An election observer group, YIAGA Africa, has said that logistic challenges and misconduct by political parties during last weekend’s presidential and National Assembly elections showed that Nigeria missed an opportunity to improve the quality of her elections.
This was contained in the group’s preliminary findings on the conduct of the elections made public in Abuja, yesterday.
According to YIAGA AFRICA, the presidential and National Assembly polls were characterized by many of the same shortcomings that have marred previous national elections in Nigeria.
“As in past elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC’s( logistical challenges resulted in late opening in 59 per cent of polling units that together with instances of misconduct by political parties in some polling units compromised the ability of some citizens to vote and undermined public confidence in the process.
“These issues do not necessarily undermine the overall credibility of the process, according to YIAGA AFRICA, but Nigeria missed an opportunity to improve the quality of its elections.
“These were not the elections Nigerians wanted; they were not the elections Nigerians expected; and, most importantly, they were not the elections Nigerians deserved.
Our election commission must improve its capacity to deliver credible elections and our political parties must play according to the rules. Failure to do so could fundamentally threaten our democracy,” said Chair of the WTV Working Group, Dr. Hussaini Abdu.
He added that despite the one week delay, YIAGA AFRICA noted that INEC continued to experience significant logistical challenges that resulted in late opening of polling units.
“YIAGA AFRICA’s Watching the Vote findings showed that polling units opened late throughout the country with only 41 per cent of polling units open as at 10:30 am and with polling units in the South-South and South-East opening later than polling units in other geopolitical zones.
“Once polling units opened, most polling units had essential election materials. Smart Card Readers were present in 99 per cent of polling units and were largely used throughout accreditation and voting.
“However, YIAGA AFRICA is concerned by tally sheet data gathered from its observers indicating that nearly half of voters may have voted with the Smart Card Reader authenticating only their Permanent Voters Card and not their fingerprints.
“YIAGA AFRICA also notes that counting procedures were not rigorously adhered to in all polling units, and registers with particular concern that results were not publicly posted at the polling unit in 19 per cent of polling units.
“Finally, YIAGA AFRICA noted that its preliminary estimates for voter turnout indicate that turnout will be lower than in 2015,” the group noted.