The Commonwealth of Nations on Monday assured of its neutrality in the forthcoming elections as it deployed its monitoring team.
The Commonwealth Election Monitoring Team comprises 16 high-calibre officers from different member nations including politicians, diplomats and experts in law, human rights, gender equality and election administration.
The leader of the team and former President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, at a press conference in Abuja, described the elections as Africa’s largest democratic exercise.
According to him, the election outcome would be significant, not only for Nigeria but also for the entire continent.
The CEMT pledged to provide an impartial and independent assessment of the electoral process, which it said, would be communicated through a preliminary statement on February 27.
Mbeki said, “We, therefore, urge all stakeholders in Nigeria to uphold their commitment to ensuring a peaceful and inclusive election in which the people of Nigeria are able to freely exercise their right to vote, with the fundamental freedoms of expression, association and assembly fully respected.
“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 process. We will assess whether the elections are conducted according to the standards for democratic elections to which Nigeria has committed itself.
“As we undertake this assessment and conduct our duties, we will be objective, independent and impartial.”
He said that in the coming days, the group would receive briefings from the electoral authorities, political parties, the media and civil society groups representing women, youth and people with disabilities to enable the CEMT to understand better the situation within the country ahead of the elections.
As of February 2023, an estimated 93.4 million registered voters will have the right to cast ballots for presidential and national assembly candidates in 176,846 polling units across Nigeria.
“Following the elections, the group will submit its recommendations in a report to Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC.
“She will forward the report to the Government of Nigeria, the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission, the leadership of political parties taking part in the elections and all Commonwealth governments. The report will be made public afterwards,” he added.