THE European Union (EU) Election Observation Mission to Nigeria’s 2023 general election has expressed worry over the “obstruction and use of organised violence” during the March 18 governorhip polls across the country.
The EU Mission noted that even though the elections mostly started on time, obstruction and organized violence limited the free expression of the will of voters, despite efforts by the civil society to promote democratic standards.
It noted that polling on election day was disrupted by multiple incidents of thuggery and intimidation of voters, polling officials, observers and journalists, resulting in many casualties and fatalities.
“Lagos, Kano, and other states in the southern and central part were most affected,” EU Chief Observer, Barry Andrews stated during a press conference in Abuja while presenting the Mission’s second preliminary statement on the process of the 2023 general elections.
He added that although the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), introduced some corrective measures ahead of the governorship and state assembly elections which enabled sensitive materials to be delivered on time and election technologies to be improved, the Commission continued to lack transparency.
“Throughout the mission, we saw that Nigerians have a great appetite for democracy and are keen to engage in various civic activities. However, in many parts of the country, their expectations were not met.
“Many were disappointed and we witnessed voter apathy that is in part a clear consequence of failures by political elites and, unfortunately, also by INEC,” Andrews said.
According to the report, vote buying which was directly witnessed by EU EOM observers, further detracted from the appropriate conduct of the elections.
According to the report, there was also a clear underrepresentation of women as political parties lacked internal policies to support the constitutionally prescribed inclusion, contrary to Nigeria’s international commitments to eradicate discrimination against women.
Public confidence and trust in INEC were “severely damaged” due to the lack of transparency and operational failures and the polls revealed systemic weaknesses in the country’s electoral framework.
The first report of the EU EOM was issued on February 27, two days after the Presidential and National Assembly elections and a final report containing recommendations for improving the country’s electoral framework is expected to be published in a few months, as the Mission continues to observe post-election developments.