Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
Former President of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, has been appointed by the Commonwealth to lead its observer group for the February 16 elections in the country.
The Senior Communications Officer, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat, Josephine Latu-Sanft, in a statement made available to in Abuja, listed former Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General, Mr Gary Dunn, an Australian; the Chairperson, Electoral Commission, Namibia, Notemba Tjipueja and former Chief Election Commissioner of India, Dr Shahabuddin Yaqoob Quraishi among the 19-member observer group.
Latu-Sanft added that the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, constituted the observer group upon invitation from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
She said members included politicians, diplomats and experts in law, human rights, gender and election administration from across the Commonwealth.
Latu-Sanft also said that an advance group of observers was deployed to Nigeria on January 29, while other members of the team were expected to arrive in Abuja on February 8.
“The Commonwealth has a long history of observing elections in member countries, in solidarity with electors as they choose their leaders, and in support of efforts to strengthen democracy and the rule of law in accordance with the values and principles of the Commonwealth Charter. The Commonwealth has observed the previous five elections in Nigeria, and I am pleased to be deploying so distinguished a group to again support the nation in its continuing journey of democratic development,” Latu-Sanft quoted Scotland to have said in the statement.
Latu-Sanft further said the mandate of the Commonwealth Observer Group is to observe and consider factors affecting the credibility of the electoral process as a whole.
“It will assess whether the elections have been conducted in accordance with the standards for democratic elections to which Nigeria has committed itself, with reference to national, legislation and relevant regional, Commonwealth and international commitments. Where appropriate, the group can also make recommendations for the future strengthening of the electoral framework.
“The Commonwealth Observer Group will consider the pre-election environment and election preparations. Members will be deployed to various regions of the country where they will observe the voting, vote-counting and results procedures.
“The group will submit its final report for consideration by the Commonwealth Secretary-General, and she will in turn share it with the Government of Nigeria, INEC and political parties before conveying it to all Commonwealth governments. It will then be made public,” Latu-Sanft said.
Latu-Sanft also said the group would be supported by the Commonwealth Secretariat staff led by the Senior Director of the Governance and Peace Directorate, Ms Katalaina Sapolu.