U.S observers arrive for pre-poll assessment tour
By Tajudeen Hamzat
International interest in the sanctity of the forthcoming 2019 polls in Nigeria is rising even as the political temper in the country continues to rise.
In line with its concern, the US-based International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) have announced that they are deploying a joint Pre-Election Assessment Mission (PEAM) to assess preparations for the upcoming Nigerian general elections, scheduled for February 2019.
The high-level delegation will visit Nigeria from July 12-20, 2018. Members of the delegation will meet with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), political parties, civil society organizations and other stakeholders in Abuja to assess election preparations and explore ways of fostering peaceful and credible polls in the country. The delegation will also watch the voting process during the July 14 Ekiti state gubernatorial election. The PEAM will be led by Dr. Pauline Baker, president emeritus of The Fund for Peace (USA).
“Nigeria’s 2015 general elections were widely hailed as a positive step in the country’s democratic development,” said Dr. Baker. “Another set of credible polls in 2019 would further consolidate Nigeria’s democratic gains.”
Dr. Baker is president emeritus of the U.S.-based Fund for Peace and a renowned expert in Nigerian politics. Earlier in her career, Dr. Baker lived in Nigeria for 11 years and taught political science for seven years at the University of Lagos. She has served as an election observer in five Nigerian elections since the restoration of democracy in 1999.
The delegation will include Lauren Blanchard, specialist in African Affairs, U.S. Congressional Research Service (USA); Christopher Fomunyoh, senior associate and regional director for Central and West Africa, NDI (Cameroon); Jan Surotchak, regional director for Europe, IRI (USA); and Terry Tselane, vice chairperson, Electoral Commission of South Africa (South Africa).
The mission’s findings will be presented at a press conference in Abuja on July 20, 2018.
NDI and IRI will conduct a second pre-election assessment in September 2018, and will jointly deploy international observers to the February 2019 presidential and legislative elections and the March 2019 gubernatorial and state assembly polls.
IRI and NDI have organized more than 200 international election observation missions around the globe, earning a reputation for impartiality and professionalism. The IRI-NDI mission to Nigeria will conduct its activities in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and Code of Conduct adopted by the United Nations in 2005 and will base its findings and recommendations on Nigerian laws and on international standards for elections. All activities will be conducted on a strictly nonpartisan basis and without interfering in the election process.
Ahead of the 2019 polls, a very testy governorship poll is taking place in the South Western State of Ekiti this weekend.
Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari