Be patient with us, Lawan tells EU election observers

Seenate President Ahmed Lawan
Senate President Ahmed Lawan

The Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, on Tuesday, asked for more time to enable the lawmakers implement the recommendations made by the European Union Election Observation Mission (EUEOM).

He said this while addressing a team of the EUEOM which came to submit a copy of the mission’s findings and recommendations to the Senate president in Abuja.

The EUEOM earlier submitted the report to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

In the report, the EUEOM said violence, violation of ballot secrecy, and harassment of voters and journalists characterised the 2019 general elections. It also said INEC worked in porous security and politically-charged environment, making the electoral officials exposed to physical attacks and intimidation.

The mission also said both the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party failed to act to curb violence during the 2019 general elections.

The Deputy Chief Observer, Hannah Roberts, said the team was not able to visit every polling unit. They were, however, able to see the reality on the ground and identify some of the things that were going well and other things that will need improvement.

She said the EUEOM drafted 30 recommendations and prioritised seven for the legislature.

“We have 30 recommendations for electoral reform and we have identified seven priority recommendations. Our ultimate conclusion is that the process of comprehensive reform is needed in order to really strengthen the electoral process so that some of the problems that we saw in the past elections are not repeated in the future.

“Of these 30 recommendations, majority of them require legal reforms. Therefore, we look to the National Assembly to take the initiative of having an inclusive devotion to moving the recommendations forward,” she said.

The Ambassador and Head of the delegation, Ketil Karlsen, noted that the speed and philosophy of the work that the EUEOM is doing are always to follow the lead of Nigeria.

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“We are not here to impose policies or to try to replicate what has worked in other countries but to listen very carefully to your visions and policies.

“EU has had Observation Missions here in every general election since 1999. We do not pretend that electoral processes are perfect around the world, there’s a lot that can be done. That is the spirit with which we are engaging today,” he said.

In his remarks, Mr Lawan asked that the legislature be given more time and support to implement the recommendations of the mission.

While stating that the lawmakers consider the Nigerian electoral process very seriously, he explained that the ultimate desire of Nigerians, especially the leaders, is to have an electoral process that will make the selection of leaders very credible and meet the international best practices.

“We will look at the lessons that we need to learn from the past elections because we are not able to address some of the issues particularly the wrong timing we had when the electoral amendment was sought.

“I’m sure that this time around, we’ll try to start considering those issues that require urgent intervention ahead of future elections. Some lawmakers are first timers and our committees are technical and will require some specialised competencies. I believe that there will be a need for the EU to look into how it can support the committees.

“Give us a little bit more so that we can give the kind of support that is required. The National Assembly has always supported INEC and will continue to do so. Just like you’ve been supporting INEC, we’ll also ask for more, INEC is going through a transformation,” he said.

He assured that the ninth Senate under his leadership, will listen and work together to make future elections credible.

“We are prepared to listen and work together to ensure that your concerns are addressed. This is going to be a long process. Europe or America got to where they are today through ups and downs.

“Our democracy has been interrupted several times and thank God today, we have over 20 years of uninterrupted democracy.

It is a long and distant journey that you will have to be patient with us. I want to assure you that we will do everything possible to make sure that our elections are credible,” he said.

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