An international group, Pan African Women Projects has extolled the virtues of the INEC Returning Officer for Abia governorship election, Prof Nnenna Oti.
The group gave the commendation in Umuahia during a press conference where it reviewed its findings in the last general elections in the country.
The group, a non-governmental organisation of women from 54 countries, commended Prof Oti for ensuring that the mandates and votes of the people counted in the last guber polls in Abia State while also recommending her, and other women of integrity, for future electoral duties as Returning Officer.
In a press statement by Ms Bontela Matjila, spokesperson of Pan African Women Projects, as affirmed by Dr Mrs Eno Udensi, the group explained that the findings from the governorship and House of Assembly elections they monitored in Abia State met “international commendations of a free, transparent and peaceful conduct of electoral process.”
The group, with headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa, served as one of the foreign observer missions accredited by INEC.
It, however, expressed disappointment with issues of “serious vote buying and influencing of voters’ choice during the governorship election by party members at some polling units,” adding that many voters were caused to vote for candidates they did not originally intend to vote for, in such polling units.
The Pan African Women Projects equally observed pockets of violence and intimidation of voters in the three senatorial zones of Abia, noting that the violence was perpetrated across party lines.
It, therefore, urged INEC to use drones in future elections for distribution of electoral materials and to engage the services of trained ad-hoc staff as electoral officers to avoid episodes of the just concluded polls.
Apart from these, it called for the use of disciplined religious bodies, NGOs and priests of integrity who would not compromise their positions, during future elections even as it suggested the use of electronic voting where accreditation and voting are processed from the same device.
Out of 93.47 million registered voters, only 24.9 million persons, representing 26.72% voted in the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections, even as there was poor voter turnout during guber and House of Assembly elections in 28 states.
The Pan African Women Projects explained that Nigeria occupies a leading role in Africa, hence, the foreign observers’ interests in the country’s electoral process.
“The 2023 general elections will have regional implications for West Africa as successful elections within Nigeria can provide a positive electoral template in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region,” it stated.