CSO says INEC marred 2023 elections, calls for additional reforms

She said the Situation Room made some recommendations to improve the election management and the electoral process.

Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room on Thursday called for additional reforms and legal framework for the conduct of elections in Nigeria.

Ene Obi, Convener of the coalition said this at the Situation Room’s Post Election meeting on the final report of the 2023 General Elections with support from United Kingdom Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) in Abuja on Thursday.

Obi said that the call was became necessary because of the coalition’s observation and analysis of the 2023 General Elections.

“Contrary to expectations, the 2023 general election was marred by very poor organisation, severe logistical and operational failure, lack of essential electoral transparency, substantial disruption of voting, and several incidents of violence.

“In addition, there was very poor communication from INEC on challenges with its processes on election day.

“In the light of these shortcomings, the Situation Room believes that additional reforms and improvements are required to ensure that the quality of future election in Nigeria does not further decline.

“It will also help to ensure that public confidence in the capacity of INEC to conduct elections is restored, while trust in the credibility of elections is re-established,” she said.

Obi added: “Since voter information no longer resides in the Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs), in future election, INEC should consider abolishing the use of PVCs and introduce the use of alternative means of identification.

“Identifications such as National Identity Card, International Passport, or Drivers’ License can be used to further reduce the cost of election in Nigeria.”

She said the Situation Room made some recommendations to improve the election management and the electoral process.

She stressed for the need for the Constitution to be amended to eliminate the position of Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) under the control and direction of the Commission through the appointments of State Directors of Elections to replace RECs.

She said that the suggestion by the Justice Uwais Committee for the unbundling of INEC should be considered and implemented without delay.

Obi added that an effective legal framework should be formulated for the establishment of Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal, Political Parties Registration and Regulation Commission, and an agency to handle constituency delimitation.

She said that independent candidacy and voting by Nigerians in Diaspora should be considered in conformity with international principles for democratic elections.

“As a practice, INEC should institute a process of post-election audit to enable the Commission understand and account for lapses during elections, and to undertake measures to prevent future occurrence of the lapses.

“An audit to provide to the public information on why the INEC Results Viewing (IReV) Portal malfunctioned, despite assurances of its robustness.”

Obi called on the National Assembly to be more vigorous in undertaking its oversight role over INEC and the electoral process and be more forthright and dispassionate in performing its role of confirming appointees to positions in INEC.

She called on INEC to make thorough planning a key priority and ensure the full implementation of and strict adherence to its Strategic Plan, Election Project Plan and Election Management System.

Obi said machinery should be put in place for Election Day workers such as ad hoc staff, INEC staff, security officials and observers to vote.

She suggested that the task of compiling and managing the national register of voters should be entrusted with the National Population Commission which should be given the responsibility of extracting the national voters’ register from its population database .

Festus Okoye, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, said that in few week’s time the commission would begin a review of the 2023 elections.

Okoye commended the CSOs for their contribution to the electoral process and urged them to remain non partisan in their work because democracy can grow and flourish without their support.

He however, expressed worry that most CSOs dwelt on the fact that the result portal did not function well instead of praising other aspects that the commission got right.

He said that it was a fact that there were a lot of positives that arose from the conduct of the 2023 general elections,saying the commission would harvest and consolidate on all those positives and move ahead toward the next general elections.

“There were also challenges that came with it ,so based on those challenges, the Commission will receive reports from both domestic and international election observers and then if there are changes that we have to carry out administratively ,the commission will carry out all those changes.

”If there are also changes that require both legal and constitutional review or reforms , the Commission will also pursue some of these are legal and constitutional reforms,”he said

”I want to say that democracy is a work in progress, democracy is not a finished product, so we have to keep on working in order to make sure that we get our electoral process and democracy to the positions we want it to be,” he said.

Okoye called on the CSOs to acquaint themselves with the Electoral Act and take the lead in terms of advocacy, and also in terms of enlightenment to curb misinformation and disinformation on the conduct of election.

Dr Matthew Ayibakuro, Governance Adviser ,FCDO,British High Commissioner, commended the CSOs for strengthening democracy in Nigeria and Africa.

“We look forward to continuing this partnership with other broad stakeholders significantly to ensure that we are able to address some of the challenges for the 2023 elections.”

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