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EU Expresses Concern Over INEC’s Independence

The European Union (EU) has voiced its apprehension regarding the autonomy of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The EU Electoral Observation Mission (EU-EOM) for the 2023 general election in Nigeria, which monitored the pre-election and post-election processes from January 11 to April 11, 2023, released its findings and recommendations.

In their report titled “Nigeria 2023 Final Report,” the observer team, led by Barry Andrews, highlighted the lack of independence of INEC as a significant issue.

The report raised concerns about the recruitment process of senior personnel, particularly the commissioners and Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs), which it deemed a serious hindrance to the effective functioning of INEC.

It was noted that the INEC chairman, commissioners, and RECs are appointed by the sitting president, subject to confirmation by the Senate.

While acknowledging that the recruitment process includes provisions that personnel must not exhibit partisanship, the EU-EOM emphasized that “the selection process leaves the electoral institution vulnerable to being viewed as aligned with the government.”

The report pointed out that RECs, who are presidentially-appointed officers, cannot be reprimanded by INEC Commissioners, thereby revealing weaknesses in the institutional design that hinder professionalism and trust.

The report stated, “The constitution provides that all members of INEC are strictly non-partisan. At the same time, there is no legal requirement that their selection be undertaken according to merit and qualification to ensure the independence and efficiency of the institution. Civil society organizations’ examination of the selection process signaled that the selection processes of both INEC commissioners and RECs were neither transparent nor in line with the non-partisan requirement.”

To address concerns over the influence of the governing party on INEC, the Barry Andrews team recommended the establishment of “a robust operational framework for the independence, integrity, and efficiency of electoral administration through an inclusive and publicly accountable mechanism for selecting candidates to the posts of INEC commissioners and RECs based on clear criteria of evaluation of merits, qualifications, and verified non-partisanship.”

Regarding the use of technology in the electoral process, the EU-EOM expressed disappointment, stating that INEC’s deployment of technology fell short of public expectations.

The report highlighted deficiencies in transparency, such as the lack of public disclosure of hardware and software specifications, test results, audits, procurement details, and protocols. The EU-EOM also noted that the functionality and specifics of result transmission forms were unclear, diminishing transparency, trust, and certainty.

The report recommended that in future elections, INEC should ensure transparency and allow for public scrutiny of election technology by disclosing test and audit results, along with protocols, guidelines, implementation methodology, procurement details, and functionality specifics.

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