INEC had many operational shortcomings—EU observers

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In Abuja on Monday, The European Union Election Observation Mission to Nigeria in a preliminary report by the EU Chief Obsever, Maria Arena, says the Independent National Electoral Commission had many operational shortcomings on last Saturday’s 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 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.

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