Immediately after the 21 April presidential elections our high commissioner in Abuja and my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) made representations to President Obasanjo and President-elect Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, making clear that we were disappointed by the violence, corruption and the Independent National Electoral Commission’s management of the elections, and that the Government of Nigeria must address these shortcomings and return to the path of reform, including the fight against corruption.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary issued a statement on 23 April. The text of the statement is available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website at:
We will continue to make such representations, including on the role of the Independent National Electoral Commission and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, until the Government address our concerns.
The main international observer missions have published preliminary statements. The EU election observation mission published a Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions on 23 April, which is available on the EU website at: www.europa. eu/index_en.htm. The EU mission will publish a final report within two months of the conclusion of the entire electoral process. The chairman of the Commonwealth Observer Group issued an interim statement on 22 April available at: www.the commonwealth.org/. The final report of the Observer Group will be submitted to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, who in turn will forward it to the Government of Nigeria, the Independent National Electoral Commission, political parties and then to all Commonwealth Governments. The National Democratic Institute issued a preliminary statement of observations and recommendations on 23 April (www.ndi.org). The International Republican Institute issued a statement of Preliminary Findings on 22 April (www.iri.org) and the observer mission of the Economic Community of West African States published Preliminary Declarations on the state elections on 15 April and on the federal elections on 23 April (www.ecowas.int).
In its preliminary conclusions on the elections published on 23 April (www.eueom-ng.org), the EU election observation mission reports that in the state elections, EU observers witnessed incidents of hijacking of ballot boxes. In almost one fifth of polling stations visited, attempts to influence voters were witnessed. Disorder inside polling stations was witnessed in 15 per cent. of polling stations visited during closing and counting. In almost 30 per cent. of collation centres EU observers had indications of proof that polling results were fraudulently changed. EU observers witnessed cases of fraud, such as that in five wards in Zamfara state, where no elections took place but fake results were included in the governorship elections for the wards concerned. On election day disruption, sometimes violent, of the polling and counting processes by groups of thugs was observed in several states.
In the federal elections EU observers witnessed examples of ballot box stuffing, alteration of official result forms, stealing of sensitive polling materials, vote buying and under age voting. In 14 per cent. of observed polling stations attempts were made to influence voters. Cases of vote buying were observed in Niger and Jigawa states. Disorder was observed in 24 per cent. of the result transfer and collation centre processes observed. A number of fraudulent practices were observed. In many polling stations unused ballot papers were marked and stuffed into the ballot box resulting in almost 100 per cent. voter turnout, as observed in Kwara, Gombe, Edo and Niger states.
Violence was judged to have been a major concern and incidents increased as the elections drew nearer. The EU observers state that credible reports indicate a total of at least 200 people were killed in election-related incidents before and during the elections. The widespread use of thugs by a number of political parties created a significant degree of fear and intimidation. Numerous violent incidents were reported by EU observers, often involving destruction of campaign material and party offices, harassment, intimidation and violent clashes between party supporters. Political sponsorship, recruitment and use of thugs was witnessed by EU observers in Borno, Abia, Taraba, Gombe, Bauchi, Kaduna, Zamfara, Niger, Oyo, Osun, Kogi and Edo states. Assaults, assassination of candidates and attempted assassinations of candidates were reported in the pre-election period. A heavier security presence contributed to a reduction in violent incidents in the federal elections. But turnout of women for the federal elections on 21 April appeared to be lower than for the state elections on 14 April, which could have been due, at least in part, to violence during the state elections.
These observations have been confirmed in most respects by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) who undertook an observation mission on behalf of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.