THE European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) to Nigeria, on Monday, suggested a serious electoral reform in Nigeria as a panacea to various issues raised by both the local and foreign observers during the just concluded 2019 general elections in the country.
Presenting the mission’s preliminary statement in Abuja, the EU Chief Observer, Maria Arena, who further called for a conference among various stakeholders to look into the issues raised and improve the system, therefore, condemned the violence, intimidation and obstruction of citizens observers by the military and security agents on election day.
She said the systemic problems evident in the 2019 electoral process showed the need for an inclusive national discussion on reforms for greater electoral integrity and participation.
According to her, this is not a novel idea, of course. The suggestion of a national conversation or dialogue is one that comes from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) itself. It is one that the European Union would support.
Arena lamented that observers, including the EU mission’s observers, were denied access to collation centre in Rivers State, adding that at eight polling units observed, there were indications of vote buying and eight cases of obvious underage voting also observed.
EU chief observer said lack of access for observers compromised transparency and trust in the process, saying a comprehensive report on the election would be submitted in June with the recommendations for reform.
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She announced that out of 30 recommendations after the 2015 general elections, only four were implemented by the Nigerian government, saying EU was ready to work with the Federal Government to improve on its electoral reforms.
“As an election observation mission, our work finishes after this report is produced. After that, it will be the EU delegation that stands ready to support Nigeria in the implementation of the recommendations put forward for consideration. Although they are still to be finalised, one very clear recommendation would be for Nigeria to revisit the electoral laws and to agree on key reforms long before the next general elections.
“Change and improvement do not happen overnight. Reforms should neither be rushed nor left to the last moment. We encourage a national conversation on electoral reform and strongly believe that it would meaningfully contribute to Nigeria’s democratic development,” Arena added.
She said the environment for the elections has been difficult, with cases of violence and intimidation, including attacks on election administration officials, pointing out that security agencies have an important role to play in helping safeguard voters and all involved in an election.
It will be recalled that both the Presidential/National Assembly and Governorship/ State House of Assembly elections took place on February 23 and March 9, respectively in Nigeria with the reports of irregularities across the country.
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