Nigeria

ECOWAS poll observation mission says Nigeria’s March 28 elections free, transparent despite some hitches

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The ECOWAS Election Observation Mission (EOM) says Nigeria’s March 28, 2015 presidential and federal legislative elections met the “criteria of being free and transparent,” despite “pockets of incidents and logistical challenges.”

The 250-member Mission of Long-term and short-term observers headed by former Ghanaian President John Kufuor said in its five-page Preliminary Declaration on Sunday 29 March 2015, that the “shortcomings” require remedial action by the Authorities to further enhance the credibility of the electoral process.

“Notwithstanding these shortcomings, the organization of the election can be considered as generally acceptable,” the Mission said in the 22-point Declaration.

The challenges highlighted by the Mission included the Card Reader malfunctioning in some polling stations, especially in the finger print identification of voters resulting in the resort to the use of manual accreditation of voters; insufficient and/or non-availability of electoral materials like ballot papers, indelible ink and incident forms in some polling stations; late arrival of electoral officials and materials; and delay in the voting process.

“The Mission regrets the violent incidents that occurred during the electoral process in some parts of the country which in some cases led to the loss of lives,” and expressed its condolences to members of the families of those who lost their lives.

It commended the enthusiasm, maturity, patience and sense of civic responsibility demonstrated by the electorate, and expressed the hope that the same spirit of respect for order and discipline will characterize the rest of the electoral process.

The Mission noted the generally high voter turnout, with voters displaying commendable level of patience, discipline and organization, and laudable participation of women and young people, and urged voters to maintain their high sense of responsibility and tolerance during the remaining election period.

It called on the relevant authorities to take necessary measures to avoid similar occurrences in the future.

The Mission commended the Federal Government of Nigeria and all other stakeholders for “ensuring a peaceful and orderly election, thus making it a historic step for the strengthening of democracy and good governance in Nigeria.”

In particular, it congratulated the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for “its leadership and professionalism” and also “paid tribute to the security agencies for their impartial and exemplary conduct during the elections.”

“The Mission applauds the National Peace Committee for its spirited initiatives and efforts in facilitating the commitment of all the presidential candidates to a peaceful electoral process as enunciated in the Abuja Peace Accord and for using its good offices to impact positively on the electoral process.”

It equally congratulated the “Presidential and other candidates, their party members and the electorate for the successful conduct of the 2015 Nigeria General Elections and calls on all candidates to accept the outcome of the polls and where necessary, resort to constitutional and legal processes to redress contentious issues.”

In response to questions from journalists, the chief of ECOWAS poll observation Mission explained that the Declaration represented preliminary observations since the elections were continuing in some parts of the country on Sunday, while the governorship and State Assembly polls come up on April 11.

The ECOWAS Director of Political Affairs Dr. Remi Ajibewa read the Declaration on behalf of former President Kufuor at the ceremony attended by the President of the ECOWAS Commission H.E Kadré Desire Ouédraogo, the Heads of African Union and Commonwealth Poll Observer Missions former Liberian leader Prof. Amos Sawyer and former President Bakili Muluzu,

Other dignitaries that graced the occasion included the US Under-Secretary for African Affairs Mrs. Lynda Thomas-Greenfield, ECOWAS Ambassadors and Observers including Member of the ECOWAS Council of the Wise.

The ECOWAS poll observers were deployed in five and Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones – (North Central, North-West, South-East, South-South, South-West), while the West African Peace building Network (WANEP), one of ECOWAS’ Civil Society Organization partner, provided updates on the North East geo-political zone to the ECOWAS Situation Room.

The ECOWAS election observation chief and President Ouédraogo observed the electoral process in Abuja. He also met with Heads of the other international observer groups including the Commonwealth, the European Union (EU), African Union the International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the International Federation of Election System (IFES) as well as the Head of the UN Office in West Africa (UNOWA), Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas.