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Opposition attacks FG as Presidency lambasts EU poll observers

The EU Observer Mission in its report faulted the polls owing to “enduring systemic weaknesses.”

Photo President Bola Tinubu

Adebayo Folorunsho-Francis, Dirisu Yakubu and Stephen Angbulu

Standard bearers of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2023 election, Atiku Abubakar and his Labour Party counterpart, Peter Obi, have lampooned the Presidency for rejecting the European Union final report on the February 25 presidential election.

The EU Observer Mission in its report faulted the polls owing to “enduring systemic weaknesses.”

The election outcome has been disputed by the PDP and the LP and their candidates who alleged that the polls were not credible.

But the Presidency in a statement on Sunday refuted claims by the EU that the election which produced President Bola Tinubu was flawed, describing the report by the EU observers as a “poorly done desk job.’’

The Chief Observer of the EU Election Election Observation Mission, Barry Andrews, had in a press briefing last week noted that “the election exposed enduring systemic weaknesses and therefore signal a need for further legal and operational reforms to enhance transparency, inclusiveness, and accountability.”

He said the shortcomings in the law and electoral administration hindered the conduct of well-run and inclusive elections and damaged trust in the Independent National Electoral Commission.

The EU EOM offered 23 recommendations for consideration by the Nigerian government that would improve future elections.

Of the 23, Andrews revealed that “We are particularly concerned about the need for reform in six areas which we have identified as priority recommendations, and we believe, if implemented, could contribute to improvements for the conduct of elections.”

The six priority recommendations highlighted the need to remove ambiguities in the law; establish a publicly accountable selection process for INEC members; ensure real-time publication of and access to election results; provide greater protection for media practitioners; address discrimination against women in political life, and impunity regarding electoral offences.

Presidency berates observers

However, in the statement titled ‘We reject European Union’s conclusions on 2023 general elections,’ the President’s Special Adviser on Special Duties, Communication and Strategy, Dele Alake, alleged bias and an intention to “impeach the integrity of the 2023 elections” which it described as the “best organised general elections in Nigeria since 1999.

“We strongly reject, in its entirety, any notion and idea from any organisation, group, and individual remotely suggesting that the 2023 election was fraudulent,” the statement read.

The Presidency faulted the data-gathering technique employed in the report saying “While addressing journalists in Abuja on the so-called final report, Andrews noted that EU-EOM monitored the pre-election and post-election processes in Nigeria from January 11 to April 11, 2023 as an INEC accredited election monitoring group.

“Within this period, EU-EOM observed the elections through 11 Abuja-based analysts, and 40 election observers spread across 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.”

“With the level of personnel deployed, which was barely an average of one person per state, we wonder how EU-EOM independently monitored elections in over 176,000 polling units across Nigeria,” Alake observed.

The Presidency insisted that the 2023 general elections, “most especially the presidential election, won by President Bola Tinubu/All Progressives Congress, were credible, peaceful, free, fair and the best organised general elections in Nigeria since 1999.”

It added that “There is no substantial evidence provided by the European Union or any foreign and local organisation that is viable enough to impeach the integrity of the 2023 election outcomes.”

Describing the findings as “unfounded,” the Presidency said, “We can now categorically let Nigerians and the entire world know that we were not unaware of the machinations of the EU.”

“We are convinced that what EU-EOM called the final report on our recent elections is a product of a poorly done desk job that relied heavily on a few instances of skirmishes in less than 1,000 polling units out of over 176,000 where Nigerians voted on election day,” it concluded.

Atiku’s aide

But Atiku slammed the Presidency for allegedly failing to understand that truth is constant all the time.

The Special Assistant to the ex-vice president on Public Communications, Mr Phrank Shaibu said the EU’s final report on the 2023 polls showed that the outcome of the election was not a reflection of the will of Nigerians who trooped out to cast their ballot.

He knocked the Presidency and Alake for trying to discredit the EU report.

Shaibu said even ‘the dead’ knew that the last election lacked credibility, adding that INEC had been unable to explain why nearly five months after the election, the complete result was yet to be uploaded on its result viewing portal.

He said, “Even primary school children who did not vote know that INEC failed woefully and that Tinubu rigged the last election. The presidential election was held on February 25, 2023 and yet as of July 2, 2023, the result of the election has not been fully uploaded. This is although this election was the most expensive in the history of West African politics.

“How can an election in which the full results have not been fully uploaded after nearly five months be described as credible by any sane human being?”

Shaibu described as nonsensical Alake’s claim that the EU was a meddlesome interloper for discrediting the poll.

 According to him, it is hypocritical for the Nigerian government to receive millions of euros from the EU as election funds and then turn around to claim that the body had no right to make comments on the election.

“The EU said in September last year that it budgeted 39 million euros for Nigeria’s 2023 election. Most of the funding went to INEC as election support.

 “The EU not only provided training for INEC staff but also donated equipment only for INEC to conduct a shambolic poll. So why would Alake claim that the EU has no right to speak when it was the largest single donor to INEC? Mr Alake should rather be quiet rather than try to defend the indefensible,” he noted.

Atiku’s aide further argued that the results in states like Rivers showed that the election was far from credible.

“The Presidential election in Rivers State was rigged as evidenced by what INEC has uploaded on IREV. So far, nearly 300,000 Nigerians have signed a petition on demanding a visa ban against former Governor, Nyesom Wike.

“Tinubu is now on the verge of appointing Wike as a minister as a reward for that disgraceful election. What a shame! And this is the character who claimed to have fought for the actualization of June 12?,’’ Shaibu wondered.

 He called on the United States and the United Kingdom to speed up the process of imposing visa bans on election riggers.

The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba declined to react on behalf of the party, saying “We will respond when we are ready,” but a member of the PDP National Executive Committee, Timothy Osadolor said the Presidency cannot run away from the truth even though “Tinubu sees himself as a beneficiary of that discredited election.”

He said, “First, the EU deserves flowers for saying it as it is. You cannot build something on nothing. The election which produced the current government fell short of global standards. The poll did not conform to the rules and guidelines set by the Independent National Electoral Commission. So, the position of the EU is the same as that of PDP and our presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar and it is for this reason, we are challenging the outcome of that election.

“Those who benefited from that fraudulent process may be celebrating today but what we have to tell them is that in the court of public opinion, they are seen as election riggers who manipulated the people’s will for personal gains.”

He admonished them to also reveal the identities of those implicated in election rigging, especially the staff of INEC and members of the governing party.

He added, “The report of the European Union Election Observation Team like all other reports on the 2023 Presidential Election is not different from the facts our legal team led by Chief Chris Uche, SAN, have placed before their lordships at the Presidential Elections Petitions Court.

“We are encouraged by the presence of the manifold brave and audacious men and women of the Bench in our judiciary. We know that, very soon, those distinguished and imperial dispensers of justice in our present-day judiciary shall deliver a judgment that will be pure as the snow and not tainted or bullied by coercion from characters with iniquitous power.’’

On his part, the Chief Spokesman for Obi-Datti Campaign Council, Yunusa Tanko, disclosed that the EU mission downplayed what transpired in the February polls.

While stressing that the electoral umpire is truly not independent as presumed, Tanko knocked the presidential spokesman for trying to hoodwink Nigerians into accepting his narrative.

He said, “I think the EU has tried enough by playing down the truth. What they did was an attempt to give a balanced report. If the EU observers were to be more critical, the report would have been worse.

 ‘’We are talking about two elections that took place on the same day where the two results were being uploaded into the iREV as stipulated by INEC. One of the results, which was the most important, was deliberately stopped from being published for public view according to what happened at each of those polling units.

“How can you tell me that particular election was credible? Going further, this same election saw where people being ethnically profiled and denied to vote for the candidate of their choice because they hailed from a particular region.

“How can INEC, which is supposed to be an unbiased umpire, come out and be denying its results? As we speak, this same election has been taken to court and we are still challenging the process.

Speaking further, Tanko stated, “As far as we are concerned, the EU is being economical with the truth. Looking at Alake’s statement that they have left the elections behind them and Nigerians have come to accept Bola Tinubu as the president is a farce. Nigerians have not accepted anything.

 “They are just patiently waiting for the outcome of the election tribunal panel. Trust me, Nigerians are still very angry coupled with the unpopular decisions including the hike in pump price to N700 per litre currently being meted out to the people.”

The acting National Publicity Secretary of the party, Obiora Ifoh, described the Federal Government’s response to the EU report as ‘medicine after death.’

Ifoh said, “Labour Party stands by the position of the EU observation mission. We have always said that this election was massively rigged in favour of the APC and their candidate.

“What the FG is saying is just medicine after death. Even the blind can see, the deaf can hear and they know this election was manipulated. Without sounding immodest, evidence was given at the tribunal, as you are aware.

“Whatever thing the FG is saying clearly shows that INEC is not in any way independent. It is at the whims and caprices of the government and we know it. But Nigerians are hoping that the tribunal will right the wrong by correcting it. That’s where we stand.

“So there is no need to defend the integrity of INEC. Nigerians already know the winner. It is very clear even from the evidence before the tribunal.”

‘Election not perfect’

But the Director of Publicity for the APC, Bala Ibrahim, disagreed, insisting that the EU observer mission’s statement was not an indictment but recommendations on where and how to improve future elections.

 He argued, “If I understand the EU position, it is not that they are saying the election lacks credibility. What they are saying is that certain areas need improvement.

“Certainly, in everything you do in life, improvement is an expectation that is continuously done to get to the Eldorado. No election in the world is perfect if it will be conducted by human beings; except such elections will be conducted by angels. There is no way you will have a perfect election.

“Be that as it may, when you look at our journey so far and what Nigeria has gone through, any election observer will attest to the fact that from 1999 to date, this is one of the best elections conducted in Nigeria. If we don’t give kudos to INEC for what they have done, they don’t deserve condemnation.’’

“Appraisals have been done to check where improvements are needed and lapses noticed. These appraisals will continue until such a time we get it according to plan, as and when due.

“So the EU is not saying the election was marred with imperfection. No, it is saying there is still a need for improvements in certain areas. These are where the FG will certainly look into and ensure they do the right thing,” he stated.

Meanwhile, a chieftain of the New Nigeria People’s Party who declined to be named said the possibility of the formation of a Government of National Unity makes it difficult for the party to fault the EU assessment.

“My brother, you know they are saying a GNU is in the offing. So, we can’t come out to say the EU is wrong or right. I won’t be the one to discredit what people are building. You know what I mean,” he said.

PUNCH Newspapers

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