The Head of African Union Election Observation Mission, Hailemariam Desalegn, hails the participation of young candidates in Saturday’s Presidential and National Assembly elections in Nigeria as a positive development for the country.
In the mission’s preliminary statement presented in Abuja on Monday, Mr Desalegn, who is also the former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, also commended the Federal Government for enacting the Not-Too-Young-to-Run law.
He said the law enhanced the participation and political representation of young people in the elections.
“Political parties and young people should leverage the opportunity created by the Not-Too-Young-to-Run Act to increase political participation and representation,” he said.
The head of mission commended the media’s role in the elections but condemned the use of social media in propagating misinformation about the electoral processes and contestants.
According to him, such have negative implications for the country’s democracy, peace and stability.
“The mission calls on Nigerians and other stakeholders to act responsibly in the use of social media and refrain from disseminating false information on the elections, particularly the results,” he stated.
Mr Desalegn said the AU Observation Mission deployed 50 observers to 122 voting points in certain states, representing the six geopolitical regions in the country.
He said elections took place in a relatively peaceful environment, in spite of delays in polling units visited, while voters exercised their rights to participate without systematic restriction.
“The secrecy of the votes was guaranteed in 85.4 per cent of the voting points observed. Where it was not guaranteed, it was mainly due to poor layout of the voting points.
“Polling procedures, such as verification and accreditation of voters, were adhered to in 98.4 per cent of the voting points observed,” he said.
He also commended the priority given to persons with disabilities, the aged, expectant and nursing mothers and assistance given to persons unable to vote.
The mission leader urged political parties and candidates to uphold the commitments to peaceful elections and resolution of disputes in keeping with the two peace accords signed in December, 2018 and shortly before the elections.
“They are further urged to call on their supporters to remain calm and peaceful, and refrain from any action that might incite post-election violence.
“In any case of grievances over election results, political parties and candidates are encouraged to use legal instruments at their disposal to seek redress,” he said.
The mission congratulated the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for its cooperation with electoral observers and urged it to improve on election management to address the consistent postponement of elections.
It also recommended that the commission should strengthen the capacity of polling staff through training on assisting voters, counting and other electoral procedures.