The European Union Elections Observation Mission( EUEOM) to the 2019 Nigerian elections has decried the irregularities, intimidation, violence and low turnout that characterised the March 9, 2019 governorship and state houses of assembly election.
The EU Chief Observer, Maria Arena, made this known while presenting the preliminary report of the EU Observation Mission on the March 9 polls. She stressed that the environment has been difficult, with cases or violence and intimidation, including attacks on election administration officials.
Arena said that on election day in five states, journalists from respected media houses were obstructed from reporting in areas with history of electoral problems, including parts of Rivers, or were attacked while trying to report on electoral malpractices.” Such incidents limit scrutiny and therefore transparency of the process,” she said.
The EU Mission, which regretted the loss of lives in election-related violence, lamented that far too many Nigerians have died, stressing that ” it is troubling and those responsible must be held to account.”
The EU noted that although the election operations improved, its observers were obstructed by the military and security agents adding that the EU and other observers were also denied access to collation centres in Rivers State apparently by military personnel.
” This lack of access for Observers compromises transparency and trust in the process. In Rivers, INEC yesterday 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 doubts that the electoral process there was severely compromised” the EU said.
The Mission also decried what it observed as indications of vote-buying at eight polling units, adding that it also observed eight cases of obvious underage voting. It however, said that counting of ballots was transparent overall.
It noted that the systemic failings and electoral security problems indicate that there is real need for serious reforms in Nigeria. ” While there were operational improvements in the March 9 elections, these were overshadowed by a troubling electoral security environment, abuse of incumbency and institutional failings,” it said.
The EU Mission recommended an inclusive national discussion on reform for greater electoral integrity and participation stressing that the EU will support it. It also call on the nation’s authorities to address the issues of apathy that led to low voter turnout.
The Mission had 73 observers following voting, counting and collation of results in 22 states, in all six geopolitical zones and observed elections in 223 polling units and so far in 81 collation centres.