Opening Remarks by Prof. Antonia T. Okoosi-Simbine at the ongoing De-briefing of Accredited Observers for the #NigeriaDecides2019 elections @ the Abuja International Conference Centre.
On behalf of the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, I warmly welcome all of you back from the various States you went for election observation and also to this debriefing session for accredited observers for the 2019 General Elections.
No doubt, observation of the 2019 election must have presented its challenges not only on the account of the vast nature and terrain of the country with over 120,000 polling units and voting points, but also on account of the peculiar or additional challenges presented by the shift and rescheduling of the dates of the elections by the Commission. One solace in my view lies in the contribution you are collectively making by your participation in the consolidation of Nigeria’s democratic growth. I am also delighted by the fact that a vast majority of those deployed by your various groups returned safely to their destinations without major hitches.
Going by the Commission’s record, a total of 120 Domestic and 36 Foreign Groups were accredited for the 2019 General Election. Submissions by the Observer Groups also indicated that over 85,000 Observers were deployed and participated in each of the two (2) elections. The final assessment on the levels of Observer participation is being obtained from our respective State Offices.
In order to enhance and facilitate your observation activities, you may recall that the Commission modestly provided some kits including Jackets, face-caps, photo I.D Card, Jotter, Car Stickers and Information Kits (in flash Drive). The Commission also provided group leaders during the National briefing with copies the 1999 Constitution of FRN, the 2010 Electoral Act (as amended), Guidelines and Regulations for the Conduct of 2019 Election as well as manuals for Election Officials.
While I am aware that distribution of some of these items presented some logistics challenges especially with regard to photo I.D Cards and the Jackets especially during the Presidential/National Assembly elections, the situation greatly improved by the second election as the challenges of deployment were greatly minimized.
Today’s debriefing session is a platform provided by the Commission for Observers to discuss field experiences during the elections towards providing useful lessons for the conduct of future elections.
Accordingly, the debriefing session offers us the opportunity to discuss a variety of issues, focusing on various aspects of the electoral process. As indicated on the Agenda, the Commission is particularly looking forward to getting your perspectives on the following issues:
* Logistics & deployment of poll officials
* Opening, Layout & commencement of accreditation and voting
* Performance of election officials
* Smart card Readers
* Conduct of security personnel
* Conduct of election observations
* Collation & declaration of election results at the various levels
* Other related issues.
In concluding my remarks, permit me to emphasize that this de-briefing exercise serves as a precursor to the more comprehensive reports the Commission is expecting from your respective Organizations as soon as possible.
There are representatives of various Departments of the Commission on ground to note the issues raised and/or explain and respond to your comments where required.
Once again, I welcome you all and urge you to participate fully in this session.