The European Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) to Nigeria has alleged that the appointment of the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Mahmood Yakubu, and other electoral officials by the immediate past president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, left the electoral umpire vulnerable to perception of partiality during the conduct of the 2023 elections.
The EU Observers made this known in its final report on the 25 February and 18 March elections, published on its official website on June 27.
Mahmood was appointed as INEC Chairman by former President Buhari on 21 October 2015 and reappointed in 2020.
But the EU mission claimed that the public perception of INEC’s alleged partiality was as a result of the “presidential selection” that produced them.
“Weak points include a lack of INEC independent structures and capacities to enforce sanctions for electoral offences and breaches of campaign finance rules.
“Furthermore, the presidential selection of INEC leadership at federal and state level leaves the electoral institution vulnerable to the perception of partiality,” the observers stated.
The observers added that the conduct of 2023 federal and state elections by INEC exposed enduring systemic weaknesses thereby damaging public trust in the electoral umpire.
THE WHISTLER reports that during the counting of the February 25 presidential and National Assembly results, the EU Observer Mission chaired by Barry Andrews, cited “lack of transparency” on the part of INEC, particularly regarding INEC’s failure to transmit presidential poll results on its INEC Results Viewing Portal in real time.
In its final report, the EU maintained that the shortcomings associated with the election were glaring.
“Following a three-month-long observation across Nigeria, and in accordance with its usual practice, the EU EOM is now pleased to present its findings and recommendations.
“Shortcomings in law and electoral administration hindered the conduct of well-run and inclusive elections and damaged trust in INEC.
“With the aim of contributing to the improvement of future elections, the EU EOM is offering 23 recommendations for consideration by the Nigerian authorities,” the EU mission stated.
According to Andrews, Nigerians demonstrated a clear commitment to the democratic process but the election exposed enduring systemic weaknesses and therefore signals a need for further legal and operational reforms to enhance transparency, inclusiveness, and accountability.
“We are particularly concerned about the need for reform in six areas which we have identified as priority recommendations, and we believe, if implemented, could contribute to improvements for the conduct of elections,” said Barry Andrews.
Andrews added that “Importantly, there is a need for political will to achieve improved democratic practices in Nigeria. Inclusive dialogue between all stakeholders on electoral reform remains crucial.”
Listing its recommendations, the EU suggested clarity and plainness in Nigeria’s electoral laws, real-time transmission of results, among other recommendations.
“The six priority recommendations point to the need to (1) remove ambiguities in the law, (2) establish a publicly accountable selection process for INEC members, (3) ensure real-time publication of and access to election results, (4) provide greater protection for media practitioners, address (5) discrimination against women in political life, and (6) impunity regarding electoral offenses,” it stated.
The EU assured it will support stakeholders in the implementation of its recommendations.
The EU final report published on its website as on Tuesday comes amid the ongoing sittings of the Presidential Election Petitions Court in Abuja.
Three petitioners, namely, Peter Obi, Atiku Abubakar and Allied Peoples Movement are challenging the electoral umpire’s declaration of Bola Tinubu as winner of the election.
Meanwhile, the Election Observation Missions made it clear that it operates independent from the institutions of the European Union, adding “The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of the European Union.”