Dr Christopher Fomunyoh, NDI Regional Director for Central and West Africa, made this known at a news briefing in Abuja on Friday.
Fomunyoh said the delegation came to assess current political and electoral environment, preparations, and make recommendations in the build-up to 2019.
He said that the delegation met with senior officials of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), leaders of political parties, civil organisations, media and senior government officials.
He said the delegation also watched the voting process in Ekiti gubernatorial election and deeply appreciated Nigerians for sharing their views.
“The delegation notes that the 2019 presidential race and other polls in the states will likely be closely contested and take place against the backdrop of shifting political alliances and significant security concerns,
“It also heard repeated frustrations about the continued role that money plays in Nigerian politics, from how candidates are selected to how parties seek to influence voters.
“Nigerians with whom the delegation met also voiced concerns about the state of insecurity in parts of the county and how that could impact negatively on the elections.
“Nigeria faces security challenges from a number of non-state actors that if unchecked could disrupt the electoral process, Boko Haram continues to carry out terrorist attacks on communities in the North-East.’’
Fomunyoh said that terrorists attacks, clashes between pastoralists and farmers were on the rise and the conflicts were further exacerbated by illicit trade in weapons and stolen cattle by criminals.
He said that the inability of security forces to quell this inter-communitarian violence, given political and religious overtones, if not addressed, could erode confidence in government.
He said that persistent insecurity and violence had led to high numbers of internally displaced persons in the North-East and Middle Belt that could pose specific challenges for the conduct of elections.
Mr Jan Surotchak, IRI Regional Director for Europe, said many Nigerians who interfaced with the delegation expressed frustration with political parties that seemed as personality-driven and lacking in internal democracy.
Surotchak said that squabbles over selection of convention delegates and leadership in the states generated tensions within parties.
He said that party primaries ahead of 2019 would soon commence and should candidates be imposed by party leaders through undemocratic means, such actions could lead to fragmentation and violence and could alienate voters.
He said that high cost of politicking and opaque candidate selection processes were particularly challenging for women, youths and persons with disabilities to overcome.
Surotchak noted that Nigeria had one of the lowest levels of women in elected office within West Africa.
Surotchak said that the inclusion of youths, women and persons with disabilities would facilitate the emergence of broad range of new leaders to reflect the ingenuity and dynamism of the Nigerian population.
He said that the Ekiti election witnessed vote buying thus some Nigerians expressed concerns to the delegation about the increase on its visibility .
He said that vote buying was an electoral offence which undermined the legitimacy of elections and weakened representative democracy.
He said that the lack of enforcement or punishments for this electoral offence had allowed the practice to persist and grow` `Vote buying is a frightening development in elections.’’
Surotchak called for a check on the social media ahead of 2019, adding that Nigerians told the delegation that the platform was already rift with politically-related content.
He said that hate speech and the denigration of opponents could heighten tensions and increase potential for election-related violence.
He said there was need to allay the fears of Nigerians on the persisting insecurity and the threat of violence as these could dampen citizen participation in 2019.
He said the delegation highlighted its observations so as create awareness on the possible issues that could hamper election in the country and make plans to avert it ahead of 2019.
He said that these issues when adhered to and addressed would boost citizens’ confidence in the election and strengthen democracy.
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