POSER TO THE EUROPEAN UNION ELECTION OBSERVATION MISSION TO NIGERIA

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Maria Arena MEP, the EU Chief Observer to Nigeria

The E.U. Election Observer Mission (E.U. EOM) to Nigeria has continued to express reassurance of their independence, objectivity and non-partisanship about the forth coming election in Nigeria. The E.U. EOM who came to Nigeria at the invitation of the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct a neutral and independent observation of the forthcoming general elections, made the commitment about their neutrality at the press conference to officially launch the mission.

The Chief Observer, Maria Arena, a Belgian member of the European Parliament, and her team have hit the ground running having held series of meetings with INEC, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, security agencies, political parties and their candidates, the Civil Society Organizations, members of the legal profession as well as religious leaders, within 48hours of arriving in Nigeria.

Ms Arena started the press conference by giving details of the strategic procedure which the E.U. Election Observer Mission has put in place, and this was followed up with questions from members of the Press. When Diplomatic Vista’s correspondent threw a poser by asking Ms Maria Arena, what she thought about International Observers’ biased approach of elections observation for diplomatic reasons, citing examples of the2003 elections in Rwanda and the 1999 elections in Nigeria where in the observers concluded that the result was ‘the will of the people’, despite credible evidences of malpractices and irregularities.

Ms Arena had this to say:

“… I want to say that observation mission is not here to interfere in the process – the Nigeria process of election. We are here to observe and we observe how the election process is going through Nigeria’s law and Nigeria’s international commitment”.

She continued:

“We are not here to interfere. It is Nigeria’s elections; these elections are for the Nigerian people and they are managed by Nigerian institutions. So what we do is observing if all these are managed within the law of Nigeria and we then give recommendations on this”.

She went on to clarify the free and fair phrase:

“I want to assure you that it’s a more complex situation, when we observe elections and I must say that free and fair are two simple words. So when you say free and fair we as observers, we have to observe the legal framework, we have to observe the freedom of speech, we have to observe the capacity of the civil society expressing themselves, we have to observe a lot of things to improve the process of democracy. This is our objective, this is what we want to achieve.”

As the elections draw closer, all eyes are firmly on all key stakeholders in the election process in Nigeria, as well as the international observers; considering the volatility and high tension in today’s Nigerian polity.

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