The chairperson of Commonwealth Observer Group to Nigeria, Thabo Mbeki, has urged the country’s political parties, candidates and their supporters to play their part in ensuring peaceful, transparent and credible elections on Saturday, 25 February 2023.
The former President of South Africa made the statement at a press conference in Abuja following the arrival of Commonwealth observers in Nigeria on 18 February 2023.
Addressing journalists, Mbeki said this month’s elections in Nigeria would be Africa’s largest democratic exercise as the outcomes would be significant not only for Nigeria, but also for the entire continent.
“Therefore, we urge all stakeholders in Nigeria to uphold their commitment to ensure a peaceful and inclusive election in which the people of Nigeria are able to freely exercise their right to vote, with the fundamental freedoms of expression, association and assembly fully respected,” Mbeki said.
“Our mandate is to observe and assess the pre-election period, activities on polling day and the post-election period. Throughout, we will consider all factors relating to the credibility of the electoral process. We will assess whether the elections are conducted according to the standards for democratic elections to which Nigeria has committed itself. … As we undertake this assessment and conduct our duties, we will be objective, independent and impartial,” he said.
A release from the Media and Public Affairs office of the Commonwealth Observer Mission said the group, over the coming days, would receive briefings from the electoral authorities, political parties, the media and civil society groups representing women, youth and people with disabilities, which would enable the group to get a better understanding of the situation within the country ahead of the elections.
As of February 2023, an estimated 93.4 million registered voters will have the right to cast ballots for presidential and national assembly candidates in 176,846 polling units across Nigeria.
From 23 February, observers will be deployed across the country to observe the pre-election preparations as well as voting, counting and results processes at polling stations.
An interim statement, which provides the group’s preliminary assessment of the electoral process, will be delivered by the Chairperson at a press conference on 27 February in Abuja.
Following the elections, the group will submit its recommendations in a report to Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC. She will forward the report to the Government of Nigeria, the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission, the leadership of political parties taking part in the elections and all Commonwealth governments. The report will be made public afterwards.
The Observer Group comprises 16 eminent persons from around the Commonwealth, including politicians, diplomats and experts in law, human rights, gender equality and election administration.