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EU observer mission: Elections in Nigeria marked by “serious operational challenges”

THE European Union Election Observation Mission says Nigeria’s presidential and national assembly elections which held on Saturday, February 23, was “marked by serious operational challenges”.

This was contained in a preliminary statement issued by the observer mission at a press briefing in Abuja, on Monday.

The statement which was signed by the EU Chief Observer, Maria Arena, pointed out that although the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) “operated in a difficult environment”, it “made a number of improvements since 2015, including the introduction of continuous accreditation and voting”.

Arena, however, noted that there were “serious shortcomings in INEC’s operations” and there was the need “for regular communication and transparency”.

“The last-minute postponement of the elections, and the delayed start to voting on 23 February, placed an undue burden on voters,” she stated.

“Going forward, there is a great need for more transparency and communication during the
whole process, with political parties, civil society, the media and, most importantly, citizens.”

On a positive note, the EU-EOM recognised that civil society groups “played a vital role in enhancing the transparency and accountability of the electoral process”.

“Nigeria is fortunate to have so many civil society organisations, which have effectively contributed to election reform, voter awareness and scrutiny of the process. Their coordinated independent observation
of different aspects of the elections is a positive contribution to the accountability of the process,” Arena remarked.

The group also noted, rather regrettably, that government-owned media outfits, as well as those owned by politicians, were partisan in their activities in the days leading up to the election.

“There was clear partisan programming by the Nigerian Television Authority, state-run media, and local commercial radio stations owned by politicians. This gave an advantage to incumbents at federal and state levels,” the statement read in part.

Kingsley Moghalu, the presidential candidate of the Young Progressives Party (YPP), had complained via his Tweeter handle, how the NTA refused to air his campaign material which the station had earlier been contracted to air.

“My campaign contracted with NTA to show my special address to the nation this night at 8.30 pm. But they have sabotaged our campaign and declined to broadcast our material because I am an opposition candidate,” Moghalu tweeted on Thursday, February 21, 2019

The EU-EOM statement also paid tribute to the persons that lost their lives during the elections, stressing that ” Elections should be occasions of peaceful participation”.

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