By Michael Oche
Stakeholders in election observation have suggested that most Civil Society Groups mismanaged their interface with citizens during the 2023 election and thereby sent out a faulty narrative on the integrity of the electoral process.
The stakeholders also said insufficient observers’education by the Civil Society Groups of their observers on the field led to confusion, resulting in procedural error, poor reportage and lack of adherence to the observers code of conduct.
These formed part of resolutions reached at the end of a two-day post-election review meeting for Civil Society Organisations organised by Peering Advocacy and Advancement Centre in Africa (PAACA) in collaboration with National Orientation Agency.
In a communique signed at the end of the meeting, the stakeholders said the objective of the reflection meeting was to conduct an in-depth assessment and introspection of the role civil society organizations played in the electoral process, pinpoint notable observations, acknowledge commendable practices, identify challenges encountered, and devise recommendations that will bolster the integrity and inclusiveness of future elections within the Nigerian context.
“While there was a significant media presence, reports of biased coverage and the spread of misinformation highlighted the need for media outlets to uphold their responsibility in providing accurate information to the public. It also played out how CSOs and the media fueled suspicion of citizens which was considered a fundamental gap,” the communique signed by Monday Osasah, Chairman Communique drafting committee noted.
On the challenges election observation groups faced, the communique noted that there were indications most CSOs were not focused on any niche in the elections which potentially undermined the principle of election observation in the country.
It reads, “Weak Observation Spread: The challenges to cover wide range of polling units further undermined the outcome of reports fueling fake news on social media platforms and raised concerns about the manipulation of public opinion.”
Among other recommendations, the stakeholders said civil Society Organization must institutionalize transparent communication with their observers as a panacea to eliminate political and neo-eugenics influence.
On methodology in election Observation, the stakeholders recommended the need to strengthen the methodology in election observation to ensure the integrity of the process and reports about the electoral process, and the importance of their participation.
It reads further, “Media Integrity: Media organizations should adhere to ethical standards of reporting, providing unbiased coverage of all political actors and verifying information before dissemination.
“Develop Partnership Model: Civil Society Organizations must collaborate with state and non-state actors to maintainprofessionalism and develop strategies to safeguard the electoral process from career politicians who are committed to truncating the democratic values and other threats to democratic structures and ethos.”
Following report of alleged partisanship by some CSOs during the election, the stakeholders highlighted the need for vetting process of observers’ recruitment.
The communique recommended the “Implementation of regulations that monitor and limit recruitment of groups that will undermine the integrity of the elections. CSOs must promote fair competition among candidates that apply for observation in their various organizations and does a background check on them.
“Timely reporting of Election Observation: that accredited observer groups must send in reports of their observation timely to the electoral umpire and continue this practice of peer review of the election Observation.”
On citizens participation during the poll, the stakeholders observed that there was a large voter turnout during the Presidential and National Assembly Elections and a sharp contrast during the Guber and State Assembly Elections, indicating a strong commitment to democratic participation.
However, they noted that concerns were raised regarding the coordination, collaborations and communication amongst CSOs in balancing the deficit of a thought observation.
“The security arrangements during the election were commendable, ensuring a peaceful atmosphere at polling stations. However, there were isolated incidents of intimidation near certain polling stations. Fatalities during the election were considered as the lowest during various cycles of election signaling the progressive innovations in the electoral act,” communique stated further.