The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, a coalition of 70 organisations has called on other countries to emulate the United States’ visa restrictions on persons who flout the electoral process.
Clement Nwankwo, the convener of the group, made the call at the presentation of the 2019 Elections Report by the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room on Tuesday in Abuja.
The U.S. recently announced a visa ban on some Nigerians culpable in undermining democracy during the last elections. It did not disclose those affected.
Mr Nwankwo said a major risk factor in the 2019 elections was the behaviour and impunity of the political class.
He said the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) could not deliver free and fair elections without support of the political class.
He said the level of violence, hate speech and general toxic political environment contradicted the commitment to the peace accord signed by political parties and candidates before the elections.
“Politicians should commit to respecting the rules of the election and under the current circumstance ensure that their followers do not act outside of the law with respect to election returns.
“Situation Room calls for collaboration between election stakeholders and civil society organisations in Nigeria and the international community to help bring to account persons who subvert the electoral process as a result of their actions and activities.
“Recent decision by the U.S. government announcing visa ban against persons infringing the electoral process and subverting the people’s vote is commendable.
“There is the need for worldwide adoption of the principle of visa restrictions against such persons, so Situation Room calls on other countries to follow the U.S. example,’’ he said.
Mr Nwankwo said the Situation Room’s report pointed out that from the lapses noted during the observation of the general election, it concluded that the 2019 elections failed to meet the threshold for a credible election.
He said that in the end, INEC’s operations fell short of its identified role and obligations in the threshold document as logistical operational challenges marred the credible conduct of the elections.
He added that the first flaw was the unexpected postponement of the elections six hours to polls which dampened enthusiasm of the electorate, making it impossible for people who travelled to make a second trip.
“The election day was characterised by localised incidents of voter intimidation, ballot box snatching and destruction and general voter apathy as the national voter turnout rate dipped from 43 per cent in 2015 to 35.6 in 2019.’’
He said that collation of results, another major weakness of Nigerian elections remained a concern, adding that many of the lapses observed could have been avoided if the Electoral Act was passed.
Mr Nwankwo said there was the need for an independent inquiry into the poor management of the electoral process by INEC in the 2019 elections.
He said the inquiry should address among other issues procurement, logistics management, role of security agencies and abuse of process by INEC officials.
He said this was urgently needed to identify challenges and recommendations toward repairing the damaged credibility of Nigeria’s electoral process, adding that INEC should work with CSOs and development partners to operationalise the inquiry.
He said Nigeria’s election continued to be very expensive as the budget for the 2019 elections was N242.4 billion.
According to him, the cost is not sustainable, thus the importance to open up national conversation on how to achieve sustainable costs for the conduct of elections. (NAN)
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