‘Deep systemic weaknesses’ — EU mission presents report on 2023 polls

The European Union (EU) election observation mission in Nigeria says the recently concluded general election in the country exposed enduring systemic weaknesses that need to be corrected.

On Tuesday, the mission presented its final report on the general election in Abuja.

Barry Andrews, the chief observer, said the report was based on the analysis of compliance with Nigeria’s regional and international commitments for democratic elections.

“This was the seventh EU election observation mission in the country since 1999, attesting to the EU’s strong commitment to Nigeria’s democracy,” Andrews said.


“In the lead-up to the 2023 general election, Nigerian citizens demonstrated a clear commitment to the democratic process. That said, the election exposed enduring systemic weaknesses and therefore signal a need for further legal and operational reforms to enhance transparency, inclusiveness, and accountability.”

Although Andrews noted that a positive aspect of the voter registration process was active youth engagement, with two-thirds of the 9.5 million new registrants being young people, he said the collection of permanent voter cards (PVC) was adversely affected by poor institutional planning and a lack of transparency.

“To ensure the accuracy and inclusiveness of the voter register, an external independent audit would be beneficial,” he added.



The chief observer noted that additional factors like cash scarcity and different kinds of violence contributed to a flawed democratic process.

Andrews said campaigns were competitive, evidenced by the large attendance of rallies by different political parties and candidates but added that the naira and fuel scarcity suppressed voter participation on election day.

“In addition, the EU EOM recorded cases of undue interference by governors, while the campaign was also marred by internal party conflicts. Personality-focused canvassing and misuses of incumbency by governors tilted the playing field, leading to increased polarisation driven by divisive rhetoric based on ethnicity and religion,” he said.


“Our mission recorded more than 100 campaign-related violent incidents, including assassinations. These and other criminal acts obstructed the campaign, disrupted the elections, and suppressed voter participation.

“Weaknesses in the legal framework for these electoral offences and others such as misuse of state resources, intimidation and vote-buying contributed to inadequate enforcement. Key state institutions, including INEC, but also political parties, failed to tackle these problems.”


The EU election observation mission applauded the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for introducing some positive measures like an increased number of polling units and the bimodal voter accreditation system (BVAS) early in the electoral process but noted that the actions did not buy public confidence in the electoral body.


“Public confidence in INEC was severely damaged on 25 February due to its operational failures and lack of transparency. While some corrective measures introduced before the 18 March elections seemed to have a positive impact, overall trust was not restored and eventually led civil society to call for an independent audit of the entire process.

“Prior to the elections, selection processes were questioned leaving the institution vulnerable to mistrust.”


Andrews said a lack of transparency surrounded the use of the bimodal BVAS and the INEC results viewing portal (IReV) which contradicted the integrity and credibility of the elections.

“We believe that these vulnerabilities can be effectively addressed by establishing a robust operational framework for the independence, integrity, and efficiency of electoral administration through an inclusive and publicly accountable
mechanism for selecting candidates for the posts of INEC commissioners and RECs based on clear criteria of evaluation of merits, qualifications, and verified non-partisanship.”


The mission also faulted the fines placed on media houses by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), saying they were carried out without due process and censored analytical reporting.



The chief observer said the lack of female participation in the general election was worrisome as only one woman contested among 18 presidential candidates.

He said there were no nominated female running mates while only two women contested among governorship candidates.

“Women’s political participation in Nigeria is not in line with the country’s international commitments and provision of equality. The number of women participating in the process evidences a worrisome trend of decline since 2007,” he said.

“The government and major political parties again failed to tackle exclusion and discrimination against women despite the national gender policy target of 35 per cent of women in appointed and elected positions. Women candidates at all levels of elections barely reached 10 per cent.

“This longstanding discrimination demands urgent and robust affirmative action to ensure meaningful women’s representation through special measures in line with the Beijing principles and the national gender policy to increase the representation of women as candidates and in elected office, further supported by cross-sectoral, intensified, and sustained capacity building and sensitisation to eliminate discrimination.”




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