ECOWAS Mission Says Nigeria’s Polls Largely Transparent Despite Challenges, Reported Violence

Abuja, Nigeria, 25th February, 2019

Madam Johnson-Sirleaf reading the ECOWAS Mission’s Declaration, to her left ECOWAS Commission President

As results trickle in from Nigeria’s last Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly polls, the ECOWAS Observation Mission has described the electoral process as “largely peaceful and transparent,” while acknowledging some challenges including delays at some polling centres and “disruptions due to the outbreak of violence in some places, which resulted in the loss of lives and election materials.”

In its 21-point Preliminary Declaration read in Abuja late Sunday 24th February by Mission Head and Liberia’s former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the 200-member Mission noted security challenges including the “heavy shelling” heard in Maiduguri, northern Nigeria and the “malfunctioning of the Smartcard Readers (SCRs) in a number of polling units.”

ECOWAS Finance Commissioner Ahmed and other attendees

“Despite the widespread delays witnessed at the commencement of the polls, the voting process went on smoothly in a majority of polling units when they got underway,” the Mission said, adding that “voters generally comported themselves and exhibited amazing patience and tolerance, contributing to peaceful conduct on the day.”

While commending the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security agencies for their professionalism, the ECOWAS Mission urged the Commission “to take steps to address the many shortcomings, including operational capacity and systems that were observed all through the process.”

ECONEC Mission and other guests

“The Mission appeals to party leaders, candidates, their supporters and the press, to show tolerance and restraint leading up to, and after, the announcement of the results,” the six-page Declaration said.

In the “spirit of the commitment made in the Peace Accord of 13 February 2019,” signed by political parties and presidential candidates, the Mission “urges the candidates to accept the verdict of the polls in good faith, and in case of complaints, to seek redress by legal means solely.”

It also congratulated civil society, the Media, domestic and international observer groups for their contribution and commitment to the strengthening of the democratic process in Nigeria.

Dr Chambas with US Ambassador Symington and other attendees

The Mission commended “the voters and the great and good people of Nigeria on the patriotism, tolerance, and sense of duty, which contributed to maintaining peace and stability in spite of the many challenges.”

The event was attended by Heads of other International Observation groups, the US Ambassador to Nigeria Stuart Symington, Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, UN Secretary General’s Special Representative and Head of the UN Office in West Africa and the Sahel, the President of the ECOWAS Commission Jean-Claude Kassi Brou and the Commissioner for Finance, Mrs Halima Ahmed.

In his vote of thanks President Brou applauded Nigerians for their resilience, and the local and international observers, for staying the course despite the postponement of the elections from 16th to 23rd February and the governorship and State Houses of Assembly pools from 2nd to 9th March.

He reaffirmed ECOWAS’ continued support to member States in efforts at deepening democracy and good governance in the region.

Fifteen of ECOWAS’ 30 Long-term Observers to the Nigerian elections are supported by the European Union under the EU Support to ECOWAS Regional Peace, Security and Stability Mandate (EU-ECOWAS PSS) Project.

The Project also supports five of ECOWAS’ 80-member Observation Mission to Senegal, which held its own presidential election on Sunday 24th February.

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