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Distinguished Observer Delegation to Monitor Nigeria Election

A 40-member delegation of political leaders, voting experts and regional observers from Africa and other continents is expected to begin arriving within days to monitor next month’s state, parliamentary, and presidential elections in Nigeria.

The distinguished panel, sponsored by the National Democratic Institute (NDI), is being led by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

It also includes former Canadian Prime Minister Joe Clark, two former African presidents, Mahamane Ousmane of Niger and Amos Sawyer of Liberia, South African Constitutional Justice Yvonne Mokgoro, and attorney Beverly Baker-Kelly with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. NDI local observers based in other African countries have already begun setting up monitoring operations in Nigeria.

They will observe the campaigning period in the country’s six geopolitical zones for both the April 14 state legislature and gubernatorial elections and the April 21 National Assembly and presidential votes. NDI president Kenneth Wollack says that the team recognizes that this is the first time a Nigerian civilian regime will be handing over power to another elected civilian administration.

“It not only represents an important event for the Nigerian people, but will certainly have impact on political development throughout the region,” he said.

In the past month, Nigeria’s courts have been trying to resolve serious constitutional and legal questions between candidates and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over who has the authority to qualify and disqualify candidates. NDI leader Wollack says his delegation will respect the country’s institutions and leave such decisions up to the jurisdiction of the Nigerian courts.

“We’re not going to interfere in the process that is now in the legal system in Nigeria, but without prejudging what the decisions the courts may make, the court has, I think, enjoyed the confidence of the Nigerian people, and the role that the court and the legislature have played in recent months has been quite positive. And international observers will look at all of these issues – the pre-election environment, the campaign period, and election day and the counting of the ballots, and the adjudication of the complaint process,” he said.

Wollack says the observer team will try to review the entire scope of Nigeria’s electoral process after monitoring each of its aspects as they unfold.

“This is not just an election day effort. This is an effort to try to observe the entire process. But the delegation like this does not come to any conclusions until the entire process is over,” he said.