Former vice-president and presidential aspirant of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) Atiku Abubakar (L) casts his vote during the presidential primary of the party in Lagos. ~ PIUS UTOMI EKPEI
Abuja - A 10-member Commonwealth Observer Group has been deployed to the country ahead of the elections on March 28 and April 11.
Dr Bakili Muluzi, a former Malawian President and Chair of the group, who briefed media on Monday in Abuja, said the visit of the group was to observe the elections.
"The group was constituted by the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Mr Kamalesh Sharma following an invitation from the Chair of the Independent National Electoral Commission.
"Our team includes current and former politicians and members of parliament, serving members of national electoral commissions, as well as representatives of civil society, young people and the media.
"Our Commonwealth Observer Group arrived on 21st of March, 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 processes.
"We will assess whether the elections are conducted according to the standards for democratic elections to which Nigeria has committed itself, including the constitutional framework and the other international commitments.
"As we undertake this assessment and conduct our duties, we will be objective, independent and impartial."
Muluzi also said that the group would liaise with other observer missions in the country to "understand their experiences and exchange ideas and information".
He added that the group would issue a statement shortly after the elections and a report would be submitted thereafter to the Commonwealth Secretary-General.
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"The report will be sent to the Government of Nigeria, the Independent National Electoral Commission and leaders of other political parties and then to all Commonwealth Governments, before being released to the public.
"When we make our observations known, our intent is to offer constructive support to help strengthen and consolidate the democratic process in Nigeria.
"In so doing, the Commonwealth Observer Group will make recommendations to the authorities concerned on institutional, procedural and other matters as would assist the holding of such elections in the future."
Muluzi, however, said that the group would "not take the risk" in deploying members to the North-Eastern part of the country due to security concerns.
He said that the group had met with the INEC Chairman Attahiru Jega to inform the commission of the preparations it had made for covering the elections.
According to him, the group will also meet with relevant stakeholders in the coming days.