2023 Elections: What International Observers said about the Presidential Elections

Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, as the winner of the February 25 presidential election.

Tinubu won with a total of 8,794,726 votes to defeat his major rivals; Atiku Abubakar of the People Democratic Party (PDP) who garnered 6,984,520 votes, and Peter Obi of the Labour Party who secured 6,101,533 votes of the 24,965,218 total votes cast. Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) polled 1,496,687 votes.

The election was observed by multiple International observers from the European Union to Chatham House. They criticised the poor transparency towards revealing the results, while some described the poll as a sign of the country’s political maturity.

European Union

The EU said holding the 25 February Presidential election in Nigeria was a major undertaking representing a key opportunity for the consolidation of democracy. They added that despite a challenging context and operational failures, the Nigerian people demonstrated their commitment to democracy.

The EU added it looks forward to the announcement of the results by the INEC, however, noted the lack of transparency stating:

  • “The EU observation mission said the Elections held on schedule but lack of transparency and operational failures reduced trust in the process and called the right to vote”
  • “Fundamental freedom of assembly and movement were largely respected, yet the full enrolment of the latter was impeded by insufficient planning, insecurity and the prevailing Naira and fuel shortages
  • “However, lack of public information on election technologies (Bimodal Voter Accreditation System and IreV) diminished expectations and left room for speculation and uncertainty.”

Police Chaplains Electoral Observation Mission

The Police Chaplains Electoral Observation Mission in Nigeria described the poll as a sign of the country’s political maturity.

The mission, which is the arm of the International Police Chaplain Sustainable Development and Law Enforcement (IPCSL) Inc., USA, disclosed this alongside other groups, including the Grassroots Empowerment Initiative for Positive Change and Development, Voters Awareness Initiative, Society for the Protection of Human Rights and African Civil Society Forum.

Presenting the preliminary report on the election, the Head of IPCSL Mission, Col. Johaness Makouvia, described the exercise as peaceful, adding:

  • “Overall turnout was orderly and calm, and voters cast their ballots peacefully without major incidents.
  • “The mission found that, in general, voting procedures were followed by polling station officials.
  • “An average of four candidate delegates were present at each polling station.
  • “The majority of delegates were from the All Progressives Congress (APC), the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) and the Labour Party (LP).
  • “The IPCSL found that candidate delegates were able to freely exercise their mission in the polling stations observed.
  • “This is a sign of political maturity that contributed to the normal functioning of the polling stations.”

Chatham House

In a report titled “Nigeria’s election results put disenfranchisement in the spotlight”, Chatham House in the UK said thousands were disenfranchised amid violence and irregularities, they said:

  • “The INEC’s performance and controversies over these results mean that the electoral reforms and lessons declared to have been learned were not fully applied and, as an electoral body, it was significantly less prepared than it claimed.
  • “The logistical failures of INEC and widespread delayed opening of polling units meant that voters who showed up at the polls early were frustrated and many voters and INEC staff were not able to locate their polling units for several hours.
  • “Thousands disenfranchised amid violence and irregularities
  • They added that less than half of eligible voters could participate in the elections despite the Commission’s N305 billion-naira budgetary allocation. While Nigeria’s youth seemed energized leading up to the elections, it seems their ability to turn out is still being hugely constrained by how difficult and potentially dangerous it is to cast a vote in Nigeria.
  • “INEC’s performance and controversies over these results mean that the electoral reforms and lessons declared to have been learned were not fully applied.”

They also noted that at just 25.7 per cent, the elections have the lowest recorded turnout of any election since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999, despite being the most expensive. These dwindling numbers highlight how Nigeria’s politics and state institutions continue to exclude rather than include.

  • “The commission’s patchy deployment of technology in the use of a Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) is still being intensely scrutinized and criticized. It failed to adhere to its own statements and guidelines, which derive from its laws, that election results would be uploaded to its portal using the BVAS directly from the polling unit in real-time for the public’s viewing.

African Union and ECOWAS 

The African Union observation mission was led by the Former President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta, and the Former President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Koroma, who led the ECOWAS Mission,

They noted that Nigeria’s democracy is critical to the stability of the sub-region in particular and that of the continent in general.

Kenyatta urged the INEC to improve on logistics operations and review the allocation of voters per polling unit to ensure everyone cast their ballots within the stipulated time, he said:

  • “The government of Nigeria to uphold peace and the rule of law throughout the electoral process.
  • “To the Independent National Electoral Commission, review the electoral logistics operation strategy to ensure timely deployment of election materials and sufficient capacity building. 
  • “Review voting time with a view to increasing it beyond the currently designated six hours (8.30 a.m to 2.30 p.m).
  • “It is anticipated that such amendments will encourage greater participation.
  • “Consider necessary measures to allow for voting for election officials and essential workers that may be on duty during the polling days. 
  • “Review the allocation of voters per polling unit as a way to ensure that it is equitable, strengthening measures to enhance accessibility to polling units, especially for people that require special assistance. 
  • “Sustain efforts to regularly communicate with stakeholders throughout the electoral process.”

Meanwhile, for the ECOWAS Observation Mission, Koroma said that the objective of the mission was to promote peaceful, democratic, and credible polls, he added;

  • “The mission, in the meantime, wishes to make the following recommendations:
  • “To intensify and increase the frequency of communication on developments regarding the electoral process to the general public and promptly share information in order to discourage misinformation through social media and other means. 
  • “Ensure ongoing training of technical and ad-hoc staff to professionally handle and resolve issues related to the use of BVAS machines.
  • “Review the system of uploading results in real-time and enhance communication on the voting and collation process.”

Gender and Election Watch

The Gender and Election Watch (GEW) said Nigeria’s conduct of Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly election was largely peaceful though there were pockets of violence.

Mufuliat Fijabi, the Chief Executive Officer, of the GEW Room of the Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF) said the group deployed 400 accredited observers for the polls, said the participation of women as voters, poll officials and candidates was highly commendable, she said:

  •  “Women are resilient and committed to a truly democratic process although the turnout of women needs to continue to improve.
  •  “However, the challenges associated with the delays experienced in the opening of polls, pockets of disruption and the slow and untimely upload of results on the IREV remain strong concerns for Nigeria’s democracy.

The group deployed its team across the FCT and seven states which include Adamawa, Kogi, Kano, Lagos, Oyo, Rivers and Anambra.

Independent Foreign Observers Mission

The group led by Mr David Furnad of the United States commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the conduct of the Presidential and National Assembly elections, he added:

  • “The presidential elections in Nigeria recorded a high turnout of voters nationwide.
  • “It can also be regarded as one of the most transparent elections in the country’s history with the significant candidates recording victories and defeats.
  • “The presidential election witnessed a comparatively large turnout of voters in the various geopolitical zones compared to other general elections in the country.
  • “The South-west and the South-east zones witnessed the highest number of voters turnout, with eligible voters demonstrating an uncommon level of patience to exercise their franchise”.
  • “INEC deployed both sensitive and non-sensitive materials to voting points on time, even though the report recorded some delays in some areas, which it said did not deter voters from performing their civic duties.

They added that there were minimal incidences of vote buying across the country. The reason adduced is that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) randomly visited polling units unannounced to arrest anyone involved in such acts.

  • “The country’s recent redesign of currency reduced vote buying to the barest minimum,” they said.





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