International observers tell INEC to enforce campaign finance regulations

International election observers are calling upon the Independent National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (INEC) to dedicate resources towards enforcing campaign finance regulations and make political party disclosures publicly available online and in a timely manner.

Observers are further calling upon political parties to hold candidates, party members, and party agents accountable for participating in vote buying or inducement, hate speech or ethnic polarization.

Secrets Known has reviewed the preliminary election observation reports released by the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM), the National Democratic Institute / International Republican Institute (NDI/IRI) International Observer Mission, the African Union Election Observation Mission (AU EOM) and the ECOWAS Observer Mission in respect of the February 25 presidential and legislative elections.

The observers’ reports reveal among others things that the Naira cash shortages and fuel scarcity negatively impacted the campaign environment. The polls took place against the backdrop of a cash crisis following the redesigning of the Naira currency.

The observers expressed concerns that political inclusion and participation among marginalised groups remains a significant challenge. INEC should do enough to address the legal restrictions that impair participation of marginalised groups which is contrary to international commitments. For example, the right to stand depends on mandatory political party membership and minimum educational qualifications.

Women accounted for only 8.4% of candidates that contested for senatorial positions and only 9.2% of the candidates for House of Representatives (HOR). This depicts a continuing decline since 2010, underscoring a lack of affirmative action at odds with the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women and constitutional guarantees for equality.

Incentives for women to contest in party primaries free of charge were not followed by genuine support, as those utilizing such opportunities often faced criticism from their own party for not contributing to party funds.

The high price of nomination forms alone limited the number of candidates able to viably compete in the primaries, including those representing marginalized groups. Political parties were selling nomination forms at over $50,000 – a price women and youth cannot afford.

The international observers were unequivocal in stating that, whereas the Electoral Act of February 2022 established a more robust framework to enhance electoral integrity, the malfunctioning of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the IReV for the 2023 elections, undermined the integrity and credibility of Nigeria elections.

It was pointed out that INEC lacked efficient planning and transparency during critical stages of the electoral process, while on election day trust in INEC was seen to further reduce due to delayed polling processes and information gaps related to the much anticipated access to results on its Results Viewing Portal (IReV).

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