By Temitope Owotoki
Five international election observation missions to Nigeria have presented their separate preliminary assessments of the just concluded presidential and National Assembly elections. The final collations and announcement of results were sexpected later.
The observation missions are of the African Union (AU), International Republican Institute/National Democratic Institute (NDI) and Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA). The others are the Commonwealth and the European Union Observation Mission (EU EOM).
In its report, the EU EOM commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the conduct of the elections. It said the electoral commission made a number of improvements since 2015, including continuous accreditation and voting.
The mission’s Chief Observer, Maria Arena, however, said there was only limited opportunity for Nigeria’s Internally Displaced Persons persons to vote.
She said even though the elections were initially postponed due to logistics problems, many polling units opened very late on election day.
“On election day, the majority of polling units opened extremely late, leaving voters waiting for hours uncertain of when voting would begin.
“The delay, due to a lack of materials, was compounded by an absence of public information from INEC about what was happening and whether closing time would be extended. As a result, there was confusion and we observed that some people were put off from voting,” she said.
Arena said the mission’s monitoring media found out that federal government-owned radio as well as leading commercial broadcasters at the national and regional levels, divided airtime between the main parties, APC and PDP.
“This left little space for smaller parties. There was clear partisan programming by the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), state-run media and local commercial radio stations owned by politicians.
“With the exception of a few states, voters had limited access to diverse and factual information on which to make an informed choice,” she explained.
She called for more transparency and better communication during the whole process with political parties, civil society, the media and the citizens.
In its findings, the AU observed that the political space has significantly broadened, as evidenced by the high number of registered voters, political parties and candidates who took part in the elections.
It said despite some reports of election-related violence, deaths and intimidation, the overall political climate remained largely peaceful and conducive for the conduct of democratic elections.
The mission regretted that key electoral reforms proposed after the 2015 elections were still not passed into law. It, however, commended the Nigerian Government for the passage of the Not Too Young To Run Act
The AU also commended the fact that the 2019 elections were internally driven, and largely funded by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
It also recognised efforts by the INEC, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and other stakeholders to increase participation of women, youth and persons with disability (PWDs) in the electoral process.
“In particular, it notes that women and youth recorded a high number of registered voters, 47.14 per cent for women and 51.1 per cent for youth, which is a notable increase compared to the 2015 elections.
“While there was a slight increase in the number of women presidential candidates, overall, women’s participation as candidates remains low. For instance, of the 73 presidential candidates, only three were women two of whom withdrew their candidature.
“Concerning youth, the AUEOM observed that several young people were recruited as candidates and polling staff. This demonstrates a commendable level of youth mobilization for political participation.”