The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was supposed to conduct fair and transparent elections in 2023, but according to the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM), this was not the case.
In its final report, which was made public on Tuesday in Abuja, the mission made this clear.
According to the EU EOM, issues with the law and electoral administration made it difficult to hold fair elections and eroded confidence in INEC.
According to the EU EOM, INEC lost the confidence and trust of the public during the presidential election and it was not regained in the state-level elections, which prompted civil society to seek for an independent audit of the entire procedure.
“The widely welcomed Electoral Act 2022 (the 2022 Act) introduced measures aimed at building stakeholder trust. However, the Act’s first test in a general election revealed crucial gaps in terms of INEC’s accountability and transparency, proved to be insufficiently elaborated, and lacked clear provisions for timely and efficient implementation.
“Weak points include a lack of INEC independent structures and capacities to enforce sanctions for electoral offences and breaches of campaign finance rules.
“Furthermore, the presidential selection of INEC leadership at the federal and state level leaves the electoral institution vulnerable to the perception of partiality. Closer to the polls some started to doubt INEC’s administrative and operational efficiency and in-house capacity. Public confidence gradually decreased and was severely damaged on 25 February due to its operational failures and lack of transparency.
“While some corrective measures introduced before the 18 March elections were effective, overall trust was not restored,” it said.
Addressing a press briefing in Abuja, the Chief Observer, EU EOM, Barry Andrews, noted that his team carried out its work between 11 January and 11 April on the invitation of the INEC.
The EU EOM offered 23 recommendations for consideration by the Nigerian authorities that would contribute to the improvement of future elections.
Andrews said: “We are particularly concerned about the need for reform in six areas which we have identified as priority recommendations, and we believe, if implemented, could contribute to improvements for the conduct of elections.”
The six priority recommendations point to the need to; remove ambiguities in the law; establish a publicly accountable selection process for INEC members; ensure real-time publication of and access to election results; provide greater protection for media practitioners; address discrimination against women in political life, and; impunity regarding electoral offenses.”