The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) to Nigeria was officially launched Tuesday by the EU’s chief observer, Maria Arena, a Member of the European Parliament from Belgium, who said the mission was in Nigeria at the invitation of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a “neutral and independent” observation of the general elections.
“We will assess the electoral process against Nigeria’s laws and international commitments in relation to democratic elections. We are here with a team of 11 election experts in Abuja, and 40 experienced long-term observers, who [were] deployed around the country yesterday (21 January) to cover all states,” said Arena while addressing a press conference in Abuja Tuesday.
“Since arriving in Abuja on Saturday, I have had a series of meetings, including with INEC, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, security agencies, political parties and candidates, civil society organisations, members of the legal profession, and religious leaders. I would like to thank them sincerely for their willingness to meet, and for their openness and cooperation.”
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Arena emphasised the importance of transparency and accountability at all stages of the electoral process. “These elections are an opportunity for Nigeria to build on what was achieved in 2015 and to further strengthen the country’s democracy…Transparency and accountability of all the institutions involved are essential for public trust and confidence in the process. Further, I hope that state bodies and political parties all play their part in promoting a fair and peaceful process before, during and after election day,” she said.
She also highlighted the importance of civil society organisations in the electoral process saying they had an indispensable role in increasing the transparency and credibility of the process, and in advocating for electoral improvements.
In addition to the EU EOM’s core team and 40 long-term observers spread across Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones – the largest ever since the EU EOM began in the country in 1999 – the mission will be joined over the two election days by a delegation of seven Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) as well as diplomats from EU member state embassies in Nigeria, as well as Canada, Norway and Switzerland.