On Monday, February 25th, 2023, Nigeria experienced its presidential and national assembly elections with much excitement. Regrettably, the election did not go as planned due to the way INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) conducted it. The European Union Election Observation Mission has produced a report pointing out the faults of the process.
EU election observers reported that INEC had not planned efficiently and failed to operate transparently during critical stages of the electoral process, leading to a decline in trust from the public. On election day, further issues with delays to polling processes and gaps in information regarding their Results Viewing Portal (IReV) exacerbated these fractures of faith.
At the start of collation, presidential result forms were not visible on the IReV while Senate and House of Representative data was gradually being published. This caused worries when it became apparent that these had yet to be uploaded by 10 pm on Election Day, and only 20 per cent had been posted by midday the following day. Eventually INEC provided an explanation for the lag, citing technical difficulties.
The EU election observers observed abuse of power by political office holders, as well as numerous claims of vote buying. Additionally, the media heavily reported on the top three campaigns, while false information likely impinged upon the voters’ ability to make an informed decision on election day.
INEC faced a number of challenges while attempting to perform its duty. The fuel and Naira shortage put a strain on the organisation’s abilities, as did insecurity in certain LGAs in the South. Those places were unreachable due to attacks on INEC offices, even up until the day before voting took place; creating fear among potential voters.
Before the elections, the Electoral Act of 2022 sought to engender stakeholder trust through introducing various measures. Despite this, there were still a number of accountability gaps, as well as issues relating to INEC’s power to enforce the law. This included an inability to impose penalties for electoral violations and non-compliance with campaign funding regulations. Fortunately, positive developments occurred in regards to the timeliness of INEC’s allotted finances, while additional amendments were made to guarantee outcome clarity.
2023 elections was perceived as necessary in order to ensure a secure and authentic voting process. Nonetheless, the late preparation of technical staff, inadequate dry run activities, as well as a lack of knowledge among the general public around election technologies all contributed to lowering expectations, thus leaving room for doubt and suspicion.
The Labour Party refused to accept the initial outcome of the 2023 Presidential election, accusing INEC of being involved in electoral fraud and breaking the established rules.
They called on President Muhammadu Buhari to deliver on his commitments to citizens.
In a letter to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, former President Olusegun Obasanjo alleged that the Presidential and National Assembly elections held on February 25, 2023 had been manipulated. He claimed that bribed INEC officials had taken ‘blood money’ and had disabled or interfered with the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System and its corresponding server. Therefore, he suggested for these elections to be annulled and for fresh polls to take place on March 4th, 2023. Lastly, the ex-President demanded from INEC Chairman to acknowledge any results not gotten through the BVAS and its server as invalid.