The presidency has welcomed the report of the European Union (EU) on the 2019 general elections in Nigeria, promising to analyse it fully and act on the recommendations in the best interest of the country.
Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, made this position known in a statement in Abuja on Saturday.
Mr Shehu noted that the EU observers were invited to the country by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and welcomed by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.
He stated that this action was a clear indication of the administration’s good intentions, commitment to a purely democratic process and desire to improve on the next elections.
The EU noted in their report that there were marked improvements from previous elections, although stating that more work needed to be done.
”The administration of President Buhari will work with all Nigerian citizens, state institutions, parties, civil society, the media and other experts to make sure that the improvements recommended by the EU are implemented, and that these areas of concern are addressed.
”It is noteworthy that INEC is in receipt of a number of recommendations that form a part of the EU report.
”The Presidency assures that the Commission is in safe hands and happy that they are currently engaged in root and branch reviews of the 2019 general elections and will input lessons learned into its recommendations for electoral and constitutional reforms.
”We believe that the commission conducted a good election and will continue to improve on its processes and procedures,” he said.
While it is regretted that the elections in a few parts of the country witnessed some violence, among other shortcomings highlighted by the EU, Mr Shehu said none of these hitches affected the overall outcome of the elections.
He said: ”Thankfully, EU did not question the results of the presidential election.
”For instance, on page 3 in its Executive Summary, the EU said: ‘positively, the elections were competitive, parties were overall able to campaign and civil society enhanced accountability’.’’
He said that the report also acknowledged that INEC made a number of improvements, including making electoral participation more accessible through simplified voting procedures.
According to the report, INEC made efforts to strengthen electoral integrity by issuing regulations making smart card readers mandatory.
Mr Shehu observed that on page 4 of the report, the EU noted that the elections were competitive with a large number of candidates for all seats although the competition was primarily between the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party.
He said the report further noted that ”parties and candidates were overall able to campaign, with freedoms of assembly, expression and movement broadly respected.
”On Page 5, the report noted that the EU EOM media monitoring over 46 days showed federal government-owned media’s commitment to balanced election coverage.
”It said that positively in almost all observations party agents received copies of the results forms, adding that the National Collation Centre for the presidential election was open to party agents and observers, and was continuously televised.
”Again on page 37, the report said the national collation centre for the presidential results was open to party agents, observers and the media with each state’s results projected on a large screen.”
The presidential aide added that the report acknowledged that there was continuous live television coverage and the media published the results as announced by INEC, thereby increasing access to results information.
He further noted that Page 41 under section ‘RESULTS AND STAKEHOLDER REACTION’, EU said: ‘‘YIAGA Africa announced that the results were consistent with its parallel vote tabulation that INDEPENDENTLY projected the results based on a sample of 1,515 polling units.
”The two leading parties won 96.8% of the valid votes between them.’’
According to him, this is further proof that the polls reflected the overall will of Nigerians, and that the world is solidly behind the election of President Buhari for a second term.
The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) in Nigeria had on Saturday briefed newsmen on the EU EOM’s report.
The Deputy Chief Observer for the EU, Hannah Roberts, addressed the news conference in Abuja, while Maria Arena, EU Chief Observer had earlier presented a final report with recommendations for electoral reforms.
The EU report prioritised seven recommendations of the 30, one of which was that Nigeria should Strengthen INEC procedures for the collation of results to improve integrity and confidence in electoral outcomes.
Another recommendation was that electoral tribunals cover pre-election cases in order to improve access to remedy and to avoid petitions being taken to different courts at the same time.
During the news conference, Hannah Roberts had said the EU EOM knew nothing about the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) server that was allegedly used to transmit results of the 2019 general elections.
The main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had claimed that an INEC server was used to transmit results of the election.