By Henry Umoru
THE European Union Election Observation Mission (EUEOM), yesterday, presented their final report on 2019 general elections, saying there was abuse of power of incumbency at the federal and state levels.
The Observers stressed the urgent need for INEC to strengthen its procedures for the collation of results as that would help improve integrity and confidence in the electoral outcomes.
They also called for the establishment of the required law to ensure full results transparency, with data easily accessible to the public.
Speaking at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja when she presented the final report of the mission on the elections, Chief Election Observer of the EUEOM, Ms Maria Arena, called for the strengthening of organisational and operational capacity as well as its internal communication as well as reform the licensing system for the broadcast media to provide for media pluralism and diversity in all states of Nigeria.
“There was abuse of the power of incumbency at the federal and state levels in terms of the use of the media for campaign messages. Except for the federal radio, state media served primarily the interest of the president or governor at the state level”, Arena said.
According to the report, the EUEOM made a total of 30 recommendations on how Nigeria can improve her electoral system.
Other issues highlighted in the report include
the series of conflicting orders dished out by courts on electoral disputes and the late rulings on pre-election issues which undermined opportunity for remedy and created uncertainty; the dysfunctional regulation of political campaign finance ; low level of prosecution of electoral offenders and the declining number of women in elective positions.
In the report, the Observers said that there were still a lot of operational deficiencies that the Electoral umpire must address ahead of 2023 general elections, adding that there was the need for INEC to look critically into the issue of transparency in terms of result process, adding that the elections were characterised by severe operational and transparency shortcomings as well as security challenges.
Arena, who noted that the challenges were such that Nigeria should embark on fundamental reforms of the electoral process ahead of the 2023 General Elections, said, “ there were insufficient checks and transparency in the result process, as well as a general lack of public communication and information”.
The Presidency, last night, said President Muhammadu Buhari was committed to implementing the EU Observation report to improve Nigeria’s elections.
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said the EU observers were invited to the country by INEC and welcomed by government.
“This was a clear indication of the administration’s good intentions, commitment to a pure democratic process, and desire to improve for the next elections,” the statement said.
“The EU noted in their report that there were marked improvements from previous elections, although stating that more work needed to be done.
“The administration of President Buhari will work with all Nigerian citizens, state institutions, parties, civil society, the media and other experts to make sure that the improvements recommended by the EU are implemented, and that these areas of concern are addressed.”
According to the statement, it was noteworthy that INEC was in receipt of a number of recommendations that form a part of the EU report.
The Presidency assured that the Commission was in safe hands and happy that they were currently engaged in root and branch reviews of the 2019 general elections and will input lessons learned into its recommendations for electoral and constitutional reforms.
“We believe that the commission conducted a good election and will continue to improve on its processes and procedures.
“While it is regretted that the elections in a few parts of the country witnessed some violence, among other shortcomings highlighted by the EU, we note however that none of these hitches affected the overall outcome of the elections.
“Thankfully, EU did not question the results of the presidential election.
“This is further proof that the polls reflected the overall will of Nigerians, and that the world is solidly behind the election of President Buhari for a second term”.