakeholders to ensure a peaceful and credible elections, insisting that the outcomes of the elections will be significant not only for Nigeria but also for the entire African continent.
The Observer Group led by former President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, on Monday at ta news conference in Abuja said: “This month’s elections will be Africa’s largest democratic exercise. The outcomes of the elections will be significant not only for Nigeria, but also for the entire continent. Therefore, we urge all stakeholders in Nigeria to uphold their commitment to ensure a peaceful and inclusive election in which the people of Nigeria are able to freely exercise their right to vote, with the fundamental freedoms of expression, association and assembly fully respected.”
Mbeki added that: “Our mandate is to observe and assess the pre-election period, activities on polling day and the post-election period. Throughout, we will consider all factors relating to the credibility of the electoral process.
“We will assess whether the elections are conducted according to the standards for democratic elections to which Nigeria has committed itself. As we undertake this assessment and conduct our duties, we will be objective, independent and impartial.”
He revealed that over the coming days, the group will receive briefings from the electoral authorities, political parties, the media and civil society groups representing women, youth and people with disabilities, while adding that this will enable the group to get a better understanding of the situation within the country ahead of the elections.
He said: “As of February 2023, an estimated 93.4 million registered voters will have the right to cast ballots for presidential and national assembly candidates in 176,846 polling units across Nigeria.
“From 23 February, observers will be deployed across the country to observe the pre-election preparations as well as voting, counting and results processes at polling stations.
“An interim statement, which provides the group’s preliminary assessment of the electoral process, will be delivered by the Chairperson at a press conference on 27 February in Abuja.
“Following the elections, the group will submit its recommendations in a report to Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland, KC. She will forward the report to the Government of Nigeria, the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission, the leadership of political parties taking part in the elections and all Commonwealth governments. The report will be made public afterwards.
“The Observer Group comprises 16 eminent persons from around the Commonwealth, including politicians, diplomats and experts in law, human rights, gender equality and election administration.”
Mbeki noted that: “The Commonwealth Observer Group has no executive role, our function is not to supervise but to observe the process as a whole and to form a judgment accordingly.
“When we make observations, our intent is to offer constructive support to help strengthen the democratic culture, process and institutions in Nigeria. In doing so, the Commonwealth Observer Group will make recommendations to the authorities concerned on institutional, procedural and other matters as would assist the holding of such elections in the future.”
The Commonwealth Team has been in Nigeria since February 18 for its seventh Observer Mission to Nigeria since 1999. Its mandate is to observe and assess the pre-election period, activities on polling day and the post-election period. The itinerary of the team shows visit would be made to Sokoto, Lagos, Ondo, Benue, Kano, Edo and Rivers States. It will also observe elections in Abuja.
Michael Olugbode in Abuja