Nigeria Presidential and National Assembly Elections

Cover image of Nigeria COG report

In line with the provisions of the 2018 Revised Commonwealth Guidelines for the Conduct of Election Observation in Member Countries, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, constituted an Observer Group for the 25 February 2023 presidential and National Assembly elections in Nigeria, following an invitation from the Chair of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The Commonwealth Observer Group was led by His Excellency Thabo Mbeki, former President of the Republic of South Africa, and comprised 16 other eminent Commonwealth citizens. A staff team of 11 from the Commonwealth Secretariat provided technical support to the Group.

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The Commonwealth Observer Group was present in Nigeria from 18 February to 2 March 2023. In carrying out its Terms of Reference, it was briefed on the preparations and the political environment ahead of the elections by INEC, senior government officials, the Inspector General of Police and police management, representatives of political parties, international observers, the media, members of the Commonwealth diplomatic corps and civil society organisations representing citizen observers, women, persons with disabilities (PWDs) and youth.

Given the inherently complex and multi-phased nature of elections, observers assessed the broader political, legal and human rights landscape in which the administration of the elections took place. As such, the Group considered a wide array of factors affecting the credibility, transparency and inclusivity of the Nigerian general elections, including the protection of fundamental political and human rights, such as freedom of expression and assembly; institutional independence and capacity; the right to vote and stand for election; the equality of the vote; media freedoms and campaign coverage; the role of and freedoms of civil society; and the inclusion of women, youth, PWDs and other marginalised groups. In considering these elements, the Group formed a nuanced view of the entire electoral process in order to be able to provide targeted and context-specific recommendations.

The 2023 elections took place against a challenging security backdrop, with the country continuing to face numerous threats within its borders. These included secessionists in the South and South East, as well as Islamic insurgency that, since the election in 2019, had spread beyond the North West towards other parts of the country. Crime and banditry continued to be a pervasive challenge. The country was also experiencing economic hardship as a result of rising living costs, food insecurity, low oil production and a stalled post-Covid economic recovery