The European Union (EU) Observation Mission to Nigeria says the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)had many operational shortcomings on last Saturday’s elections.
The observers also lamented the killing of almost 35 persons on election day as well as the late arrival of election materials at many polling units.
The EU Chief Observer, Maria Arena, who is also a member of the EU Parliament, gave the verdict in Abuja on Monday while presenting a preliminary report on the elections.
She said INEC worked in a very difficult environment and made various improvements, however, “its serious operational shortcomings reduced confidence in the process and put undue burden on voters.”
Arena added that 14 per cent of some essential materials were missing from polling units.
The chief observer said, “The majority of polling units opened extremely late, leaving voters waiting for hours uncertain of when voting would begin. This was compounded by a general lack of public information from INEC.
“As a result, there was confusion and tension, and voters were likely deterred from participating. In nearly 90 per cent of 190 EU observations, agents of the two main political parties were both present. However, important polling procedures were insufficiently followed, and in 14 per cent some essential materials were missing.
“On four occasions, voting continued even when smart card readers malfunctioned. There were evident problems in completing results forms and they were not publicly displayed in half the counts observed, weakening transparency. Positively, in almost all cases party agents received copies.
“Reports from security forces and in the media indicated that between approximately 20 and 35 people were killed on polling day in election-related incidents.”
Meanwhile, the Commonwealth Observer Group has expressed disappointment with the cases of violence which marred the exercise in Rivers, Lagos and a few other places.
The group also lamented the late arrival of election materials which led to delay in the commencement of voting in some areas.
The Chairperson of the group, Dr. Jakaya Kikwete, who is also a former President of Tanzania, said this while reading out a preliminary report of the Saturday polls.
Kikwete said the observers visited Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja, Kano, Kaduna, Ibadan, Jos, Benin, Enugu and Kaduna
He said, “Election related violence and loss of life, which occurred in a number of places, is deeply troubling. Those responsible should be held accountable. We encourage all political parties to honour their commitments in the national peace accord and reject violence.”
Kikwete added, “Notwithstanding further assurances provided by INEC, there were delays in the distribution of materials, resulting in late opening of polling units.
“Although INEC subsequently authorised extended voting hours for those polling units that had open late, this information was not communicated effectively and not followed by all staff.”
He commended youths especially members of the National Youth Service Corps which served as ad hoc staff of INEC.
Kikwete said notwithstanding the high number of political parties, it was only the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress that were really in the race.
The observer commended the manner in which persons with disabilities were able to vote.
He said they did not witness any cases of underage voting or vote buying.
Kikwete, however, lamented the arrangements of some polling units which made the voting process to open thereby comprising the secrecy of the ballot.
The observer hailed the passage of the ‘Not Too Young to Run’ bill.
He, however, noted that there was a need for youths to be better integrated into the system.