Nigerians cast their ballots this weekend in a tightly contested nationwide poll. Election observers could be crucial to a successful outcome.
President Goodluck Jonathan (left) and his main rival Muhammadu Buhari (right) sign a pledge for peaceful elections
DW spoke to Christoph Fomunyoh, leader of the NDI Observer Mission in Nigeria.
DW: How challenging is it going to be to monitor these elections?
Christoph Fomunyoh: Nigeria, as you know, is a big country with many states and well over 58 million registered voters who will be voting in over 120,000 polling sites or [in a total of] 150,000 polling units, so it's very challenging to be able to have observers who can who watch the process in each one of those polling sites. However, the NDI delegation will be collaborating with other international observer groups from the International Republican Institute, the European Union, the African Union, ECOWAS and the Commonwealth. We will also be working in collaboration with the Coalition of Domestic Observers, Nigerians from civil society organizations who have come together in a coalition to monitor the process and who also will be conducting a parallel vote tabulation or "quick count" to verify the authenticity of election results.This means deploying well over four thousand observers across the country in each one of the local government areas of the country. A sufficient spread of observers, both domestic and international, will help towards enhancing confidence in the electoral process come March 28.
Will your observers be in volatile areas such as Maiduguri?
We, the NDI delegation, have deployed observers to all the six geopolitical zones of the country of Nigeria. You may remember that federal Nigeria has six geopolitical zones that include the northeast and NDI plans to send observers to all six geopolitical zones. We have been making a case in the lead-up to this election for [Nigeria's] Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the election management body, to put in every effort to make sure that Nigerians are able to vote across the entire country. We have also in the past made recommendations for the security services of the country to provide security to all Nigerians so they can vote even in the volatile areas and so we feel compelled, as an observer delegation, to also put out our observers in this area as a sense of support to the Nigerians living in these areas and who also want to be able to express themselves and vote in the elections this weekend.
What is being done for your protection?
Well, I think it is more important to not focus just on protection of observers but more importantly on the overall protection of all Nigerians, the voters, as well as the poll workers, who will be volunteering their time to make sure this country can have a meaningful election. We are gratified, NDI is gratified, that the security services have assured INEC - and we also got a briefing from the Office of Inspector General of Police - that the security services of Nigeria were prepared and ready to provide security on election day to all Nigerians, to voters as well as the poll workers, and to everybody that will be out there making a contribution to the conduct of credible and meaningful elections here in Nigeria.
How worried are you about violence?
We are hopeful for the people of Nigeria that this will be a peaceful election and that ultimately the voices of the Nigerian people will be heard loud and clear and that the political contestants will respect the outcome of the election, especially if it is professionally and properly conducted by the election management body INEC.
Do local and international observers have the full cooperation of INEC?
Yes. All of the international observer delegations have been received by INEC. We have found that the chairman of INEC, Professor Jega is very forthcoming. He has responded to every question that we have had so far. Of course, we are a few days away from election day and we will be waiting eagerly to see how all of these good intentions materialize on election day and we will integrate our findings into our final communiqué and statement that will be released thereafter.
Christoph Fomunyoh is Senior Associate and Regional Director Central and West Africa Programs at the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and leader of its observer mission in Nigeria.
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