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CHRICED Condemns Orchestrated Attacks on the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) Over 2023 Polls Report

Cautions groups with vested interest, masquerading as CSOs against attacks on partners of Nigeria’s democratic progress

The Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED) has observed with dismay, the wave of uncharitable attacks targeted at the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) over its pertinent observations about the irregularities, which undermined and tainted the credibility of the 2023 Presidential election.
As a nonpartisan observer of the electoral process and an advocate of democratic and governance reforms in Nigeria, CHRICED strongly condemns the recent onslaughts, including the ill-tempered press statement from the Presidency denouncing the EU EOM report. For us, the statement credited to the Special Adviser to the President on Special Duties, Communications and Strategy gives the impression to Nigerians and the international community that current power holders are unwilling to learn the key reform-related lessons from the 2023 General Elections. Since 1999, the European Union (EU) has been a strategic partner in Nigeria’s democratic process. The contributions EU has made over the years to deepening democracy in Nigeria cannot be dismissed with an ill-advised press statement from the presidency.

As an important instrument for the leadership recruitment in the country, the electoral process and issues connected to it, are too important to be trivialized. Instead of the grandstanding and sophistry, those who claim to be democrats and progressives must put aside their egos and accept the flaws, which have made their so-called mandate questionable in the eyes of the public. It is therefore preposterous and indicative of a lack of willingness to right the wrongs for key officials of the state to unjustly castigate national and international organizations, that are dispassionately calling for comprehensive electoral reforms in Nigeria.

CHRICED took time to read through the EU EOM report. As far as we are concerned, the issues raised in the report are consistent with what credible, nonpartisan civil society organizations noted in their post-election observation reports. It is therefore expected that in response to the identified defects, patriotic statemen and women, as well as well-meaning citizens would come together to champion the needed reforms to clean up Nigeria’s elections such that they truly become free, fair and credible in the future. Therefore, the wide range of qualitative and quantitative data generated by civic organizations across the country revealed widespread flaws and irregularities, indicating that the 2023 elections were riddled with credibility issues and did not meet citizens’ expectations.

Consequently, the EU EOM report simply presented these issues, and to its credit, the Mission did not only identify the issues observed during the process, but also provided practical and actionable recommendations to the relevant institutions of Nigerian State and society. For instance, the report made reference to states including Rivers, Lagos, Imo, and Abia, which experienced “high levels of orchestrated violence during the campaigns and on election days.” As part of its findings, the report accurately stated: “Overall, the widespread anticipation for well-managed elections were dashed by a flawed process leading to widespread public disappointment and concerns about increasing voter disenchantment.”
Concerning the Presidential election, the report’s findings align with CHRICED’s assessment that on February 25 “voting was critically delayed by the late arrival of sensitive materials and, during the early stages of the collation, presidential result forms from polling units were not displayed in real-time on the IReV as promised by INEC and expected by stakeholders.” It is also true as stated in the EU EOM report that one of the significant anomalies in the entire election process was apparent at collation stage on February 25, due to widespread disorganisation, a lack of adherence to prescribed procedures, and an unsuitable environment. The report noted that “by the time of the declaration of presidential results, one quarter of result forms were still missing from the IReV, and a significant percentage of the forms uploaded on IReV, often needed for comparison with manual results, were not legible.” CHRICED has gone the full length of showing some of the key highlights of the report to dispel the false narrative that the EU EOM is merely engaging in fault finding relating to the elections.

It is similarly critical to point out that for elections to be credible, they must conform to certain international standards and best practices. CHRICED makes bold to state that the beneficiaries of a flawed mandate cannot pontificate and insist on their own flawed criterion for assessing the credibility of polls and their outcomes. Such state actors therefore need to come off their high horses, shed their arrogant disposition and listen to the voice of reason. CHRICED urges these actors to follow the example of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who acknowledged that the elections, which brought him to the Presidency were flawed. Then, he implemented a comprehensive process of reform that produced modest benefits from which many politicians today have benefited. This is the path to take, not grandstanding and hurling insults at Nigeria’s strategic partners who are contributing to the democratic process.

Importantly too, CHRICED takes this opportunity to caution some non-state actors masquerading as civil society groups which are fond of muddying the waters by making spurious and baseless assertions about the interventions of well-meaning partners. One of such groups, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) recently made the unfounded assertion that the EU EOM Report on the 2023 elections amounts to an imperialist agenda meant to cause anarchy in the country. Such a disturbing position is unreasonable and lacks any iota of objectivity. For a faith-based organization like MURIC to make such unguarded statement makes it apparent that it has been coopted by sectional, sectarian or partisan interests. Where was MURIC all these years when the same European Union was busy providing various forms of technical support to Nigeria’s electoral process with the goal of ensuring the votes of Nigerians count, including supporting the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)? It is therefore important for this so-called rights group to be mindful of its utterances as such poorly processed views do no good to its credibility.

Finally, CHRICED urges groups like MURIC to be guided in their action and utterances by adhering to the Quranic injunction, which says “O ye who believe! be strict in observing justice, and be witnesses for Allah, even though it be against yourselves or against parents and kindred. Whether he be rich or poor, Allah is more regardful of them both than you are. Therefore, follow not low desires so that you may be able to act equitably. And if you conceal the truth or evade it, then remember that Allah is well aware of what you do” (4:135).

Comrade Dr. Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi
Executive Director

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