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2019 elections: Nigerians are disappointed with the lack of progress- NDI/IRI

The National Democratic Institute (NDI) and International Republican Institute (IRI) have said that Nigerians are disappointed with the lack of progress recorded in the conduct of the 2019 General Elections when compared with the 2015 elections.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) under the leadership of Professor Mahmood Jega conducted the 2015 elections during the administration of former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan while the 2019 elections were conducted by Professor Mahmood Yakubu under the leadership of incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, a former military Head of State.
The IRI/NDI in a joint press conference addressed by the leaders of the delegation, Dr. Christopher Fomunyoh, Regional Director for NDI and John Tomaszewski, Regional Director for IRI, presented their Joint International Observer Delegation Release Preliminary Statement on Nigeria’s March 9 Elections, and called on Nigerians to claim, protect and defend their democracy.
“The March 9 gubernatorial and state House of Assembly elections demonstrated continued interest in and enthusiasm for democratic elections. However, overall voter participation in the polling units observed by NDI/IRI was low. We call on Nigerians to claim, protect and defend their democracy and respect the rights of fellow citizens to participate peacefully in the political process.
“The delegation heard from many Nigerians that, in comparing the conduct of 2019 polls to that of 2015, they are disappointed with the lack of progress in election administration and with the performance of political parties in elections,” the institutes stated.
The groups which noted that, although the Yakubu-led INEC improved the process for March 9 elections, the outcomes were marred by plethora of irregularities. “INEC took steps to improve the process of the March 9 elections. However, incidents of violence and intimidation, and widespread voter apathy undoubtedly drove low voter turnout.
“Moreover, a heavy military presence and vote buying in some locations, as well as irregularities in vote counting and collation process served to undermine the integrity of the elections in those locations,” Tomaszewski said.
The NDI/IRI pointed out that the heavy deployment of military men in some locations, including near polling units heightened tensions and raised fears of imminent military intervention in the election process, stressing that observers reported that the military disrupted the polls in some areas, including in Rivers State where soldiers were deployed heavily around INEC office.
Another critical observation by the groups was the very few women in winning positions on the tickets fielded by major political parties for the gubernatorial and State House of Assembly polls. “Despite being Africa’s largest democracy, Nigeria has the lowest representation of women in national legislative office of any country on the continent, and this representation will likely fall below five percent following the February 23 National Assembly vote. This is not a record to be proud of,” the groups said.
As part of recommendations the groups called on the presidency to adopt comprehensive electoral reforms to lay the background for an improved electoral framework; implement fully the recommendations of the Nigerian-led reform initiatives such as the reports from the 2008 Uwais Commission and the 2017 Nnamani Committee and create appropriate institutions to oversee political parties and prosecute electoral offences.
The NDI/IRI also urged the security agencies to investigate and sanction security personnel who violate the rules of engagement on Election Day and stressed that meaningful democratic progress can only be achieved if Nigerians continue to champion their civic duties and responsibilities.

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