The National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute have linked the fallout of violence and irregularities in the last Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections to the failure of the Nigerian government to sign into law the amended electoral bill.
The institutes made this assertion in a joint International Observer Preliminary statement in which they said “the failure to enact an amended electoral code early in the process was a missed opportunity to codify important improvements since 2011 elections”.
Briefing newsmen on Monday, the delegation led by the former Vice President of the Gambia, Mrs. Faoumata Tambajang, Ambassador Derek Mitchell, President of NDI United States, Daniel Twining President of IRI, United States, Dr Christopher Fomunyoh, Senior Associate and Regional Director NDI and John Tomaszewski, IRI Africa Regional Director, said signing the Bill would have increased penalties for electoral malpractices.
The institutes identified what they termed, “persisting challenges” in the country’s electoral process, including “weak internal democracy within political parties, unfulfilled promises of electoral reforms, slow resolution of electoral disputes, multiple sources of insecurity, hate speech and disinformation and the last minute postponement of elections.
The NDI/IRI posited that the last minute postponement of the presidential election by INEC and significant delays in the opening of polling units posed a risk of undermining citizens’ confidence in elections and disenfranchising voters. It echoed the words of YIAGA Africa another observer group which said “Nigeria missed an opportunity to improve the quality of its elections as compared to 2015”.
The institutes recommended in the lead up to the governorship elections on March 9, among others; The government should ensure security to support and protect INEC deployment and voter engagement;
INEC should ensure ad hoc staff are adequately trained on polling procedure including the use of smart card readers, guidelines for assisted voting and organizing polling units to ensure ballot secrecy.
Fully implement the Disability Framework by ensuring that all polling units are accessible to persons with disabilities and that the Braille Ballot Guides are widely available.
Politicians should respect the rule of law and call on their supporters to remain peaceful before, during and after the announcement of results.
Security agencies were advised to maintain the highest level of professionalism, understand their role on election day and continue to take steps to assure public of neutrality.