• Says Nigerians boycotted elections over disappointment with presidential poll

• Puts death figure at 21


From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja

European Union (EU) has said the governorship and state House of Assembly elections were fraught with massive voter apathy, multiple incidents of thuggery, intimidation, vote-buying,  interruption of polling in various locations with 21 people killed across the country.

Chief Observer of European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) to Nigeria, Barry Andrews, stated this,  yesterday, in Abuja, while giving the EU’s second preliminary statement on the election.

He also knocked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for its poor conduct of the polls.

He said Nigerians have a great appetite for democracy and were keen to engage in various civic activities, but lamented that  in large parts of the country, their expectations were not met during the presidential and National Assembly polls.

Andrews said public confidence and trust in INEC were severely damaged on February 25 due to lack of transparency and operational failures in the conduct of the polls.

“Many Nigerians were so disappointed with the electoral process of the February 25; then on Saturday (March 18), they decided to stay at home. The voter apathy that we witnessed is, in part, a clear consequence of failures by  political elites, added also by Independent  National Electoral Commission (INEC)…

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“From March 11 onwards, despite compressed timeframes, INEC introduced various corrective measures to render a timely delivery of electoral materials, efficient use of election technologies, and ensure prompt publication of result forms, some of which were effective. Overall, on election day, multiple incidents of thuggery and intimidation interrupted polling in various locations, primarily across the south, but also in states in the central and northern areas. There were reportedly some 21 fatalities. In polling units in several states, violent incidents targeted voters, INEC personnel, citizen observers and journalists.”

Andrews lamented that up until the postponement of the governorship  and state assembly elections, INEC continued to abstain from providing information, limiting its communication to a few press releases and ceremonial statements and hence, failed to address public grievances and rebuild confidence in the electoral process.

The EU EOM Chief Observer said most polling units opened with materials and personnel deployed on time, although a dismal level of voter participation meant less pressure on INEC operations throughout the day.

Andrews noted that vote-buying, also observed by EU EOM observers, further detracted from an appropriate conduct of the elections.

He, however, said the March 18 elections did not face the same problems with the use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) as on February 25.

“Result forms for the gubernatorial races were uploaded and displayed for public scrutiny. At the time of the declaration of presidential results, only one quarter of result forms were visible; by midday 19 March, gubernatorial race result forms available online ranged from 62 to 97 percent depending on the state.

“There were some 11,000 candidates competing for state elections, among whom a bare 10 percent were women. Notably, leading political parties fielded only two female candidates for highly prized governor seats. This demonstrates a radical underrepresentation of women in political life and lack of internal party policies to support constitutionally prescribed inclusion and is contrary to Nigeria’s international commitments to eradicate discrimination against women.”

Andrews said intra-party conflicts, compounded by protracted legal deadlines for solving candidacy disputes, created uncertainty for voters and electoral contestants alike.

“Some court decisions were taken only a few days before the polls, effectively reducing candidates’ prospects to meaningfully campaign. The campaign for state-level elections was highly competitive and interlinked with parties’ canvass for votes at the federal level. Fundamental freedoms of assembly and movement were largely respected, with the latter being impeded in some states by insecurity and state executive actions. There were defections and switching support by state branches of parties, especially in the aftermath of the federal-level results. EU EOM observers noted that in several states the abuse of incumbency gave an undue advantage to the party in power.”