Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, has said pledged that the Buhari administration will guarantee free and fair elections in the country as he received the report of the European Union Observer Mission to the 2015 general elections in the country.
A delegation of the EU led by the Chief Observer, Santiago Fisas, submitted the report to him at the presidential villa.
According to the Vice President, “it is our duty to ensure that the electoral system guarantees free and fair elections, where the opposition can win if voted for by the people.”
While thanking the EU for participating actively throughout the electoral process of the country before, during and after the polls, and making useful recommendations that could improve the process, he gave the assurance that the Federal Government would study and consider the recommendations as soon as possible.
He said that while some of the recommendations require action by the National Assembly, he assured the delegation that the executive arm of government would consider the ones within its powers to implement.
Commenting on some of the recommendations of the EU Observer Mission, Osinbajo noted that the recommendation on independent candidacy was deliberated upon by the National Assembly and rejected prior to the 2015 polls but added that the issue could be re-opened following the recommendation by the EU.
He recalled that he had been active in election litigations and some of the EU recommendations on time limits for electoral petitions had been of concern, saying specifically that regarding the timing “there are huge questions around that.”
The Vice President explained that the response of the National Assembly regarding the time limits was to legislate that election petitions be completed within 180 days.
“The reaction of the National Assembly then was to fix 180 days but getting evidence alone can take six months,’’ he said.
According to Osinbajo, a lawyer who had been active in election petitions before the 2015 polls, of the many petitions he argued, the cases in Osun and Ekiti States were the defining ones.
“I litigated for three and half years before the mandate for the current governor of Osun was restored and for almost two and half years in Ekiti before the former governor, now a ministerial nominee, could regain his mandate.”
The EU observer team in its report recommended among others that the Independent National Electoral Commission should be strengthened to tackle complex electoral challenges and that a more inclusive parliamentary mechanism for cross-party involvement in the selection and approval of the INEC Chairperson and National Commissioners be adopted.
Other members of the delegation included the EU Ambassador to Nigeria, Michel Arrion, Deputy Head of EU Mission, Richard Young and Pauline Torehall, EU Mission Head of Political Section.
The Vice President said the federal government is extremely grateful for the support and great work of the EU Observer Mission.