News & Conflicts

What International Monitoring Bodies Think of Nigeria’s 2019 Presidential Election

Feature Image by AP/Ben Curtis

The battle for grand commander of Africa’s most populous country was a fiercely contested battle between incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice President and businessman Atiku Abubakar. Buhari scored the highest votes in the 2019 election polling 15,191,847 votes against Atiku’s 11,262,978 votes.

Our editorial team took a close look at assessments of Saturday’s polls published by several election monitoring bodies involved in exercise. Some of the observation missions include African Union (AU), International Republican Institute/National Democratic Institute (NDI), Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), Commonwealth and the European Union Observation Mission (EUEOM). After examination, Publisher Richard Ogundiya rounded up the appraisals as well developments worthy of taking note of.

REUTERS/Nyancho NwaNri
  • INEC was commended for employing continuous accreditation and voting which aided the pace of the voting and counting exercise in many polling units nationwide.
  • There was very limited opportunity for Nigeria’s Internally Displaced Persons to participate.
  • Many polling units opened very late on Election Day due to a lack of materials, but the electoral body did a poor job communicating with electorates about what was happening and whether closing time would be extended. As a result, there was confusion and we observed that some people were put off from voting.

  • Federal government-owned radio as well as leading commercial broadcasters at the national and regional levels divided airtime between the main parties, APC and PDP leaving little or no space for smaller parties and individuals.
  • Several reports claim that there was clear partisan programming by the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), state-run media and local commercial radio stations owned by politicians including African Independent Television (AIT) and Television Continental. This ensued limited access to diverse and factual information on which to make an informed choice.
  • International observers noted that the political space has significantly broadened, as evidenced by the high number of registered voters, political parties and candidates who took part in the elections.
  • Despite election-related violence, deaths, bomb attacks and intimidation, the overall political climate remained largely peaceful and conducive for the conduct of democratic elections.
  • Efforts made by INEC, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) especially YIAGA AFRICA, the Women Situation Room (WSR) and the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) and other stakeholders to increase participation of women, youth and persons with disability (PWDs) in the electoral process was acknowledged.
  • It notes that women and youth recorded a high number of registered voters, 47.14 percent for women and 51.1 percent for youth, which is a notable increase compared to the 2015 elections.

  • Several young people were recruited as candidates and polling staff. This demonstrates a commendable level of youth mobilization for political participation.
  • While there was a slight increase in the number of women presidential candidates, overall, women’s participation as candidates was still low. For instance, of the 73 presidential candidates, only three were women two of whom withdrew their candidature.
  • 38 per cent of the voting points observed did not close at 2 p.m due to late opening and voters on the queue at closing time were allowed to vote.

Other recommendations made by the civil groups include provision of maximum security for election materials in transit as well as investigation on incidents of violence reported on election day. The electoral commission was urged to allocate welfare for polling officials and ad-hoc staff before and during the election day, conduct refresher training of all the elections staff, advanced process of sorting ballots before counting in a systematic way and coach queue controllers in all polling units.


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