Nigeria: ECOWAS Observation mission satisfied with Presidential Elections

By Correspondent Chinyere Ogbonna: The ECOWAS Observation Mission has appraised Saturday’s Presidential election declaring that the election meets the criteria of being free and transparent.

Briefing newsmen in Abuja, head of the team, and former interim President of Liberia, Mr. Amos Sawyer said the mission is satisfied with the concrete steps taken by the electoral body, INEC to ensure that electoral officers were in full control of polling processes and for ensuring the availability of adequate voting materials at polling stations nationwide.

The Observer Mission also lauded collaboration of security agencies in ensuring that the elections were conducted in a peaceful atmosphere.

“Having found no major incidents or irregularities, the ECOWAS Observation Mission is persuaded that the election of April 16, 2011 meets the criteria of being free and transparent, thus making it a historic step for the strengthening of democracy and good governance in Nigeria,” he said.

Mr. Sawyer said his twenty-three (300)-member team was deployed to the six geo-political zones to effectively monitor the election.

He observed the high participation of women and young people, timely availability of all election materials in majority of polling units as well as the enthusiasm of voters to perform their civic responsibility.

“We observed the relatively good knowledge of and compliance with voting procedures by election officials and consequently their enhanced capacity to effectively administer the process.

“We also noted the presence of representatives of major political parties including the ACN, CPC and PDP in most polling stations,” he added.

He also said the successful conduct of the process of counting at the polling stations was in accordance with the Electoral Act.

He, however, noted that there were shortcomings in the areas of incomplete voter registration, slow rate of voting in Akwa Ibom and Delta States and closure of some polling centres before the official closing time, among others.

The ECOWAS observer leader also noted that there were incidences of closures of a few polling stations before the official closing time which making it impossible for previously accredited voters to cast their votes. A situation he advised the electoral umpire to correct in subsequent elections.

Mr. Sawyer condemned the violence in Kaduna and Maiduguri which led to loss of lives and urged government to take necessary measures to avoid similar occurrences in the future.

In a similar vane, the European Union Observation Mission has appealed to aggrieved politicians to employ only legal means to address grievances and not resort to violence.

At a news conference in Abuja, the international observer team said the world is truly impressed with the conduct of the presidential elections, which is indicative of the people’s preparedness to enforce the right type of government.

Chief observer of the European team, Mr. Alojz Peterle however noted inconsistencies in the voting procedure in some states which according to them maybe as a result of activities of some party agents to influence voters.

“We are pleased to be able to observe that the polling booths were functional with several exceptions; the accreditation process was done generally well.

“We saw only committed people working at polling units. We are also pleased that in the majority cases we saw well-organized security forces and there are many other indicators which speak for the integrity and quality of the election process.

“We observed also some shortcomings and we spoke about them with INEC chairman and his commissioners and we think there is space for improvement even in the next election.

“What we observed were mainly technical issues which do not need special political debate.

Mr. Peterle urged INEC to ensure that the remaining elections were conducted also in free and conducive environment by ensuring that all political parties and voters adhered to electoral laws.

He noted that voters would only come out to exercise their rights in an environment conducive to peaceful voting.

The EU observer leader said that report of the mission would be based on the observations of the one hundred and forty (140) members deployed to the thirty six sates of the federation for the elections.

He urged INEC to ensure that all ballot boxes were properly sealed.

Mr. Peterle also observed that INEC did not post results sheets on polling stations as promised before the elections and advised that the results be posted immediately after counting to enhance the transparency of the elections.

The EU Chief Observer stressed that it was important for INEC to ensure that there was no interference with the outcome of election results as any such interference would impact negatively on the electoral process.

He assured that the EU election observation mission would maintain its impartiality and independence in the polls, just as it would do in any other country.

The Commonwealth Observer mission on their part said the April 2011 elections have a marked a genuine celebration of democracy in Africa’s most populous country and a key member of the Commonwealth.

According to the team, the commonwealth previously held notions that Nigeria could only hold flawed elections but have now discarded such impression, adding that the country can now shake off that stigma and redeem its image.

Notwithstanding the organizational deficiencies that resulted in the 2 April National Assembly elections being aborted after they had started, and in spite of persistent procedural inconsistencies and technical shortcomings, the elections for the National Assembly and the Presidency were both credible and creditable and reflected the will of the Nigerian people.

The success of the electoral process must be attributed in large measure to the respect and confidence enjoyed by INEC, and in particular by its Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega. In him, the nation was able to look up to a person of deep integrity, transparency and commitment, who was determined to make every Nigerian’s vote count.

The mission added that his willingness to accept full responsibility for the fiasco of 2 April 2, 2011 and his readiness to postpone the National Assembly elections a second time in response to requests by the stakeholders helped Nigerians keep faith in INEC, which eventually did not let them down.

Meanwhile, President Jonathan has addressed the nation, accepted election victory and appealed against post election violent in parts of the country. He urged politicians to move away from partisan battlegrounds and find a national common ground to build a prosperous Nigeria.

The President Elect, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan will officially receive the certificate of return for the presidential election today in Abuja.

The ceremony which will take place at the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission in Abuja will be performed by the Commission’s Boss, Professor Attahiru Jega.

The ceremony is a confirmation of the results released by the INEC boss and preparatory to his swearing-in on May 29th.

Meanwhile, Britain has congratulated President Goodluck Jonathan on his election, expressing willingness to work with Nigeria.