By Victoria Ojeme
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) election monitoring group in Niger has praised the peaceful conduct of the general elections despite the late arrival of election materials.
ECOWAS Observation Mission to Niger in a preliminary statement signed by Nigeria’s former Vice President, Namadi Sambo, who is the head of ECOWAS Election Mission said the voting process was orderly, peaceful and professional and secrecy of vote was generally respected.
It observe that on the polling day and in 64% of the polling stations voting began between 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. beyond the official opening time of 8 a.m. and closed after 11 hours.
“The delay in the commencement of votes was generally due to the late arrival of polling officials and the delay in the delivery of electoral materials in some polling stations.
“The demographic disaggregation of the voters showed a predominance of women and young people
“A visible presence of the security forces was observed in 89% of the polling stations. However this presence has been reinforced in certain places notably in Niamey.
“The non-compliance with covid-19 protocols including the lack of hand sanitizers, social distancing and the wearing of face masks was observed.
“Polling officials and voters largely maintained order and voters cast their ballots in a peaceful environment. Arrangements were made in polling stations to facilitate the voting of certain persons such as the physically disabled, the elderly, pregnant women and mothers of infants and young children.
“Polling station officials exhibited a nuanced mastery of the voting process,” the statement said.
Almost 7.5 million people cast their vote on Sunday to choose a successor to President Mahamadou Issoufou who is stepping down after two five-year terms leading the country of 23 million.
President Mohammadu Buhari had pledged Nigeria’s support to the election processes in Niger Republic arguing that his hometown of Daura is just a few kilometres away from the country.
“Also, we share more than 1,400 kilometers of border with that country, which can only be effectively supervised by God. I will speak with the President, and offer his country our support. We need to do all we can to help stabilize the Sahel region, which is also in our own interest,” President Buhari said.
In the light of the above observations and analysis, the election observation mission recommends the deployment of election material to polling stations, increase voter awareness and Civic education campaigns and their enforcement of the training of polling officials for better management of future elections.
It also recommended improvement in health procedures and protocols to prevent the spread of coronavirus and improvement on the lightning provision to enhence visibility and transparency in polling units and collection centres.
EOM was deployed by ECOWAS as part of the presidential and legislative elections on Sunday December 27, 2020 in Niger.
During this consultation, the Heads of EOMs deployed in Niger unanimously welcomed the peaceful and participatory nature of the double ballot on Sunday, December 27, 2020.
They nevertheless deplored the non-compliance with barrier measures against COVID-19 in polling centers, in particular the wearing of masks, the use of hydro-alcoholic gels and social distancing, yet advocated by the Nigerien authorities.
Monday’s meeting also saw the presence of Professor Mahmud YAKUB, President of the Electoral Commission of Nigeria and Kabinet CISSE, President of the Electoral Commission of Guinea.
They are all members of the West African Election Commissions network. They also came on a mission to Niamey to provide assistance to Maître Issak.