The Joint Election Observation Mission of the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute has described last Saturday’s election as disappointing as it fell short of “reasonable expectation of Nigerians”.
The 40-member delegation of the two United States-based institutes led by the former President of Malawi, Joyce Banda, said logistical challenges and multiple incidents of political violence overshadowed the electoral process and disenfranchised a substantial number of voters.
The JEOM said this in their preliminary statement and recommendations made available to journalists in Abuja. The IRI and NDI said that members of the team were deployed across all six geo-political regions of the country to observe all stages of the voting process. The organisations said that their observations informed the preliminary findings and practical recommendations to improve future elections.
“The mission notes that despite the much-needed reforms to the Electoral Act 2022, the election fell well short of Nigerian citizens’ reasonable expectations.
“Logistical challenges and multiple incidents of political violence overshadowed the electoral process and impeded a substantial number of voters from participating.
“Ongoing currency and fuel shortages also imposed excessive burdens on voters and election officials, and Nigerian marginalized groups, especially women, continue to face barriers to seeking and obtaining political office.”
“At the close of the polls, challenges with the electronic transfer of results and their upload to a public portal in a timely manner undermined citizen confidence at a crucial moment of the process.
However, the delegation maintained that despite the issues, Nigerians demonstrated their commitment to the democratic process.
“Moreover, inadequate communication and lack of transparency by the Independent National Electoral Commission about their cause and extent created confusion and eroded voters’ trust in the process. “The combined effect of these problems disenfranchised Nigerian voters in many areas, although the scope and scale is currently unknown.”
“As the nation awaits the results of the February 25 polls and the Nigerian people prepare for upcoming gubernatorial elections, we urge political actors and their supporters to remain calm and exercise restraints,” the US institutes appealed.
The delegation called on stakeholders, especially the Independent National Electoral Commission, government, political actors and civil society to redouble their efforts to deliver on citizens’ expectations for transparent and inclusive elections and to ensure that electoral outcomes were a credible expression of the voters’ decision.