The just released report by the European Union Election Observation Mission in Nigeria has challenged the transparency and efficiency of Nigeria’s electoral agency, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in the 2019 elections. According to the EU report – which noted a significant decline in voter participation (34.1%) from previous elections, “the systemic failings evident in the elections” presents a heightened risk of citizen disengagement. It called for fundamental reform.
Why it matters
According to the EU mission, the blame for Nigeria’s poor electoral outing – low voter turnout, alarming levels of violence (about 150 electoral violence related deaths )and irregularities – lies squarely on INEC. While it acknowledged the difficulties faced by INEC including targeted violence and harassment against its officials and assets, the report highlighted some key areas where INEC failed to discharge its duties effectively. “The exact reasons for INEC’s operational failures are not clear and warrant public explanation and a detailed public plan made for improvements.”
Public engagement failure: “There was a serious lack of public communication with insufficient information made available,” the report said. The EU noted that it was not until after the postponement of the general elections that communications improved at the agency.
Among other things, the EU said that:
– “INEC did not provide public data on PVC collection until 21 February, after the original election date, and did not provide a breakdown by local government area (LGA) or polling unit.”
– “Voters were uncertain when voting would begin due to a lack of public information from INEC. As a result, there was confusion and tension, and voters were likely deterred from participating.”
Piss Poor Security Coordination: The EU noted that INEC failed in its mandate to coordinate on electoral security as stakeholders were not consulted. “The INEC-chaired Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security was not sufficiently effective, did not involve stakeholders or provide necessary information… There was inadequate information on when it met, what decisions were made and its respective responsibilities. Stakeholders, including political parties and civil society organisations, were not able to attend and were not consulted.”
Of course, this failure has a lot to do with the various breaches of security and high level of violence that occurred during the 2019 elections.
Voter Registration and Collection Fraud: The EU disputes a number of claims made by INEC concerning the Permanent Voters Card collection. Per the report:
– “Six states had implausibly high collection rates of 94 per cent or more, indicating the possibility of proxy collection and PVCs being in the wrong hands.
– “The voter register is significantly inflated as INEC has no reliable process for the removal of the names of the deceased.” According to the EU, the figure of about 84million PVCs, which represented, a 22 per cent increase from 2015, is likely implausible.
Election Day logistics and operations: The logistics and operations were simply not good enough. The EU pointed out irregularities, late accreditation and voting as well as insufficient transparency in the result documentation.
– “On 23 February, the majority of polling units opened extremely late.
– “Important polling procedures were insufficiently followed. On several occasions voting was observed without the use of smart card readers, despite INEC stipulating their use was mandatory.
– “There were evident problems in completing results forms, and they were not publicly displayed as required in half the counts observed, weakening transparency.
Go Deeper: Read the full EU Nigeria 2019 Observation Mission Report here.