Preliminary Statement of the Joint NDI/IRI International Observer Mission to Nigeria's February 23 Presidential and Legislative Elections

Monday, February 25, 2019

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This preliminary statement is offered by the international observation mission of the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) to Nigeria’s February 23, 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections. The 40-person mission, with members from 19 countries, was co-led by: former Vice President of The Gambia, H.E. Fatoumata Tambajang; NDI President, Ambassador Derek Mitchell; and IRI President, Dr. Daniel Twining. The mission visited Nigeria from February 11 to 25, 2019, with some turn-over in leadership and members mid-way due to the one-week delay of the polls from February 16 to February 23. The original mission included among its leadership former President of Botswana, H.E. Festus Mogae; former President of Latvia, H.E. Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga; former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Ambassador Johnnie Carson; and IRI Vice Chairman Randy Scheunemann. The mission deployed 20 observer teams to 16 states covering all six geo-political zones and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Through this statement, NDI and IRI seek to: reflect the international community’s interest in and support for democratic electoral processes in Nigeria; provide an accurate and impartial report on the election process to date; and offer recommendations to improve future elections. The mission expresses its condolences for the loss of life in election related violence and salutes the Nigerian people for their resilience. The mission builds on the findings of joint IRI/NDI pre-election assessments conducted in July, September and December 2018; reports submitted by NDI/IRI observers who were deployed in each of the country’s six geopolitical zones and the FCT in the pre-election period and those deployed for the February 23 polls; and additional reports submitted by thematic technical experts and in-country staff.

The mission conducted its activities in accordance with Nigerian law and the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation. The mission collaborated closely with other international observer missions that endorse the Declaration, and with YIAGA Africa, one of Nigeria’s leading civil society organizations, which deployed more than 3,900 citizen observers on election day and conducted a parallel vote tabulation (PVT or Quick Count). The mission is grateful for the hospitality and cooperation it received from all Nigerians with whom it met, especially voters, government officials, officers of the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) and polling officials, party members and candidates, citizen election observers, civic activists and members of the National Peace Committee.

The mission notes that Nigeria has achieved significant democratic gains over the past two decades since the return to civilian rule, including in managing elections. High levels of citizen engagement in supporting inclusive and credible polls through voter education and election monitoring, demonstrate the strong commitment of Nigerians to their democracy. On February 23, millions of Nigerians turned out, waited patiently throughout the process and cast their ballot peacefully. However, the last minute postponement of the election by INEC and significant delays in the opening of polling units risk undermining citizen confidence in elections and disenfranchising voters. As stated by YIAGA Africa, “Nigeria missed an opportunity to improve the quality of its elections as compared to 2015.” Last minute election postponements should not become the norm in Nigeria. Also, the mission notes that political parties are the weakest link in the chain of efforts to deepen Nigeria’s democracy through more inclusive and peaceful polls. Party leaders and candidates carry significant responsibility to promote peaceful conduct by their supporters and foster inclusive politics. The mission highly appreciated that, despite the many challenges, Nigerians exhibited their strong dedication to electoral and democratic processes.

The IRI/NDI mission stresses that this statement is preliminary in nature. With elections postponed in parts of three states, the tabulation and announcement of final results have not been completed. As this process continues, the mission calls on Nigerian political parties and candidates to cooperate in good faith with INEC; political leaders to adhere fully to the 2019 Abuja Accord and respect the will of the Nigerian people as expressed through the ballot box; and for INEC to release official results in a timely manner. The mission recognizes that, ultimately, it is the people of Nigeria who will determine the credibility of these elections. NDI and IRI will continue to watch the remaining phases of the electoral process, including the announcement of official results and swearing in of newly elected officials.

Other NDI Statements on Nigeria's 2019 Elections:

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