By Tobias Lengnan Dapam

Worried by irregularities recorded in the 2023 Presidential and National Assembly elections on Saturday, international observation mission of the International Republic Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) have called on INEC to address the short comings recorded before gubernatorial and State Assembly elections.

The observers led by Dr. Joyce Banda, former President of the Republic of Malawi, gave the recommendation in their preliminary statement on Monday in Abuja.

They expressed concern with the ability of INEC to provide accurate disaggregated PVC collection figures.

“PVC collection data by polling unit was posted online late on election day, despite repeated promises to publish
the data before the election, and observers noted that this figure was largely unavailable at polling units, making calculations based on these figures difficult to verify.

“In the spirit of international cooperation, the IRI/NDI delegation offers the following 27 practical
recommendations to build confidence in the upcoming polls in the short-term – ahead of the March gubernatorial and state elections – and to enhance transparent, credible and inclusive electoral processes in
the long-term. These recommendations are made in good faith to mitigate the potential for voter
disenfranchisement, protect Nigeria’s democracy, and support and amplify the voices of Nigerian citizens as they work to deepen and strengthen their democratic institutions and practices.

“INEC should develop realistic timelines and an operational framework that ensure timely opening of polling stations and even distribution of materials across polling units, targeting specific resources to areas with historic patterns of delayed openings.

“INEC should distribute voters more equitably among polling units and consider adjusting the
number of poll workers assigned to each polling unit based on registered voters to reduce the time spent waiting in queues and completing ballot sorting and counting processes. Poll workers should receive better and recurrent training to ensure that the election procedures are
evenly applied across the country, including use of the BVAS.

“INEC should engage in proactive, regular and transparent communications and outreach to the Nigerian public and relevant stakeholders related to electoral developments, electoral delays,
cancellations, etc, and make such information immediately available on its website.

“INEC should consider redesigning the voting cubicle to guarantee ballot secrecy and enhance accessibility to PWDs.
Lawmakers and INEC should work together to ensure contingency funding that can inoculate
against economic and other unanticipated crises.

“INEC should ensure results images are uploaded to its IReV portal immediately as they are
received, and provide complete and timely polling unit level results on the IReV portal in a
machine-analyzable and bulk format (such as a CSV file), as well as the local government area
(LGA) and state results forms.”

The international observers also called on INEC to address network connectivity limitations to ensure that all results can be electronically transmitted from the BVAS at the polling unit level, and should conduct national stress tests to better anticipate and address challenges that could occur on election day.

The statement also urged INEC to post polling unit level PVC data well before elections and in an open data format, to
ensure transparency on information necessary to verify turnout and re-runs in cases of cancellation.

“INEC should take measures to reduce the burden on voters to register and collect their PVC,
including extending timelines, increasing the number of distribution centers, employing mobile units, and targeting outreach to marginalized groups and voters with limited mobility.

“INEC should conduct a thorough and transparent audit of the voters roll, ensuring that there are not multiple and double registrants or underage and deceased persons on the roll.”

The observers also called on the National Assembly to prioritize passage of the bill that would establish the Electoral
burden on INEC to prosecute offenders.

“INEC and security forces should widely publicize and consistently enforce the penalties for
committing electoral offenses under the new electoral law, particularly vote buying. INEC and
security forces should also communicate to the public the number of arrests, charges, and
convictions for the electoral offenses.
“INEC should dedicate resources to enforce campaign finance regulations, and make political party
disclosures publicly available online and in a timely manner.
“Political parties should hold candidates, party members, and party agents accountable for
participating in vote buying or inducement, hate speech or ethnic polarization.”

The statement further called on the electoral body to dedicate more resources to assistive materials and voting centers for IDPs, and for
more robust surveys to improve the electoral participation of marginalized groups.
“Lawmakers should consider updating the Electoral Act 2022 to support absentee voting for voters
that are not able to be at their registered polling unit on election day, such as observers, polling
officials, security personnel and out-of-state workers.
“Lawmakers should prioritize gender quota legislation to increase the representation of women in elected office.

“Political actors should fully adhere to their Peace Accord commitments, including seeking redress of electoral complaints that may arise through proper legal channels and abide by the outcomes of elected offices.

“Political parties should provide material and financial resources to support women, youth and PWD candidates, develop robust recruitment and training strategies, and reform internal democratic procedures to ensure more inclusive candidate lists.
Improving the Electoral Information Environment.

“Parties and candidates should hold accountable supporters to desist from any acts of violence,
particularly during and after the tabulation and announcement of results.”

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