INEC didn’t learn its lessons, ill-prepared for elections: Chatham House

In the wake of the February 25 presidential and national assembly elections in which Nigeria’s electoral body became roiled in widespread criticisms and calls for it to cancel the polls, Chatham House has described INEC as ill-prepared.

Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is an independent policy institute based in London.

In its report on the presidential poll, Chatham House said, “The INEC’s performance and controversies over these results mean that the electoral reforms and lessons declared to have been learned were not fully applied and, as an electoral body, it was significantly less prepared than it claimed.”

Intimidation, violence, and irregularities tainted the presidential polls that gave Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) victory with 8.8 million votes ahead of his rivals, Atiku Abubakar of PDP with 6.9 million votes and Peter Obi of Labour Party with 6.1 million votes, according to the Chatham House report.

“Yet thousands of voters were disenfranchised, and multiple irregularities as well as intimidation and violence have been noted by election observers,” it added in its March report.

The Chatham House publication stated that “logistical failures,” “widespread delayed opening of polling units,” and voters’ inability to locate their polling units revealed that INEC had not yet applied the purported reform-related lessons it claimed to have gained.

The report also mentioned that INEC failed to follow its own ground rules to upload result sheets from polling units onto its portal for public viewing despite obtaining hundreds of billions from the nation’s budget.

“The commission’s patchy deployment of technology in the use of a Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) is still being intensely scrutinised and criticised,” said the report authored by Leena Hoffmann, an associate fellow of the Africa Programme and the lead researcher for the Social Norms and Accountable Governance (SNAG) project at Chatham House.

It stressed INEC “failed to adhere to its own statements and guidelines, which derive from its laws, that election results would be uploaded to its portal using the BVAS directly from the polling unit in real-time for the public’s viewing.”

INEC’s “sub-optimal performance must be taken seriously because Nigeria’s path to recovery and stability must follow the way of accountability and electoral integrity,” noted Chatham House.