NDI/IRI Joint International Observer Delegation Release Preliminary Statement on Nigeria’s March 9 Elections

Abuja, Nigeria – Today, the joint international observation mission of the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) released its preliminary statement on the Nigerian gubernatorial and state House of Assembly elections, which took place on Saturday, March 9. The preliminary statement builds on the findings of the joint NDI/IRI pre-election assessments conducted in July, September and December 2018 and the joint preliminary statement on the February 23 presidential and legislative elections.

The delegation was co-led by Dr. Christopher Fomunyoh, Senior Associate and Regional Director for Central and West Africa (NDI) and John Tomaszewski, Regional Director for Africa (IRI).

The 20-member international delegation, which was deployed to all six geopolitical zones of the country, including political and civic leaders, election experts and regional specialists from 11 countries across Africa, Europe and North America.

“INEC took steps to improve the process for the March 9 elections. However, incidents of violence and intimidation, and widespread voter apathy undoubtedly drove low voter turnout,” stated John Tomaszewski. “Moreover, a heavy military presence and vote buying in some locations, as well as irregularities in the vote counting and collation process served to undermine the integrity of the elections in those locations.”

The March 9 gubernatorial and state House of Assembly elections demonstrated continued interest in and enthusiasm for democratic elections. However, overall voter participation in the polling units observed by NDI/IRI was low.

The delegation heard from many Nigerians that, in comparing the conduct of 2019 polls to that of 2015, they are disappointed with the lack of progress in election administration and with the performance of political parties in elections.

“We call on the Nigerian people to claim, protect, and defend their democracy and respect the rights of fellow citizens to participate peacefully in the political process,” said Dr. Christopher Fomunyoh. “Meaningful democratic progress can only be achieved if Nigerians continue to champion their civic duties and responsibilities.”

In the spirit of international cooperation, the IRI/NDI mission offered recommendations to further strengthen the credibility of electoral processes and safeguard Nigeria’s democratic gains over the past two decades. These recommendations were built on those presented in the mission’s February 25, 2019 statement for the presidential and National Assembly elections.

The IRI/NDI mission stresses that this statement is preliminary in nature. The mission recognizes that, ultimately, it is the people of Nigeria who will determine the credibility of these elections. NDI and IRI will continue to watch the remaining phases of the electoral process, including the announcement of official results and swearing in of newly elected officials.

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