THE Presidency yesterday commented on the NDI/ IRI report, noting what it called the election observers” two-faced position on electoral forms.
“It is amazing that that the observers recommended that electoral law be enforced and perpetrators of crimes punished. And at the same time, they implicitly criticised the removal of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN)for failing to disclose his assets as required by law. Which would they prefer? The Presidency said in a statement.
The statement signed by the Senior Special Assistant on Media and publicity, Garba Shehu, said it was instructive that President Muhammadu Buhari won the election, adding that the report did not dispute that fact.
It said: “President Buhari won by almost four million majority votes, with a 14% margin.
“However, the most important thing in an election is that it reflects the will of the people which in our circumstances was acknowledged to have been a success by the ECOWAS Observer Mission and Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth and Advancement (YIAGA) AFRICA whose parallel vote tabulation verified INEC’s presidential election results as announced. This we achieved.
“We have developed a tradition of improvements in our electoral process through enforcement of our electoral law which resulted in the prosecution and conviction of electoral officers that were found wanting in compromising our electoral process.”
The statement said there were improvements that must be made in the process for the future.
According to the statement, the sheer size, terrain and remoteness of certain regions posed serious logistical challenges.
Read also: 2019 election: The world is solidly behind Buhari – Presidency
It added: “They also posed a problem for electoral observers: across a country of over 190 million, only 40 observers were deployed to observe just 16 states and the Federal Capital Territory (Nigeria has 36 states).
“It is unfortunate that the election was postponed, yet imagine if the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had gone ahead unprepared. The delay undoubtedly resulted in a lower turnout.
“Because they are registered to vote in their places of birth, and not where they live, many Nigerians could not make arrangements to travel back again.
“But the fact still remains that major democracies of the world have equally recorded worst turnout in modern history.”
The statement said the effect of the voter turnout, at any rate, is a two-way traffic that affected both sides equally.
“To pretend otherwise is wrong considering that in 2015, the INEC postponed the election by six weeks under a PDP President, whom – as an incumbent – it was said to help at the time. It didn’t make a difference. Similarly, neither did it aid the sitting President in 2019.
“The law is a matter of principle that takes its course regardless of time and circumstances. It is never a matter of convenience and indeed remains functional, operational and enforceable without due regard to the electioneering process.
“As we have already said, we are committed to reviewing our electoral laws and processes, like every democracy across the world should.
“We intend to build on the innovations of this election that facilitate inclusiveness and participation, such as providing braille for the blind people to cast their votes among other innovations.
“This election was won by the candidate who received the most votes. We value the report’s recommendations. We can assure they shall be assessed and evaluated,” It added.
The Buhari Presidential Campaign Organisation described the the report as fair.
Its spokesman, Festus Keyamo said the organisation agreed with the report on the need to improve the electoral process.
He, however, stressed that all the stakeholders in the electoral process should take the blame for the faults pointed out in the report.
“First of all we appreciate their efforts towards our elections. They have been with us for about two decades now and they are very passionate about our progress and progress of our democracy.
“The report and suggestions they have made are welcome. These are suggestions and observations we can not run away from. We know that there were pockets of violence and these pockets of violence affected both the ruling party and the main opposition.
“The deficiencies and draw backs that were mentioned also affected both the ruling party and the main opposition party. Don’t also forget that it is this same imperfect system which the main opposition wishes to spin, it is this same imperfect system that produced their governors in states where we previously control led.
That same system gave them Bauchi, Adamawa, Imo, Oyo and in the presidential election, we lost even in some of our strong holds in the Southwest. It is that imperfect system that gave them three states.
“So when they try to spin to appear as if all of these reports of these international observers are damnation of the ruling party is a lie. In fact, it is a damnation of every major player in the electoral process. The most important thing about this report is that at the end of the day, it did not dispute the eventual outcome of the elections.
“For instance they quoted the independent collation system of YALGA with approval that actually at the end of the day, reflected the overall wishes of Nigerians.
They also pointed that the collation system at the end of the day, despite all odds also agreed with YALGA’s final outcome.
On the election not reflecting the expectations of Nigeria, Keyamo said, “they said Nigerians expected a higher standard , that is what they said and we too agree that Nigerians are entitled to expect higher standard. But the point I am making is that even the standard we got at the end of the day, they did not say it affected substantially the outcome of the elections.
“They also mentioned that in most of the polling stations election went on peacefully. So they did not say that the violence recorded in some polling stations overshadowed the overall peaceful nature of the elections. That was the point they made eloquently, that in major parts of the country the election was also peaceful but then we must improve on those deficiencies that they mentioned and we do appreciate doing so.
Asked to compare the NDI/IRI and that of the European Union Election Observation Mission reports, Keyamo said, ” the EU did not make this kind of observation that NDI and IRI made that most of the polling was still peaceful. I appreciate that point they made so much and that is the point we have been trying to push that if you mention the draw backs we have in some polling stations, at the end of the day you must make a comparative analysis to the point that well, having mentioned all of this violence that happened in some polling stations and all that, what is it compared to the other ones that went on peacefully.
They made that point eloquently that at the end of the day, the peaceful polls across the country far overshadowed the pockets of violence that we noticed across the country. ”
On the idea of allowing presidential dispute to be handled by the Supreme Court alone, Keyamo noted, ” well the Supreme Court by law is not a court of trial and in most cases, election petitions and other disputes need to go through trials first. ”
He suggested a two-step process, while noting that it is dangerous to also take a complaint or a grievance to just one court. In most cases, the second hierarchy of court allows the disputant to extract all the mistakes made by the lower court and then the higher Court can make a final conclusion on those disputes. But when you go straight to one court, even if there is a 10-man panel and there is a mistake made along the way in giving judgment, nobody will have the chance again to appeal to a higher authority. “
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