Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The African Union Election Observation Mission (AUEOM) to Nigeria, has said there was interference during the vote- counting process by voters and party agents.
Head of the AUEOM and former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Desalegne, made the disclosure while presenting the preliminary statement on the conduct of the presidential and National Assembly elections in company with he AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Minata Samate Cessouma, in Abuja.
He said the mission observed that the political space has significantly broadened as evidenced by the high number of registered voters, political parties and candidates who took part in the elections.
Desalegne added that despite some reports of election-related violence, deaths, and intimidation, the overall political climate remained largely peaceful and conducive for the conduct of democratic elections.
He further said the AU mission recognised the operational and logistical challenges faced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that led to the rescheduling of the original date of the 2019 elections.
Desalegne, however, said at the same time, the AU mission was concerned by the pattern of consistent postponement of elections which have implications for citizens’ participation.
The former Ethiopian Prime Minister further said 38 percent of voting points observed did not close at 2 pm due to the late opening, adding that voters on the queue at closing time were allowed to vote.
He also said the closing and counting procedures were adhered to in over 80 percent of the voting points observed.
“Where they were not observed, it was mainly due to inconsistencies in determining valid or invalid votes, and failure to publicly post the result forms at the polling units.
“The AUEOM observed overcrowding and interference by voters and party agents during the counting process. This situation amounts to a violation of INEC’s rules and regulations, creates tension and undue influence on the results.
“Despite the challenges noted above, Election Day operations were administered in a manner that allowed the free expression of the will of the voters,” Desalegne said.
On electoral security, the AU said the 2019 elections took place in a generally peaceful environment.
It also said nevertheless, certain parts of the country, particularly in the North East, South-South and Middle Belt regions, faced security challenges.
“On election day, there were reports of bomb blasts and violence in some regions. The mission notes the destruction of election materials including over four thousand Smart Card Readers, ballot boxes, and voter registers and fire incidents at INEC warehouses in Plateau and Anambra states impacted on the timely conduct of the elections. It further notes that the collaborative relationship between INEC and the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) contributed to the generally peaceful elections,” Desalegne added.
Concluding its declaration, the AUEOM said the 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections provided an opportunity for the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria.
It added that the AUEOM observed that the political space had broadened as evidenced by the high number of political parties and candidates that took part in the elections.
In its recommendations, the AUEOM urged political parties and candidates in the spirit of cooperation and solidarity, to uphold the commitment to peaceful elections and resolution of disputes in keeping with the two peace accords signed in December 2018 and February 2019.
The mission further urged political parties and candidates to call on their supporters to remain calm and peaceful and refrain from any action that might incite post-election violence.
“In case of any grievances over the election results, political parties and candidates are encouraged to use the legal instruments at their disposal to seek redress.
“While congratulating INEC for being open and cooperative with electoral observers, the mission urged INEC to expeditiously and transparently collate and announce the results of the presidential and National Assembly elections as provided for by law,” the AUEOM recommended.