…..Petition Tribunal in an attempt to regain what they claim to be their “stolen mandate.”
By Ebiye Sharon:
The final report on Nigeria’s general elections has been presented by the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM). Bola Tinubu, representing the All Progressives Congress (APC), was declared the winner of the highly-contested presidential election held on February 25, 2023. The defeated candidates, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP), have taken their case to the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal in an attempt to regain what they claim to be their “stolen mandate.”
During a press briefing in Abuja, Barry Andrews, the Chief Observer of EU EOM, stated that his team conducted their work from January 11 to April 11, at the invitation of the Independent National Electoral Commissioner (INEC). He mentioned that a delegation from the European Parliament joined the EU EOM to observe the Presidential and National Assembly elections. The mission accredited a total of 110 observers from 25 EU Member States, as well as Norway, Switzerland, and Canada.
Andrews also highlighted in the presentation that Nigerian citizens displayed a clear dedication to the democratic process leading up to the 2023 general elections.
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 European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) acknowledged that deficiencies in legislation and electoral management hindered the organization of effective and inclusive elections, thereby eroding confidence in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
In order to enhance future elections, the EU EOM put forward a total of 23 recommendations for the Nigerian authorities to consider. These recommendations aim to address the identified issues and promote improvements in the electoral process.
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 EU EOM has highlighted six key recommendations that require immediate attention. These recommendations emphasize the importance of clarifying ambiguous aspects of the law, establishing a transparent and accountable process for the selection of INEC members, ensuring the timely publication and accessibility of election results, providing enhanced protection for media professionals, addressing gender discrimination in political participation, and combating impunity related to 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 expressed that the European Union is prepared to provide assistance and aid Nigerian stakeholders in implementing these recommendations.
In response, Festus Okoye, the National Commissioner and Chairman of the Information and Voter Education Committee, addressed journalists and stated that international observers have already reported notable enhancements in the 2023 elections.
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.”
Nevertheless, Okoye acknowledged the existence of challenges and assured that the recommendations put forth by international observers would be addressed and put into action.
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.”