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Don't overstep your limits – Jega warns election observers

By The Citizen
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The Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega has warned observer groups against over-reaching their mandates, saying their job is merely to 'observe' and not to 'monitor' the polls.

Jega spoke in Abuja yesterday when he briefed the 107 accredited local and international observers. Four major presentations were made.

The presentations covered such areas as 'The Voter Register and Use of Card Reader for the 2015 General Elections - How far, so far'; 'Making the Votes Count - An Elucidation on Innovations in the Electoral Process'; 'Code of Conduct for Election Observation' and 'Election Offences and the 2015 General Elections.'

The INEC boss said there is a distinction between 'election observation' and 'election monitoring'. According to the INEC Guidelines for Election Observation, an election moniatrocities tor is an integral part of the election management structure and has a role in the administration of the election. Jega said in Nigeria, only INEC and its duly authorised personnel are empowered to monitor elections.

'An observer on the other hand does not have any role in the administration of the election nor any control or oversight functions.

'To further simplify these points; an election monitor exercises some level of lawful authority over the conduct of elections as well as over officials involved; an observer has no such powers.

'In Nigeria, a monitor must be a duly authorised personnel of INEC; an observer is independent and reports only to his or her organisation,' he explained.

The commission's chairman added that a monitor can issue instructions and take decisions on behalf of INEC and to that extent would ordinarily possess a greater technical knowledge of the election process than an observer.

Explaining further, Jega said, to enable them fulfill their functions effectively, INEC is responsible for training election monitors on election administration. 'The training of election observers is the responsibility of the organisations that deploy them.

'The roles, powers and functions of monitors are created and regulated and the authority so exercised is clearly spelt out,' he added.

According to him, it was important to clarify the two concepts 'because observers in the past sometimes over-reach the limits of our conception of observation, which often results in tension and disagreements.

'Indeed, the Nigerian legal system expressly states that a cardinal function of INEC is to monitor the electoral process,' Jega submitted.

The understanding of the concepts, he said, would determine if the relationships between INEC and the observers are conflictive or cooperative. He stated that through its guidelines on election observation, INEC seeks to frame three essential normative principles namely, rights, responsibilities and conduct of observers.

'Rights generally signify the entitlements of observers, responsibilities are the duties they bear, while conduct refers to behaviour and actions expected of them.

Among the rights of observers are adequate security and protection, adequate information; free access to voting facilities, free movement and civil treatment.

'On the other hand, the responsibilities of observers include respecting the sovereignty and laws of Nigeria, abiding by guidelines and regulations of INEC, attendance at briefings, careful, dedicated observation and to issue honest report on the election.

'In their conduct, observers are also expected to declare any conflict of interest, be impartial and unobtrusive, ensure that their reports and conclusions are evidence-based, eschew prejudgment of the process, always carry proper identification, be careful about comments in the media, be prudent in receiving gifts and favours and avoid involvement in disputes.

'I implore you to be conversant with the provisions of the Guidelines as you deploy to the field in the days that follow,' he advised. - National Mirror.