Nigeria’s leading parties failed to act to curb violence during the 2019 general elections, the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) has said.
”The leading parties were at fault in not reining in acts of violence and intimidation by supporters, and in abusing incumbency at federal and state levels,” the observers said in the report released on Saturday.
The “leading parties” in the elections were the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The APC presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, won the election with the PDP’s Atiku Abubakar coming second. Mr Abubakar and the PDP are challenging the results of the presidential election.
Also, only the APC and PDP won governorship elections in the 29 states where governorship elections were held. Many of the governorship election results are being challenged in court.
Some 150 people were killed in election-related violence in different parts of the country, the EU report stated.
”The elections became increasingly marred by violence and intimidation. This harmed the integrity of the electoral process and may deter future participation.
”Around 150 people died in election-related violence during the campaign period and over the election days. INEC reported attacks on its offices, and also fatalities, abductions and sexual assault against its officials.”
It would be recalled that pockets of violence were recorded in states like Benue, Ebonyi, Imo, Lagos, Kano, Rivers and Akwa Ibom.
Only a few of the perpetrators of the violence were arrested by security agencies who seemed overwhelmed.
In Rivers State, the casualty included soldiers who engaged in shootouts with armed political thugs.
Journalists were also victims of the violence, the EU report stated.
”Journalists were subject to harassment, and scrutiny of the electoral process was at times compromised with some independent observers obstructed in their work, including by security agencies,” the report stated.
Three employees of online medium Premium Times; Hassan Adebayo, Ebuka Onyeji, and Kunle Sani were among those who suffered some form of harassment and intimidation in the course of monitoring the elections.
Kunle Sanni was abducted by political thugs for taking pictures during the governorship election in Plateau State. He was later released after he was forced to delete the pictures.
Hassan Adebayo, during the governorship supplementary election, was harassed by police officers in Magajin Garri Ward, Sokoto North Local Government Area when he was trying to access one of the polling units.
Ebuka Onyeji was harassed and his gadgets temporarily seized by thugs in Imo State while covering the elections there.
…Presidency to act on EU’s report
The presidency has welcomed the report of the European Union (EU) on the 2019 general elections in Nigeria, promising to analyse it fully and act on the recommendations in the best interest of the country.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, made this known in a statement in Abuja on Saturday.
Shehu noted that the EU observers were invited to the country by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and welcomed by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.
He stated that this action was a clear indication of the administration’s good intentions, commitment to a purely democratic process and desire to improve on the next elections.
The EU noted in their report that there were marked improvements from previous elections, although stating that more work needed to be done.
”The administration of President Buhari will work with all Nigerian citizens, state institutions, parties, civil society, the media and other experts to make sure that the improvements recommended by the EU are implemented, and that these areas of concern are addressed.
”It is noteworthy that INEC is in receipt of a number of recommendations that form a part of the EU report.
”The Presidency assures that the Commission is in safe hands and happy that they are currently engaged in root and branch reviews of the 2019 general elections and will input lessons learned into its recommendations for electoral and constitutional reforms.
”We believe that the commission conducted a good election and will continue to improve on its processes and procedures,” he said.
While it is regretted that the elections in a few parts of the country witnessed some violence, among other shortcomings highlighted by the EU, Shehu said none of these hitches affected the overall outcome of the elections.
He said: ”Thankfully, EU did not question the results of the presidential election.
”For instance, on page 3 in its Executive Summary, the EU said: ‘positively, the elections were competitive, parties were overall able to campaign and civil society enhanced accountability’.’’
He said that the report also acknowledged that INEC made a number of improvements, including making electoral participation more accessible through simplified voting procedures.
According to the report, INEC made efforts to strengthen electoral integrity by issuing regulations making smart card readers mandatory.
Shehu observed that on page 4 of the report, the EU noted that the elections were competitive with a large number of candidates for all seats although the competition was primarily between the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party.