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Seek Legal Redress If You’re Not Satisfied with Election and Eschew Violence, EU, AU, Commonwealth, ECOWAS Missions Tell Political Parties

Mbeki said: “We call on all those with grievances to address disputes through prescribed legal channels.”

Any presidential candidate or political party who has misgivings about the election has been advised to seek legal redress and eschew violence, the major foreign observer missions in the country have advised.

Presenting their preliminary reports on the Presidential/National Assembly Elections, the European Union, African Union, Commonwealth, ECOWAS Missions to the 2023 Nigeria’s Election while admitting that this election was better than past election but equally has glitches, said violence can never be an option to show grievances, but rather candidates and their parties should seek legal redress as provider under Nigeria’s law.

The Chairperson of the Commonwealth Observer Group, former President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, while delivering his team’s preliminary assessment of the electoral process at a press conference in Abuja, noted that the Nigeria’s 2023 general elections were “largely peaceful” despite administrative and logistical hurdles at many polling units.

He said: “Nigerians were largely accorded the right to vote,” adding that: “We congratulate all Nigerians for their determination, patience and resilience displayed throughout the electoral process.”

He said as Nigeria waits for the final results, he appealed to all citizens to exercise patience to allow the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and its staff to conclude the results process peacefully.

Mbeki said: “We call on all those with grievances to address disputes through prescribed legal channels,” insisting that: “The time now is for restraint and continued patience as we await the final results.”

He commended the commitment shown by voters, despite the late arrival of election officials and materials at many polling units, technical issues with biometric identification machines in some cases, and delays with the live results transmission system.

Mbeki also praised the polling officials for conducting their duties diligently, while noting some inconsistencies in procedures, particularly in the positioning of some polling booths which compromised the secrecy of the ballot as well as lack of advance voting for those deployed on election day.

He expressed that as voting hours extended into the night due to late openings, some polling units were ill-equipped with proper lighting to facilitate voting and counting in the dark.

However considering the challenges, he encouraged the electoral commission to conduct a thorough post-election review of the electoral process to draw lessons and consider setting up appropriate mechanisms to implement the recommendations of observers.

He also noted an improvement with the enactment of a new Electoral Act in 2022, which gave the electoral commission more autonomy, legal backing for the use of electronic accreditation of voters and frameworks for the inclusion of people with disabilities in the elections, among other things.

He noted the low percentage of women candidates, but however said the group was impressed by the “vibrant participation” of young people, including as polling officials, in the elections.

He noted that Commonwealth observers were in Benue, Edo, Kano, Lagos, Ondo, Rivers and Sokoto states as well as the Federal Capital Territory.

The European Union Observer Mission, on its part, urged Nigerians to rely on the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) for results of the presidential and National Assembly polls, insisting that the social media is not a credible source.

EU gave this advice on Monday, while delivery its preliminary report on the election.

According to Barry Andrew,  EU Chief Observer and Head of EU EOM, “Social media was actively used by political actors as a campaign tool. However, the platforms were misused to spread harmful content, including disinformation on key electoral processes; the measures the
platforms took to protect electoral integrity were insufficient.

“Misleading information also came from
political actors and contributed to a blurred information environment for voters.”

He however commended the media and the Civil Society Organisation for joining forces to fact check. 

He said, “Online and offline media joined forces with civil society and fact checkers to safeguard the integrity of the preelection information environment. Realtime fact checking of gubernatorial and other contestants’debates strived to hold candidates accountable, while various formats of voter information, raised voter awareness and helped to counter electoral insecurity, complementing INEC efforts.”

The EU Preliminary report presented by Andrew, observed that the electoral process lacked transparency, it also showed that the process operational failures, which reduced trust in the process.

EU also said despite the confidence reposed in INEC by stakeholders, the electoral body’s lack of efficient planning in critical stages and effective public communication reduced trust in the process, including on election day.

Andrew said, “On 25 February, Nigerians went to the polls in highly anticipated presidential and National Assembly
elections that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) kept on schedule despite a volatile
and challenging environment.

“Fundamental freedoms of assembly and movement were largely respected, yet the full enjoyment of the latter was impeded by insufficient planning, insecurity and the prevailing Naira and fuel shortages.

“Abuse of incumbency by various political office holders distorted the playing
field and there were widespread allegations of vote buying.

“The EU EOM is continuing its observation of the ongoing collation and tabulation of
results throughout the country.

“INEC’s operational capacity was hampered by the ongoing fuel and Naira shortage. Insecurity prevented
it from accessing some Local Government Areas (LGAs), notably in the South. Attacks on INEC premises,  including just days before polling, hindered preparations in affected areas, while instilling fear in voters.

“Overall, stakeholders had expressed confidence in INEC’s independence, professionalism, and voter
information efforts, but this decreased ahead of elections.

“INEC lacked efficient planning and transparency during critical stages of the electoral process, while on election day trust in INEC was seen to further
reduce due to delayed polling processes and information gaps related to much anticipated access to results
on its Results Viewing Portal (IReV).

“In the lead-up to elections, the widely welcomed Electoral Act 2022 introduced measures aimed at building stakeholder trust, however leaving some important gaps in terms of accountability and INEC’s power to enforce the law.

“Weak points include a lack of INEC empowerment to enforce sanctions for
electoral offences and breaches of campaign finance rules. Positively, INEC benefited from more timely
financingthan for previous contests. Other new provisions also aimed to enhance transparency of results.

“The introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the IReV for the 2023 elections was perceived as an important step to ensure the integrity and credibility of elections.

“However, delayed training of technical personnel, an inadequate mock testing exercise, and a lack of public information on the election technologies diminished expectations and left room for speculation and uncertainty.

“During the early stages of collation, presidential result forms from polling units were not displayed on the
IReV, while Senate and House of Representative results were slowly published.

“Presidential election result
forms started to be uploaded after 10 pm on election day, raising concerns.

On her part, EU Parliament Head of Delegation, Ms. Evin Incir expressed concern that less than 10 percent of candidates were women.

Incir therefore urged the next government and Parliament to look into the manifestos of the main political parties to include affirmative action, such as quotas.

2023 Elections: AU, ECOWAS Observers task INEC on credible conclusions.

Meanwhile, the African Union (AU), and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Observation Missions deployed to the Nigerian general elections wants the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to improve on the encountrered challenges for credible conclusions of the electoral process.

The Head of African Union Observation Mission and Former President of Kenya, Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta , together with Leader of the ECOWAS Observer Mission and Former President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bi Koroma, made the call in Abuja during a joint preliminary briefing on the elections.

The head of the observation missions urged Nigerians to remain calm until the announcement of the final result from INEC, cautioning against disinformation and fake news especially on social media platforms that would incite post-election violence.

Responding to questions from journalists, Mr. Koroma said the AU and EU Observation Missions is urging INEC to improve on its communications strategies to avoid any form of speculations, disinformation and fake news.

The Leader of the ECOWAS delegation said that beyond Observation Mission, it was in Nigeria alongside the AU Mission on a diplomacy engagement to ensure a peaceful transition.

The Head of AU Observation Mission, Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta while also also fielding questions from journalists urged INEC to adress all challenges encountered so that the process can be brought to a credible and peaceful conclusion.

President of the ECOWAS Commission, Omar Touray appreciated the AU and ECOWAS Observation Missions who came on the invitation of the ECOWAS Commissions for delivering on their mandate.

He also thanked the Media for the good coverage of the elections especially at a time where fake news have dominated the media space.

Touray said that “ECOWAS will indeed follow results closely and continue to reach out to all stakeholders within the framework of preventive diplomacy.”

Michael Olugbode in Abuja