*Seek implementation of amended ‘Electoral Act as soon as possible’.
By Temitope Ponle
The international community has urged the Nigerian authorities and politicians to allow Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) free hand to conduct next year’s general elections.
“INEC must be allowed to operate free from outside pressure and intimidation, and in turn must demonstrate full neutrality and professionalism”, it said. The countries made this known in a statement in Abuja on Sunday.
They comprise the European Union delegation to Nigeria, France, Germany, UK, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden.
Others are the U.S., Australia, Japan, Netherlands, Norway and Republic of Korea.
They reiterated the importance of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as it fulfils its constitutional role.
“At the beginning of the 2019 electoral campaign, we would like to reiterate our strong commitment to support democracy in Nigeria.
“As friends of Nigeria and its people, we will follow the campaigns and election process closely.
“Who wins the elections is for the Nigerian people to decide. Our concern is to see a process leading to free, fair, transparent and peaceful elections.
“We hope to see transparent campaigns and we urge all voters to use their democratic right and vote.
“We are particularly keen to see greater participation of women, youth and people living with disabilities.”
They expressed concerns over widespread incidents of intimidation, interference and vote-buying during the recent governorship elections and irregularities and violence during party primaries.
They further urged all political and non-political actors to refrain from using hate speech and to take a firm stance against violence.
“The 2015 Peace Accords played an important role in that regard and we welcome new efforts towards that end.”
“We encourage that adequate funding is swiftly facilitated for INEC and supporting institutions, and we hope to see the entry into force of improvements to the Electoral Act as soon as possible.”
They urged security agencies to provide a safe and secure environment in an impartial manner for Nigerians to exercise their democratic rights.
“We strongly support the principle of media freedom and the vital role the independent media plays in ensuring informed public debate.
“We also stress the importance of balanced, neutral and non-defamatory coverage.”
In a related development, the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR) also called for all electoral processes before, during and after the elections to be free, fair, credible and peaceful.
The institute made the appeal in a statement signed by Mr Abu Michael for the Acting Director-General.
He urged politicians to “exhibit high sense of forbearance and love for the country” by avoiding the use of hate speech and actions that may be counterproductive during the campaigns.
“It is incumbent on all the politicians particularly, the flag bearers of the various political parties to educate their supporters on the significance of peace and also ensure that they are peaceful in all their conducts during the campaign period.”
He also urged the youth not to allow themselves be used by “selfish politicians as thugs” and the media to report responsibly and remain impartial.
He further called for the neutrality of the electoral body and security agencies during the election process
“Therefore, the police and other security agencies should ensure the protection of everyone during the period of campaigns and within the ambits of the law, must not hesitate to bring to book bad elements that may jeopardise electoral process.”