Soldiers Stopped Us From Observing Rivers Election, says EU

The European Union (EU) Observation Mission to Nigeria says soldiers
barred them from monitoring elections in Rivers State. They made the
allegation in their preliminary report in Abuja on Monday.

Addressing journalists, the Chief Observer, Maria Arena, noted that they
came to Nigeria on the invitation of INEC to monitor the elections and
make recommendations.

Arena, who is a member of the EU Parliament, however, faulted the elections.

She said, “Observers, including EU observers, were denied access to
collation centres in Rivers, apparently by military personnel. This lack
of access for observers compromises transparency and trust in the

“In Rivers, INEC suspended until further notice the elections due to
violence in polling units and collation centres, staff being taken
hostage and election materials, including results sheets, seized or
destroyed by unauthorised persons.

“There is no doubt that the electoral process there was severely compromised.”

Arena lamented the violence, underage voting and vote-buying that marred
the governorship and House of Assembly elections in some states.

She said the EU deployed 73 observers following voting, counting and the collation of results in 22 states.

The chief observer said they monitored 223 polling units in 81 collation centres.

Arena added, “Although election operations improved, the elections were
also marked by an overall low turnout and violence, including against
election officials and voters.

“However, at eight polling units observed, we saw indications of
vote-buying. Eight cases of obvious underage voting were also observed.
Our observers saw that the counting of ballots transparent overall.

“Positively, in almost all cases, party agents received copies of the
result forms, although they were often not displayed. The environment
for these elections has been difficult, with cases of violence and
intimidation, including attacks on election administration officials.”

She stressed the need for electoral reforms in the country, adding that
the problems evident in the 2019 electoral process had shown that there
was a need for an inclusive national discussion on reforms for greater
electoral integrity and participation.

Arena also noted misuse of power of incumbency by the governors of the
All Progressives Congress and Peoples Democratic a Party on state-owned
media houses.

She added, “While there can be many reasons for a low turnout, and it is
not for me to speculate, it is surely disappointing that overall, only a
relatively small portion of what is by far and away Africa’s largest
electorate actually cast a vote on both election days. We hope that
after these elections, parties and institutions look at what is needed
to make voters want to take part in elections.”

Also speaking the Deputy Chief Observer, Hannah Roberts, criticised INEC
for not providing specific information on the cancellation of votes in
the February 23 elections.

She said, “While this number did not affect the outcome given the margin
of win, this was not a good process. INEC did not provide sufficient
information on these cancellations, the specific reasons for them, and
the precise local government areas affected. This undermines public
confidence in the process.”


Tony Orji

Dr. Tony Orji is the founder and owner of Success Tonics Blog. He is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Economics, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

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