The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) has presented its final report on Nigeria’s general elections.
Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was declared the winner by the Independent National Electoral Commissioner (INEC) of the highly-disputed presidential election held on February 25, 2023, with both defeated candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar and the Labour Party (LP) Peter Obi, heading to the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal to win back what they described as their “stolen mandate.”
Addressing a press briefing in Abuja, the Chief Observer, EU EOM, Barry Andrews, noted that his team carried out its work between January 11 and April 11 on the invitation of the INEC.
He added that a delegation of the European Parliament joined the EU EOM for the observation of the Presidential and National Assembly elections, and that the mission accredited a total of 110 observers from 25 EU Member States, as well as Norway, Switzerland, and Canada.
Andrews, also in its presentation, said that in the lead up to the 2023 general elections, Nigerian citizens demonstrated a clear commitment to the democratic process.
He, however, noted that “the election exposed enduring systemic weaknesses and therefore signal a need for further legal and operational reforms to enhance transparency, inclusiveness, and accountability.”
The EU EOM noted that shortcomings in law and electoral administration hindered the conduct of well-run and inclusive elections and damaged trust in INEC.
The EU EOM offered 23 recommendations for consideration by the Nigerian authorities that would contribute to improvement of future elections,
Andrews said: “We are particularly concerned about the need for reform in six areas which we have identified as priority recommendations, and we believe, if implemented, could contribute to improvements for the conduct of elections.”
The six priority recommendations point to the need to; remove ambiguities in the law; establish a publicly accountable selection process for INEC members; ensure real-time publication of and access to election results; provide greater protection for media practitioners; address discrimination against women in political life, and; impunity regarding electoral offenses.
He said: “Importantly, there is a need for political will to achieve improved democratic practices in Nigeria,” insisting that inclusive dialogue between all stakeholders on electoral reform remains crucial.
He noted that the European Union stands ready to support Nigerian stakeholders in the implementation of these recommendations.
Reacting, the National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, who spoke to journalists after the presentation said significant improvements on the 2023 elections have been reported thus far by international observers.
He said: “We are going to harmonise all the reports by international observers that have been presented and we are going to look at the reports holistically.”
He added that: “From the report presented, the EU made mention of the fact that there have been significant improvements in our electoral process and there have been so many positives to this particular election.
“One of the positives is that we registered over 93 million Nigerians during this election. Not only that, if you look at the reports submitted by international observers, in terms of voters accreditation, the BVAS performed optimally.”
Okoye, however, admitted that there were challenges, promising that recommendations from international observers would be worked on and implemented.
He said: “But there were also a few challenges and looking at those challenges, one must look at the context and the environment of the election.
“Insecurity was in some parts of the country, which we cannot dispute. Secondly, violence was targeted at our staff and some Nigerians. Fuel scarcity and naira redesign also were challenges.”
He, however, said: “Recommendations have been made on administrative and legal issues and we are going to harvest them and implement them.”