The European Union Election Observation Mission said yesterday that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the political parties and security agencies performed below expectations during the last general elections.
But it conceded that the elections were generally competitive and the parties were able to campaign while the civil society enhanced accountability.
Citing alleged systemic failings by INEC in the conduct of the polls, the group called for urgent improvement in the electoral system to enable more Nigerians vote in future elections.
Only 34.1 per cent of eligible voters, it said, turned out for the February 2019 presidential poll.
The mission in its final report on the elections released in Abuja blamed the political parties for failing to stop their supporters from provoking violence.
Such violence, it said, led to the death of 150 people nationwide during the elections.
It said the security agencies were also at fault for their inability to prevent the violence and the deaths.
It claimed that some security personnel were even involved in maltreating voters and electoral personnel.
It listed 30 recommendations on how to improve elections in the country.
Head of Mission, Maria Arena, who unveiled the report called for more transparency in the operations of INEC.
She said such reforms require “political leadership that is dedicated to the rights of Nigerian citizens, and an inclusive process of national dialogue involving state institutions, parties, civil society and the media.
She added: “This needs to be urgently undertaken to allow time for debate, legislative changes and implementation well in advance of the next elections.
“Overall, the EU EOM concluded the 2019 elections were marked by severe operational and transparency shortcomings, electoral security problems and low turnout. Positively, however, the elections were competitive, parties were able to campaign and civil society enhanced accountability.
Leading parties, the EU EOM said, “were at fault in not reining in acts of violence and intimidation by their supporters, and abuse of incumbency at federal and state levels.
“Except for federal radio, state media primarily served the interests of the president or the governor at state level. Journalists were subject to harassment, and scrutiny of the electoral process was at times compromised with some independent observers being obstructed in their work, including by security agencies.”
The EU EOM said that INEC worked in a difficult environment and made some improvements, such as simplifying voting procedures.
However, considerable weaknesses remained including operational deficiencies which it said led to the postponement of the elections.
There were also insufficient checks and transparency in the results process, as well as a general lack of public communication and information, it said.
“The elections became increasingly marred by violence and intimidation, with the role of the security agencies becoming more contentious as the process progressed. The EU EOM reported that this damaged the integrity of the electoral process and may deter future participation. During collation of the federal results, EU observers directly witnessed or received reports of intimidation of INEC officials in 20 states.
“While the legal framework broadly provides for democratic elections and some improvements were made to the Constitution, various legal shortcomings remained, including in relation to the use of smart card readers. The EU EOM also noted the suspension of the chief justice by the president a few weeks before the elections, which it said was seen to lack due process and reportedly undermined judicial independence.
“Other issues highlighted in the report include: conflicting and late rulings on electoral disputes that undermined opportunity for remedy and created uncertainty; the dysfunctional regulation of political finance; very few electoral offences resulting in arrest o
by Vincent Ikuomola,