By Okeke Anya
African Union has lauded the people of Nigeria for peaceful elections, stating that the 28 March 2015 Presidential and National Assembly elections in the Federal Republic of Nigeria constituted an important opportunity for deepening democracy in the country.
It would be recalled that the African Union Election Observation Mission (AUEOM) deployed 84 long and short term observers in the Federal Capital Territory and 20 of the 36 States of Nigeria.
A statement signed by Head of the Mission, His Excellency Prof. Amos Sawyer, noted: “The AUEOM assessed the 28 March 2015 elections in Nigeria in conformity with the 2007 African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance; the 2002 AU/OAU Declaration on Principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa; the 2002 AU Guidelines for Elections Observation and Monitoring Missions; and the legal framework governing the conduct of elections in Nigeria. This statement presents the Mission’s preliminary findings up until the closing and counting processes on 28 March, 2015. A final report will be released upon the conclusion of the electoral process.
“The people of Nigeria demonstrated patience and resolve to have a peaceful democratic process in spite of uncertainties that characterised the 2015 elections. These included security concerns, postponement of the initial date of 14 February by six weeks, and introduction of Permanent Voter Cards.”
The AUEOM said it observed the polling process in 319 polling units of which 69% were in urban and 31% rural areas, noting that the two-step polling process comprising accreditation and voting was found to be a challenge as voters had to wait for long in order to eventually cast their vote.
“In the polling units visited by AU observers, only 23% opened on time. Out of the 77% of polling units that opened late, 57% opened beyond an hour due late arrival of polling personnel and election material. There were long queues of voters waiting patiently to be accredited, thus manifesting the resolve to exercise their franchise.
“The AUEOM witnessed only 42% of cases in which the PVCs and fingerprints of voters were verified and authenticated. However, INEC provided for measures to ensure that voters whose PVCs were verified but the fingerprints not authenticated were still accredited, thereby guaranteeing their enfranchisement. The AUEOM noted that polling was extended to 29 March 2015 in 350 polling units where the accreditation was not possible due to malfunctioning of the Smart Card Readers,” it lamented.
The Mission however, reported that “the polling process was generally peaceful during the accreditation as well as voting and counting processes, despite isolated incidence of violence reported in Bayelsa and Enugu. The AUEOM commends the security agencies for their professional conduct in upholding a peaceful atmosphere throughout the Election Day.
“The polling personnel in most polling units observed managed the polling operations in a professional manner, amidst operational challenges such as failure of the Smart Card Readers. Whilst they adhered to election procedures, there were certain instances where they did not follow the procedures. For instance, in some polling units observed, the polling personnel recorded names on plain papers rather than duly recognised incident forms for voters who were not authenticated by the Smart Card Readers.”
It continued: “In exercising the right to choose their leaders, the AUEOM commends women for participation in the polling process in various capacities. In all polling units visited, 38.9% of polling personnel and of 39.5% citizen observers were women. However, the AUEOM noted that only 18% of party agents of polling units visited were women, thus manifesting limited consideration for their representation.
“The accreditation, voting and counting processes were generally transparent and took place in the presence of international and citizen observers as well as political party agents. The location of polling units in open spaces naturally subjected the process to open scrutiny by voters throughout the day. The AUEOM, however, noted that not all political parties and citizen observers were represented in all polling units visited, thereby diminishing their ability to effectively observe the polling process.”
AUEOM added that the elections had been conducted in a peaceful atmosphere within the framework that satisfactorily meets the continental and regional principles of democratic elections.