The Catholic Church election observer group has described the 2023 general elections as the worst in the history of Nigeria’s electoral system despite having an improved electoral act, financial support from local and international partners, improved technology and enough human capital, as well as massive support from Nigerians.
The Church insisted that there should be punishment for people who compromised the system that resulted in manipulated outcome of the elections.
The church said its position on the election was based on the report of its team from the Church and Society Department of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) and Caritas Nigeria, that were dispatched across the country to monitor the general elections, which was presented to the public on Friday in Abuja.
Director, Church and Society Department of CSN who is also the Executive Secretary, Caritas Nigeria, Very Rev. Fr. Uchechukwu Obodoechina, told journalists at the public presentation of the 2023 General Election Observation Report in Nigeria, in Abuja, on Friday, that the elections witnessed violence, intimidation, disenfranchisement, vote-buying, logistics challenges, and several other things that affected the credibility of the election including the perceived compromise from security agencies that aided the activities of hoodlums.
He said: “Obviously, majority of Nigerians are disappointed with the performance of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security agencies despite the huge financial and logistics support it received.
“However, the 2023 general elections have come and gone, and had unfortunately left mixed feelings in the minds of most Nigerians. Most electorates are feeling disappointed in the outcome of the elections. This was because they did not feel the results, as declared by INEC, reflected their wishes of majority of Nigerians.
“One of the greatest flaws of the 2023 elections was the inability, unwillingness, and outright refusal of INEC to upload results from Form EC8A to the IReV portal in real-time from the Polling Units as was severally promised before the conduct of the election.
“Presently, 10 political parties have instituted 1, 341 cases, representing about 90 per cent of the 1, 490 contested seats; and 346 judges have been engaged in different tribunals, making the 2023 elections the most litigated, contentious, disputed elections in the history of Nigeria’s electoral democracy.
“There are chances that the 1, 341 petitions may not be the last since some other cases have not come to the fore. It’s estimated that more than N3bn will be spent by INEC in defending cases brought against it due to the outcome of the elections.
“Using N3bn of taxpayers’ money to defend what was generally seen as a deliberate act of wrong doing makes no sense. The ball is now before the Courts, and one question that agitates people’s minds is why it should be so. If the Courts should be the avenue of determining who wins elections in Nigeria, then what is the essence of establishing INEC?
“Judiciary is the last hope of the common man and they should live to that expectations. But with the level of corruption, impunity, and failure of consequences in the country, one is skeptical about the type of justice that will be served to the litigants. It is our sincere hope that the judiciary should, for once, prove those who do not trust the integrity of the judiciary wrong by serving the type of justice that will right the wrongs done during the polls.”
He commended Nigerians that participated in the polls and encouraged them to continue believing in the progress of Nigeria, stating “that the process of entrenching the conduct of credible, free, and fair elections in Nigeria is like crossing the red sea”.
With regards to the recommendations of the report, Rev. Fr. Obodoechina, said the report recommended that elections for all the seats should hold the same day. “Holding all elections on the same day would be both cheaper and less burdensome, and help in controlling the desperation of sitting Governors and other incumbents who would be determined to install their cronies as successors.
“The report was also of the view that further efforts should be made by INEC as permitted under the law to push for complete electronic voting during elections. This will, expectedly, reduce to the barest minimum the obvious infractions being experienced during elections in Nigeria.”
It was recommended that INEC should apologize to Nigerians for how its officials dashed the hopes of millions of Nigerians by conducting an election that fell short of, not only the expectations of most Nigerians but that of the international community, despite the huge funds approved for the exercise.