The final report from the EU Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) on the general elections in Nigeria has been released.
In the highly contested presidential election held on February 25, 2023, Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was declared the victor by the Independent National Electoral Commissioner (INEC), while the defeated candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar and the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, headed to the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal to reclaim what they called their “stolen mandate.”
At a news conference in Abuja, the Chief Observer of the EU EOM, Barry Andrews, stated that the INEC had invited his team to operate between January 11 and April 11 within that time period.
He also mentioned that a delegation from the European Parliament participated in the EU EOM’s observation of the presidential and national assembly elections, and that 110 observers from 25 EU Member States, as well as Norway, Switzerland, and Canada, were accredited to the mission.
In its presentation, Andrews stated as well that Nigerian citizens have shown a strong commitment to democracy in the years leading up to the general elections in 2023.
Nevertheless, he made the observation 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 EU EOM underlined that legal and electoral management flaws made it difficult to hold fair elections that included everyone and weakened public confidence in INEC.
The EU EOM made 23 recommendations that the Nigerian authorities should take into account in order to enhance upcoming elections,
Andrews stated: “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 six top recommendations highlight the need to clear up legal ambiguities, create a transparent process for choosing INEC members, ensure real-time election results publication and access, strengthen protections for media professionals, address discrimination against women in politics, and end impunity for electoral offenses.
“Importantly, there is a need for political will to achieve improved democratic practices in Nigeria,” he added, reiterating the importance of continuing an open debate on electoral reform with all relevant parties.
He stated that the European Union is prepared to assist Nigerian stakeholders in putting these proposals into practice.
Festus Okoye, the National Commissioner and Chairman of the Information and Voter Education Committee, responded by saying that international observers have so far observed considerable advances on the elections in 2023.
He declared, “We are going to synchronize all the reports by international observers that have been presented and we are going to take a comprehensive look at the reports.”
“From the report presented, the EU made reference of the fact that there have been material advances in our electoral system and that this particular election has had a great deal of beneficial effects, the speaker continued.
“Over 93 million Nigerians were registered to vote during this election, which is one of the advantages. Not only that, but according to the information provided by international observers, the BVAS performed well in terms of voter accreditation.
Despite acknowledging difficulties, Okoye made a commitment to work on and execute the recommendations from international observers.
But there were also certain difficulties, and in order to understand these difficulties, it is important to understand the election’s background and setting.
“We cannot deny that there was insecurity in some areas of the nation. Second, certain Nigerians and members of our staff were the targets of violence. The lack of fuel and the redesign of the naira were difficulties.
But he added, “We are going to harvest and implement recommendations that have been made on administrative and legal issues.”