Nigeria : Commonwealth Releases Observers’ Report On Elections

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Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma has released the report of the Commonwealth Observer Group (COG) for the April 2011 polls in Nigeria.

Speaking in London on 25 May 2011, Mr Sharma congratulated the people and authorities in Nigeria for conducting credible presidential and parliamentary elections and said he hoped the observations and recommendations by the COG would contribute to improvements in conducting future elections.

Mr Sharma also expressed deep concern about the loss of lives before and during the electoral process. He urged Nigerians to co-operate with relevant authorities to address the culture of impunity for electoral violence and offences.

The Secretary-General thanked the members of the Observer Group for their willingness to serve the Commonwealth.

“I commend the Nigeria COG, under the leadership of former Botswana President Festus Mogae, for its contribution to the promotion of the democratic values the Commonwealth stands for. The group held the banner of the organisation high during its presence in the country. I want to thank them for sparing their time to undertake this important assignment,” Mr Sharma said.

Observers pointed out that while the elections were “credible and creditable”, some elements of the process will need further improvement going forward.

Some of the key observations and recommendations of the COG are that:

· There must be an end to the culture of impunity for those committing electoral offences. Prosecution of such offences needs to be effective and timely, ensuring that serious breaches of the Electoral Act are appropriately dealt with;

· The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of Nigeria needs a more effective communication system so that central and state level officers can communicate with lower level staff, and polling staff can seek clarification or advice as required;

· Overall, INEC needs to improve on its organisational capacity;

· There remain shortcomings with the voter registration based on the number of people with voter cards but missing from the voter register;

· There needs to be stricter safeguards against underage voting.

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