By Celine Samuel, The Sight News
ABUJA: The joint international observation mission of the National Democratic Institute(NDI) and the International Republic Institute(IRI), on Monday, urged Nigerians to address immediate and longer- term challenges to inclusive and credible elections.
The joint observation mission, said this in its preliminary statement on the Nigerian Presidential and National Assembly elections,which took place on Saturday, February 23rd.
Briefing Journalists in Abuja, the former Vice President of the Gambia, H.E Fatoumata Tambajang who co-led the mission, said these elections are extremely important for Nigeria and the subregion.
According to her, “Our presence as observers is a mark of our solidarity with the people of Nigeria as they work to deepen their democracy”.
On his part, the NDI President, Ambassador Derek Mitchell, while speaking on the mission’s election day observations, noted that majority of the polling units did not have essential materials, adding also that there were frequent failures of smart card readers to authenticate fingerprints which stymied the process.
In respect to electoral offences and violence, he stated that their observers reported disruptions and intimidation by party agents and campaigning in some polling units,which contravened regulations.
The joint missions also pointed out persisting challenges in the Nigerian electoral system such as; Weak internal democracy within political parties, unfulfilled promises of electoral reform, slow resolution of election disputes.
Others were; Multiple sources of insecurity, hate speech and disinformation, as well as last-minute postponement of elections.
Meanwhile, the IRI President, Daniel Twining, while speaking on tackling these persisting challenges ahead of the March 9 state level election, called on the government to ensure adequate security to support and protect INEC deployment and voters engagement.
He also urged INEC in the short term to among other things; Intensify communication and outreach to the Nigerian public and relevant stakeholders in the electoral process; Ensure ad hoc polling staff are adequately trained on polling procedures; and Improve communication with polling staff throughout election day, including to convey important changes or updates to the voting process.
On the long term, he called on INEC to among other things, develop and adopt a string strategic communication plan that builds on lessons learned from the 2019 elections in order to promote transparency and public trust, and also, to enhance training for ad hoc officials to ensure sound knowledge of procedures.
To the political parties and candidates, he charged them to respect the rule of law and called on supporters to remain peaceful before, during and after the announcement of results, and to also refrain from disseminating false or misleading information to citizens.
Furthermore, he urged the government to immediately after the 2019 elections, pursue a comprehensive and inclusive electoral reform process that draws upon the recommendations made by the Uwais commission and Nnamani committee,among others, and codify recent improvements in election procedures and to also ensure the timely approval and release of the election budget.