The European Union election observation mission (EU EOM) says conduct of the elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) fell short of expectations by Nigerians.
In a statement in Abuja on Monday, Barry Andrews, chief observer of the mission, said Nigerians had a great appetite for democracy but were disappointed by INEC and the political elites.
Andrews said the development led to voter apathy, noting that election day was also disrupted by multiple incidents of thuggery and intimidation of voters.
“Throughout the mission, we saw that Nigerians have a great appetite for democracy and are keen to engage in various civic activities,” Andrews said.
“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.”
He said that “positively, INEC introduced some corrective measures ahead of Saturday’s polls, allowing a timely delivery of sensitive materials and improved use of election technologies, yet the institution continued to lack transparency.
“EU EOM observers noted that voting on 18 March mostly started on time, with INEC ad-hoc officials present and ready to serve the voter. However, polling on election day was disrupted by multiple incidents of thuggery and intimidation of voters, polling officials, observers, and journalists.
“Lagos, Kano, and other states in the southern and central part were most affected. Unfortunately, there were many casualties and fatalities. Vote-buying, also directly observed by EU EOM observers, further detracted from appropriate conduct of the elections.”
Andrews said the mission observed that organised violence in parts of the country led to a fearful environment while noting that the underrepresentation of women in the process demonstrated Nigeria’s contrary practice to its constitutional provision and international commitment to inclusion.
“The clear underrepresentation of women as candidates demonstrated a stark lack of internal party policies to support constitutionally prescribed inclusion, also contrary to Nigeria’s international commitments to eradicate discrimination against women,” he said.
“Campaigns in state elections were competitive. Fundamental freedoms of assembly and movement were largely respected. However, insecurity impeded the canvassing for votes in certain parts of the country and organised violent attacks shortly before the elections in several states led to a fearful atmosphere.
“Some state governors took executive actions, negatively affecting the campaign environment. EU EOM observers also saw the misuse of administrative resources, including through various financial and in-kind inducements to voters, giving an undue advantage to the party in power.
“Furthermore, the protracted deadlines for candidacy disputes created uncertainty for voters and electoral contestants alike, while clear underrepresentation of women as candidates demonstrated a stark lack of internal party policies to support constitutionally prescribed inclusion, also contrary to Nigeria’s international commitments to eradicate discrimination against women.”
The mission also commended the civil society, media, and fact-checkers for promoting democratic standards by raising awareness and providing electoral information of public interest to voters.