The European Union Election Observation Mission in Nigeria, 2019, has stated that Nigeria has made significant improvements from previous elections in the country though with some areas that needed urgent remedy to prevent recurrence.
The EU Election Observation Mission led by Marie Arena, its Chief Observer, while presenting its final report with recommendations for electoral reform at Transcorp Hilton on Saturday, and reacting to questions from journalists, highlighted that lots of recommendations the Observation Mission had made in 2015 had been addressed by the current administration in the 2019 elections.
However, in the report, the EU while giving account on the supplementary election held in Kano, accused INEC and security agents of folding their arms while violence reigned, despite its overall responsibility for the election and security arrangements.
The Mission had 91 observers in 20 locations and visited all states in the country to finalize its report.
Read the EU report on Kano supplementary election below :
Supplementary elections were systemically vulnerable to parties strategically pressurising voters and disrupting the process; elections in Kano were compromised by intimidation and interference.
INEC announced that supplementary elections would take place on 23 March for six governorships, as well as 40 State House of Assembly seats.168 This followed elections being declared inconclusive due to the cancellation of a number of polling units on 9 March, and the total number of voters affected being more than the margin of lead. INEC listed electoral misconduct, violence, failure to use smart card readers and over-voting as the reasons for the cancellations. Before election day, various ongoing court cases in Adamawa, Bauchi and Rivers caused uncertainty for voters, and there was a lack of clear and timely information from INEC. Re-polling took place in 623 polling units with 397,120 registered voters, 2.7 per cent of all registered voters in the five states.
National and state-level media in Benue, Plateau and Sokoto regularly updated the public about the supplementary elections. Media and social network users also scrutinised and debated the use of state resources in the days before the supplementary elections, in particular the large-scale infrastructure and social benefit projects initiated by the incumbent governor of Kano.
On 23 March, extensive electoral security problems were observed, particularly in parts of Kano where polling became inaccessible to EU observers in some areas. The environment was intimidating and not conducive to voters’ free participation in the election. Party leaderships locally and centrally did not appear to take any steps to rein in supporters and prevent evident violence, intimidation or other misconduct. Throughout the day, INEC did not comment on electoral disturbances, despite its overall responsibility for the election and security arrangements.
In Nasarawa LGA in Kano, which accounted for approximately one-third of all registered voters for the supplementary governorship election, EU observers witnessed organised intimidation of voters. For example, groups of youths with clubs and machetes patrolled the streets, and people with party agent tags harassed voters. During collation in Kano, EU observers saw that several INEC polling staff had been attacked. Large groups of men with weapons were not contained by the police.
Due to intimidating crowds and disturbances, EU observers in Kano could not access or continue observation in polling units in Dala and Nasarawa LGAs. The electoral process in Kano was further compromised by the harassment and obstruction of citizen observers, and journalists from BBC Hausa, Freedom FM, NTA and TVC. This compromised scrutiny of both polling and collation of results in the affected areas.
Isolated violent incidents also disrupted voting and counting in other states. In Bauchi, EU observers witnessed around 50 people with clubs disrupting counting in one polling unit. In Benue, election materials were burnt, resulting in the cancellation of polling affecting 13,000 registered voters, and a collation officer carrying result sheets was shot in the leg.
Party agents were seen to interfere more in the process than on the previous two election days. Some polling units in Kano were dominated by controlling party agents and supporters. Of the 40 polling units that EU teams could fully observe, agents were present in all and in five cases were seen interfering in the work of polling officials, in Benue, Plateau and Sokoto. EU observers in all five states also saw party agents trying to influence voters, assisting voters or voting on their behalf. Supporters and agents were sometimes present in polling units in excessive numbers, resulting in overcrowding. EU observers also saw vote-buying in Sokoto by both the leading parties, and indications of vote-buying in Kano. Citizen observers also reported party agents involved in vote-buying, and bribery of polling staff and police.
INEC improved logistical arrangements with most polling units observed open within half an hour of the official opening time. In the 40 polling units that EU teams could fully observe, procedures were mostly followed. Smart card readers were used to accredit voters in all polling units observed. However, manual accreditation procedures were not always correctly followed if card readers failed to authenticate fingerprints. The secrecy of the vote was not always sufficiently protected in nearly one-third of polling units observed.
The collation process was finalized in Bauchi, Benue, Plateau, and Sokoto within 24 hours, but in Kano, it was suspended for several hours due to concerns over the safety of lower-level collation staff. For security reasons, collation of results in two of 29 LGAs in Kano had to be undertaken at the state collation center. Similarly, ward collation had to be undertaken at one LGA in Bauchi. Adding to the transparency of the process, the media provided live coverage of state-level collation. EU observers visited 12 collation centers and observed party agents present in all. EU observers noted that overall collation procedures were followed and the process was generally transparent.