- Accuse them of breaching INEC rules
Domestic election observers yesterday took their foreign counterparts to the cleaners over comments and reports on the conduct and outcome of last Saturday’s governorship elections in Rivers and Akwa Ibom states.
Apart from declaring the foreign observers’ report on the two states as fake, the local polls’ monitors, accused them of attempting to cause tension in the country.
The local observers also accused the foreigners of breaching the rules of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC on the exercise.
The election monitors, under the aegis of the Southern Nigeria Election Observers and the Niger Delta Coalition for Free and Fair Elections, asserted that the European Observer Mission, EOM, and other foreign election observers’ calls for the cancellation of the results of the governorship elections in Rivers and Akwa Ibom, amounted to violating the rules of engagement as observer missions.
In a statement jointly signed by the National Coordinators for the Southern Nigeria Election Observers and the Niger Delta Coalition for Free and Fair Elections, Obong Okon Edet Okon and Preye Tamuno, they accused the European observers and other foreign observer missions of overstepping their duties by calling for the cancellation of results of elections that had been declared by appropriate bodies.
The local observes argued that the European and other foreign observer missions should know that once election results are duly declared, it is only the function of the appropriate tribunals that can annul the outcome of such elections.
They said that if the election observers had discovered lapses, “such faults or irregularities could be isolated and not to generally affect the outcome of the elections,” adding that, “we have had cause to observe elections outside Nigeria and we know our bounds.
“To therefore call for the cancellations of governorship elections that have been declared by the constitutionally recognised bodies is nothing but to cause unnecessary tensions in the country. They should know that if they discovered anything that is contrary to the elections, that the best thing to do in line with the guidelines is for them to report to Election Management Body, EMB, their observations and not to cause tension in the country. Nigeria is a sovereign state and there are rules of engagement governing all elections,” the groups said.
They referred the European and other foreign observer missions to the statement of INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega at the meeting with the election observers on March 19, 2015, where he read out the rules governing election observations in Nigeria.
Jega had said: “I would like to draw your attention to one cardinal distinction that INEC makes through its guidelines for election observation. That is the distinction between election observation and election monitoring.
“According to the INEC guidelines for election observation, there is a fundamental difference between the two. An election monitor is an integral part of the election management structure and has a role in the administration of the election. In Nigeria, only INEC and its duly authorised personnel are empowered to monitor elections.
“An observer on the other hand, does not have any role in the administration of the election nor any control or oversight functions. To further simplify these points:
“An election monitor exercises some level of lawful authority over the conduct of elections as well as over officials involved; an observer has no such powers.
“In Nigeria, a monitor must be duly authorised personnel of the INEC; an observer is independent and reports only to his or her organisation.
A monitor can issue instructions and take decisions on behalf of INEC and to that extent would ordinarily possess a greater technical knowledge of the election process than an observer.
“To enable them fulfill their functions effectively, INEC is responsible for training election monitors on election administration. The training of election observers is the responsibility of the organisations that deploy them.”
The groups therefore appealed to Nigerians and other stakeholders to ignore the comments and report of the foreign observers, which they described as disservice to the country and a damage on the integrity of the elections widely adjudged to be free and fair.