The International Republican Institute (IRI) and National Democratic Institute (NDI) Joint Election Observation Mission (IEOM), led by Her Excellency Dr. Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi, presented its preliminary statement about the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections in Nigeria.
“We congratulate the people of Nigeria for their resilience and enthusiasm to participate in the process,” said H.E. Dr. Banda. “Despite large crowds in some polling stations and long waits, Nigerian voters demonstrated commitment to participate in the process and a strong desire to have their voices heard.”
The NDI/IRI 40-member joint IEOM was deployed across all six geopolitical regions of the country and observed all stages of the voting process. Their observations informed preliminary findings and 27 practical recommendations to improve future elections.
The mission notes that despite the much-needed reforms to the Electoral Act 2022, the election fell well short of Nigerian citizens’ reasonable expectations. Logistical challenges and multiple incidents of political violence overshadowed the electoral process and impeded many voters from participating. Ongoing currency and fuel shortages also imposed excessive burdens on voters and election officials, and Nigerian marginalized groups, especially women, continue to face barriers to seeking and obtaining political office.
The delegation observed that the late opening of polling locations and logistical failures created tensions and the secrecy of the ballot was compromised in some polling units given overcrowding. At the close of the polls, challenges with the electronic transfer of results and their upload to a public portal in a timely manner, undermined citizen confidence at a crucial moment of the process. Moreover, inadequate communication and lack of transparency by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) about their cause and extent created confusion and eroded voters’ trust in the process. The combined effect of these problems disenfranchised Nigerian voters in many areas, although the scope and scale are currently unknown. Despite these issues, Nigerians once again demonstrated their commitment to the democratic process. Voters displayed extraordinary resilience and resolved to have their voices heard through the ballot. INEC administered a nationwide election according to the electoral calendar for the first time in the country’s recent history.
As the nation awaits the results of the February 25 polls and the Nigerian people prepare for upcoming gubernatorial elections, we urge political actors and their supporters to remain calm and exercise restraint. The mission encourages INEC, the government, political actors, and civil society to redouble their efforts to deliver on citizen expectations for transparent and inclusive elections and to ensure that electoral outcomes are a credible expression of the voters’ will.
The delegation is grateful for the hospitality and cooperation it received from all Nigerians with whom it met. IRI and NDI will continue to watch the remaining phases of the electoral process, including the announcement of official results and the swearing-in of newly elected officials. The delegation’s work was possible thanks to support from USAID.