2019 Polls: EU Observers Knock NTA, INEC…Read 9 Key Things They Said
The European Union Observation Mission’s final report on the 2019 general elections which was released on Saturday, June 15, 2019, criticized alleged bias of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and questionable transparency of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the polls.
Although the observer group noted that INEC recorded some improvement in the poll, the electoral body was allegedly not transparent in its conduct.
The report also noted the questionable and sudden suspension of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, on the eve of the February 23 presidential and March 9 governorship elections.
The EU Observers noted among other things in their report, the lesser participation of women and the deaths that resulted from violence and intimidation of voters in the election.
Below are key observations the observer group made in its final report:
-Bias on NTA’s Part
“There was evident partisan programming by the NTA. The joint share of exposure for the president, the government and the APC was over 84 per cent.
“During the EU EOM’s 46-day monitoring period, President Buhari had two hours and eight minutes of direct speech within the news, while Atiku Abubakar had seven minutes,” it said.
“Except for federal radio, state media primarily served the interests of the president or the governor at state level. However federal government-owned TV clearly favoured the president and the ruling party.”
“The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) worked in a complex security and politically-charged environment, with its premises and officials subject to physical attacks and intimidation,” it read.
“INEC made a number of improvements, including making electoral participation more accessible through simplified voting procedures. INEC made efforts to strengthen electoral integrity by issuing regulations making smart card readers mandatory to accredit voters, but there were insufficient accompanying transparency measures.
“Other procedural weaknesses continued, including in regards to checks and transparency in the results process. Severe operational shortcomings resulted in the elections being postponed by a week just five hours before polling was due to start on 16 February.”
-INEC’s Lack Of Transparency
“Nigeria’s 2019 general elections were marked by severe operational and transparency shortcomings, electoral security problems, and low turnout. Positively, the elections were competitive, parties were overall able to campaign and civil society enhanced accountability,” it read.
“The leading parties were at fault in not reining in acts of violence and intimidation by supporters, and in abusing incumbency at federal and state levels.”
Ex-CJN Onnoghen’s Questionable Removal
“It was seen by many as undermining security of tenure, damaging judicial independence and compromising the division of powers. The suspension did not follow due process, was divisive, and undermined confidence in the electoral process and opportunity for remedy.
“The mission observed that questionable procedures were followed by the Code of Conduct Tribunal. The removal of the chief justice of Nigeria during the elections had an inhibiting effect on the judiciary.
“Very few electoral offences result in arrest or prosecution, and thus there is an enduring culture of impunity.”
– Women’s Lesser Participation In Polls
“Nigeria has the lowest rate of women in parliament in Africa, with the number progressively decreasing since 2011,” it said.
“The number of women elected fell again. These systemic failings show the need for fundamental reform so elections better serve the interests of the Nigerian people.
“The proportion of women elected is well below the 30 per cent Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the 35 per cent national targets. 203 Similarly, the proportion of female candidates for national and state-level elections generally reduced in comparison to 2015 by an average of two percentage points to 10 per cent”
-Voting-related Violence, Deaths
“The elections became increasingly marred by violence and intimidation. This harmed the integrity of the electoral process and may deter future participation. Based on information available, around 150 people died in election-related violence during the campaign period and over the election days.
-Impact Of Fake News
“Disinformation (fake/false narratives) was a key focus of political discussion with concern about its impact on the 2019 elections and risk of violence.119 Government officials repeatedly alerted the public to the risk of disinformation. People affiliated with both major parties posted false partisan information online.”
-Presidential Election Less Orderly Than Governorship Elections
“Polling was more orderly and assessed more positively by EU observers in comparison to the 23 February election day.”
“Approximately 145 people were killed in election-related violence, 84 of which were in the South South zone. This is a comparable figure to the 2015 general elections.
“However, exact numbers of incidents and fatalities are hard to obtain and there are different views on what is categorised as electoral and political violence.”
– Counting Of Ballot Was Transparent
“Overall, the counting of ballots was transparent. In 25 out of 28 observed polling units, results forms were filled in completely. But in 12 cases collation was assessed as bad or very bad. In most cases, results forms and smart card readers were not packed in tamper-evident envelopes when delivered to collation centres.”
–Buhari Campaign Faults Report
Meanwhile, the Director of Strategic Communications of the Muhammadu Buhari Presidential Campaign Organization, Mr. Festus Keyamo, has faulted some of the observations the EU Observer group made in the report.
THE WHISTLER earlier reported that Keyamo accused the observer group of arriving at the conclusion that the election was not transparent by examining anomalies in fewer than five hundred polling units out of over 120, 000 polling units.
The Buhari campaign spokesperson also faulted the EU Observer group for failing to arrive at a “definite conclusion,” insisting that the result of the presidential election as declared by INEC “reflected the overall wishes of Nigerians” as noted by several other election observer groups.