The Commonwealth Group of Observers has condemned what it described as election-related violence, which marred the elections in some states, saying the loss of lives in those places was deeply troubling.

Also, the international observers in the elections, comprising the International Republican Institute (IRI), National Democratic Institute (NDI), and African Union Observation Mission (AUEOM), have called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to expeditiously release the results of the polls.

The observers also called on political gladiators to ensure that the processes are concluded in a peaceful atmosphere.

This is coming as the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) has also highlighted serious operational shortcomings during the elections, which it said put undue burden on the electorate.

The Chairperson of the Commonwealth Group of Observers, Dr. Jakaya Kikwete, made the group’s submission yesterday, while addressing journalists on the group’s observations and assessment on the general election.

Kikwete noted that violence has no place in a modern democracy, adding that those responsible should be held accountable.

He also called on political parties to honour their commitments to the National Peace Accord and reject violence.

The electoral process was characterised by violence in some parts of Rivers, Lagos, Delta, Osun, Nasarawa and Enugu States.

The observer group noted that in spite of the difficulties and challenges surrounding the elections, many Nigerians had the opportunity to express their will and exercise their franchise.

Kikwete, who was a former President of Tanzania, also expressed optimism that the final stages of collation and announcement of results which began on Monday will be handled in a transparent and credible manner.

The Commonwealth Observer Group was deployed across Nigeria from February 13, covering Benin City, Enugu, Ibadan, Jos, Kaduna, Kano, Lagos, Port Harcourt and the FCT, where it met INEC officers, civil society groups, the political parties, police and the media.

The group similarly observed reservation that about 11.2 million Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) were not collected, noting that represented over 13 percent of registered voters who could not vote.

It also identified problems with the Smart Card Readers in a number of polling units, saying the shortcoming caused further delays as polling officials awaited technical assistance or replacement.

In addition, it highlighted delays in the distribution of materials, resulting in the late opening of polling units, saying that although INEC later authorised extended voting hours for polling units that had opened late, the information was not communicated effectively and not followed by all polling staff.

“Observers noted, however, that many would have benefitted from more comprehensive training in polling procedures. In some places, the layout of polling units, including the positioning of voting booths, potentially compromised the secrecy of the ballot. Incorrect labeling and failure to seal the ballot boxes correctly were also noted. Lack of signage within polling units also caused some confusion,” Kikwete said.

Kikwete also lauded the invaluable contribution of the NYSC members to the electoral process and the passing of the Not Too Young to Run Bill as a significant step that will enable youth participation in all elective offices.
He said the group did not observe cases of vote buying and under age voting, which were notable features during bye elections in some states last year and during the 2015 general election.

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