By Henry Umoru
ABUJA – THE Joint Nigeria International Election Observer Mission, the International Republican Institute, IRI and National Democratic Institute, NDI, jointly presented the final report on the 2019 General elections, saying that it has become very imperative for Nigeria as a country to put in place, measures that would help strengthen the electoral system.
The Observers have urged the the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to start the process of conducting five Presidential elections that would adjudged free, fair and credible and not only preparing for 2023 election.
According to IRI and NDI, if Nigeria as a country must get it right in areas of party politics and the conduct of its elections right, there was the urgent need for national dialogue, an opportunity for stakeholders to brainstorm on elections in Nigeria and come up with an acceptable blueprint.
Speaking Tuesday at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja during the presentation of the report, Elizabeth Lewis of IRI and Dr. Christopher Formunyoh of NDI called on INEC to come up with measures where there will be the enforcement of Electoral laws that would help in the investigation and prosecution of perpetrators of Election related Criminal Acts.
They said that INEC should thoroughly investigate and prosecute election officials who engaged in electoral offenses, just as they asked Security agencies, including the military to investigate and sanction security personnel who violated rules of engagement during the 2019 elections.
In the report, the Observers also advised on having a workable legal framework and election dispute resolution technique that.would enable the electoral body, INEC and political stakeholders pursue a comprehensive, inclusive and expeditious electoral reform process.
The observers have also called for the establishment of time limits for the adjudication of pre-election petitions to ensure that judgements are rendered before election day and early enough not to interfere with INEC’s election preparations
The report was a comprehensive analysis of the electoral process and it included important recommendations ahead of the 2023 general elections.
The report read, “the 2019 general elections highlighted for many Nigerians the need for a national conversation about the country’s democratization since the 1999 transition to civilian rule. We hope this report may both spur and contribute to enriching that national conversation.”
Other recommendations in the report included early preparation for elections so as to mitigate against and last minute shortcomings, just as they called on INEC to continue to improve coordination between security agencies on the provision of Electoral security, adding that the process of constituency delimitation and identification of necessary polling units at least one year before the next elections.
Responding to the observations and recommendations, the National Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, said “the Commission will study your recommendations in detail and will continue to partner with you to improve the electoral and democratic processes in Nigeria.”
“We have already embarked on our own internal reviews. Your report is coming at the right time. I wish to assure you that we will implement aspects of your recommendations that require administrative action by the Commission beginning with the forthcoming Bayelsa and Kogi Governorship elections scheduled for 16th November 2019.”
Yakubu also also assured that the commission will also work with other institutions on aspects of the recommendations that require consequential action beyond the mandate of the Commission.”
The INEC boss who noted that the joint team IRI and NDI were among the 39 Foreign organisations accredited by the Commission to observe the 2019 general elections,said, ” the joint team reportedly deployed 40 international observers to 16 States of the Federation for the Presidential and National Assembly elections and 20 international observers to 10 States of the Federation for the Governorship and State Assembly elections.
“You observed the 2019 general elections on the invitation of INEC. Your long-term and continuous presence in the country means that our partnership with you predated the 2019 general election and will hopefully continue to the next general elections and beyond.”
” It is therefore our expectation that your report is all-encompassing with clear recommendations for all institutions involved in the electoral process. Given the size and peculiarities of different parts of the country, it is understandable that no single observer group covered every polling unit and collation centre throughout the Federation. For the 2019 general elections, the Commission accredited 159 organisations (39 foreign and 120 domestic) which deployed a total 73,258 observers. Some of the organisations have already submitted their reports.”