As part of the ongoing review of the 2019 general elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Electoral Officers (EOs) from the 36 states of the Federation who participated in the just concluded elections converged in Abuja over two days to share experiences and suggest ways to strengthen the process.

The European Center for Electoral Support (ECES) under the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria in partnership with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) supported the meeting of the EOs. ECES Nigeria Project Director Maria-Teresa Mauro and Acting Country Director of IFES, Seray Jah, commended INEC for the successful conduct of the 2019 general election as well as its timely intervention in implementing the review of the elections. Both organisations promised increase support to INEC and to democratic governance in Nigeria.

The review processwhich held in the Sheraton Hotel, Abuja for the two days had about 380 EOs in each of the meetings. The EOs review aimed at getting firsthand information from the field officers, their experiences and account of what happened, their challenges and suggestions on how to improve the process. 

Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu while addressing the Officers at the opening ceremony of the first group said “we have 774 LGAs, meaning that we have 774 EOs. One meeting with the EOs simply would not do. That is why we said we should break this conversation into two phases. We take the first 19 states; we have over 380 EOs here and then we will take the next batch two days later”.

Professor Yakubu who urged the participants in both sessions to freely criticize the Policies and actions of the Commission said: “I consistently say that friends will criticise you, but your enemies will condemn you. But criticism is the basis for making any system work, no democracy, no electoral process is perfect. Every democracy is work in progress. So, feel free to suggest, advise on all the issues relating to the whole gamut of conducting elections”.

The INEC Chairman lauded the immense contribution of the Electoral Officers to the electoral process. He said: “anyone who is familiar with elections knows that the work of the commission at the headquarters is important. But actually, equally important is the work of the commission as the Local Government level for which the EOs play the most critical roles.

Chairman of the Planning, Monitoring and Strategy Committee (PMSC) on the post -2019 election review meeting and National Commissioner, Dr. Mustafa Lecky, explained that the review exercise was aimed at broadly evaluating the conduct of the 2019 general elections and learn vital lessons that will aid the Commission review its policies and programmes, “which will serve as road map to 2023 general elections”. Commissioner Lecky explained further that the discussion with the Electoral Officers would cover about 7 thematic areas ranging from Registration Area Centre (RAC) preparation and Election day activities; Logisitics; Voter Registration; Recruitment; Trainings and Remuneration of all categories of election officials. 

Chief Technical Adviser (CTA) to the INEC Chairman, Professor Bolade Eyinla, while reeling out the workshop objectives and expectations maintained that experiences will vary from state to state and LGA to LGA, hence the need to share experiences on how the Commission’s work can be done better. The CTA spoke further on the need for succession in the system, and stressed the need to document experiences that would guide future Electoral Officers. He added that their deliberations, suggestions and contributions well documented would be a key ingredient in a national conversation on the electoral process proposed by the Commission. 

The Special Adviser to the Chairman, Prof. M. J Kuna while explaining the template to be used for the review also went ahead to applaud the EOs. Also present at the review were various INEC National Commissioners and Directors, as well as the Administrative Secretary. 

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