The Commonwealth Observer Group to Nigeria?s 2015 Presidential and National Assembly elections has praised the country?s electorate for the commitment and determination shown during voting on March 28.
?Full credit for the peaceful conduct of the elections must go, most of all, to the people of Nigeria,? the Group said in its interim statement on the elections.
?They, on the whole, demonstrated patience and maturity. We salute them and appeal to them to maintain the same commitment to peace in the post-election period.?
The statement was presented in Abuja by Dr Bakili Muluzi, former President of Malawi and Chairman of the 10-member Group, which was fully supported by a team from the Commonwealth Secretariat in London.
Commonwealth teams were based in Abuja, Benin City, Enugu, Ibadan, Kaduna and Lagos, interacting with electoral officials.
The Group noted that the elections ?mark an important step forward for democracy in Africa?s most populous country and a key member of the Commonwealth?.
It added: ?Notwithstanding the organisational and technical deficiencies, the conduct of the Presidential and National Assembly Elections were generally peaceful and transparent.
?In our observations, polling staff were, on the whole, sufficiently trained and carried out procedures in a transparent manner. Where there was uncertainty among polling staff, we observed that they sought consensus to arrive at decisions.
?Overall, however, training provided to polling officials needs to be enhanced to ensure greater consistency in the application of procedures, and make staff more aware of the correct modalities for each stage of the process.
?There is certainly room for improvement and this will be reflected in the recommendations which the Group will make in its Final Report.?
Despite these challenges, the Group noted that the introduction of biometric Permanent Voter Cards this time made a huge difference to the usually chaotic Nigerian electoral process.
It said it was ?a major factor in enhancing the integrity of the electoral process by ensuring that only eligible voters could cast ballots on polling day?.
Young people, especially those of the National Youth Service Corps and tertiary institutions, received particular commendation for the hard work they put in while assisting the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
?These young men and women showed dedication, creativity and courage in helping to deliver a transparent electoral process, often in difficult conditions. They are a source of pride and hope for Nigeria,? the Group said.
One cause for concern for the Group was the low percentage of women candidates in the elections.
?We urge political parties to review the selection process to significantly increase the number of women in positions of leadership and decision making,? the Group said.