*knocks INEC, parties, security operatives over 2019 polls
The European Union Election Observation Mission has stated that the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, by President Muhammadu Buhari a few weeks before the elections, which it said was seen to lack due process and reportedly undermined judicial independence.
This was made known in a final report on the 2019 general elections, which was released on Saturday containing 30 recommendations to improve future electoral processes.
President Buhari had on the 25th of January in a controversial manner suspended the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen and immediately installed Justice Tanko Mohammed in his place as Acting CJN.
Buhari stated that he carried out the suspension on the orders of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, which was given on January 23.
The President had announced Onnoghen suspension and the inauguration of Mohammed shortly after signing law, a new Executive Order 007 that allows private firms to fund roads projects.
EU on the elections noted there were shortcomings in INEC’s operations while leading political parties were at fault for not controlling their supporters who unleashed violence on electorates.
The implementation of the 30 recommendations, the regional body stressed, would go a long way to contribute to the nation’s electoral development.
The EU report, which was read by the Head of Mission, Maria Arena also called for more transparency in the operations of the commission moving forward.
The mission, which also threw its weight behind INEC planned dialogue on electoral process in the country, also concluded that the systemic failings seen in the elections, and the relatively low levels of voter participation, show the need for fundamental electoral reform.
”Such reform needs political leadership that is dedicated to the rights of Nigerian citizens, and an inclusive process of national dialogue involving state institutions, parties, civil society and the media,” said EU Chief Observer, Maria Arena, at a press conference in Abuja.
”This needs to be urgently undertaken to allow time for debate, legislative changes and implementation well in advance of the next elections,” she added.
“Overall, the EU EOM concluded the 2019 elections were marked by severe operational and transparency shortcomings, electoral security problems and low turnout. Positively, however, the elections were competitive, parties were able to campaign and civil society enhanced accountability.
Leading parties, the EU EOM said: “were at fault in not reining in acts of violence and intimidation by their supporters, and abuse of incumbency at federal and state levels.”
The EU EOM’s report stated that, “except for federal radio, state media primarily served the interests of the president or the governor at state level, journalists were subjected to harassment, and scrutiny of the electoral process was at times compromised with some independent observers being obstructed in their work, including by security agencies.”
The EU EOM noted that NEC worked in a difficult environment and made some improvements, such as simplifying voting procedures.
”However, considerable weaknesses remained. Operational deficiencies led to the postponement of the elections, there were insufficient checks and transparency in the results process, as well as a general lack of public communication and information.
“The elections became increasingly marred by violence and intimidation, with the role of the security agencies becoming more contentious as the process progressed.
”The EU EOM reported that this damaged the integrity of the electoral process and may deter future participation. During collation of the federal results, EU observers directly witnessed or received reports of intimidation of [NEC officials in 20 states.
“While the legal framework broadly provides for democratic elections and some improvements were made to the Constitution, various legal shortcomings remained, including in relation to the use of smart card readers.
The report highlighted seven priority areas from the 30 recommendations for consideration which are the need to “Strengthen INEC procedures for the collation of results to improve integrity and confidence in electoral outcomes. Establish requirements in law for full results transparency, with data easily accessible to the public.
“Considerably strengthen lNEC’s organizational and operational capacity, as well as its Internal communication.
“The inter-agency body responsible for electoral security to work more transparently and inclusively, with regular consultations with political parties and civil society. “Introduce a legal requirement for political parties to have a minimum representation of women among candidates.
“Electoral tribunals to also cover pre-election cases in order to improve access to remedy and to avoid petitions being taken to different courts at the same time.
“Reform the licensing system for the broadcast media to provide for media pluralism and diversity all of Nigeria’s states.”
The mission, which was present in Nigeria between 5 January and 7 April 2019, observed the presidential and National Assembly elections on 23 February, the governorship and State House of Assembly elections on 9 March as well as supplementary governorship elections on 23 March.
The mission’s 40 long-term observers went to all 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.