Courtesy: (Christian Okeke-Abuja) Nigerian Tribune
The European Union (EU), Commonwealth and National Democratic Institute (NDI) observation missions on Monday gave accounts of what they observed during the last weekend’s presidential and National Assembly elections in Nigeria.
EU stated that its observers saw no evidence of systematic manipulations, despite the fact that the process was said to be disordered and prolonged.
The Commonwealth said it was concerned with the tendency of some politicians, activists and party spokespersons, who resorted to highly emotive rhetoric, which could be regarded as incitement to violence.The NDI noted that security personnel, on the overall, played a positive and professional role in the majority of polling stations that the delegation observed. Briefing newsmen in Abuja, the EU chief observer, Santiago Fisas, noted that systematic weaknesses left the process open to abuse by political contenders.
According to him, there was misuse of incumbency by parties at federal and state levels, and escalated incidents of violence and intimidation. Santiago stated that excessive deference to judicial mechanisms for enforcement and corrective action risked protracted resolution. According to him, given the lack of possibility to run as an independent candidate, the Nigerian system of primaries overly excluded and concentrated unchecked power in the parties, thereby reducing the choices available to voters on election day and weakened the accountability function of elections.
He said: “EU experts observed parties establishing excessive non-refundable fees, subjective party criteria risking arbitrary application and parties not respecting the results of their own primaries.” Santiago went further to state that “issue-based campaigning was overshadowed by prevailing negative tactics, with escalating mutual accusations and fierce personal attacks. “There was also an increase in the use of religion, ethnic and sectional sentiments and appeals in the campaign with both parties accusing the other of dividing the nation on religious grounds.
“The growth in hate speech and violence took place, despite the signing of the Abuja accord on January 14 and comparable peace accords in all 36 states and the FCT,” he said. In his own briefing, the chairman of the Commonwealth observers, Bakili Muluzi, noted that the March 28 polls marked an important step forward for democracy in the country as the elections were generally peaceful and transparent despite the organisational and technical deficiencies.
He said “publicly-owned media outlets, especially broadcast media were clearly partisan. It was noted with concern that the flagship nightly television news on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) channel was completely dominated by reports of the incumbent party’s campaign rallies.“It is of concern that print and broadcast media were all too willing to publish and broadcast these lucrative adverts without censor by the regulatory authorities.”
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