2019: Nigeria’s Elders, Leaders Desire Credible Polls

By RAZAQ BAMIDELE

The Forum of Elders and Leaders in Nigeria has reviewed the current state of preparations for credible elections due to hold  in February 2019, and is concerned that a number of unresolved issues may pose serious challenges to the organization of the elections and the desire for a free, fair and credible exercise.

The issues, according to a statement were itemised as follows:

(i) Funding of the Independent National a Electoral Commission (INEC)

 Approval and release of funds to INEC to organize the elections are tied up in disputes  and bickering between the executive and legislative arms over levels and sources of funding. These disputes may be resolved at a period that will represent a major challenge for preparations by INEC. There are also issues related to funding the participation of security agencies in the elections that are yet to be addressed.

The Forum, therefore appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari and the leadership of the National Assembly to resolve all matters related to the funding of INEC without further rancour, in the national interest.

ii) Amendment of the Electoral Act

 Arguments over the final version of the amended Electoral Act are wasteful and damaging to the prospects for the conduct of credible elections. The Forum is aware that all matters related to the amendments have been resolved, and is worried over exchanges that question the commitment of leaders to the national interest.

The Forum also appealed to our leaders to demonstrate the highest levels of maturity and responsibility in concluding all matters related to the amendment of the Electoral Act. The President should not withhold further assent now that the National Assembly is reported to have addressed his concerns.

iii)  Reconvening the National Assembly

The Forum is concerned that unhealthy partisan interests may threaten an orderly and responsible operation of the National Assembly when it reconvenes after its current recess. Critical legislative activities, such as approval of the funding requirement of INEC and the Electoral Act  are therefore at threat of smooth and orderly .The Forum notes that the above mentioned legislative activities require very high levels of discipline and commitment to the nation’s interest for their proper and timely conclusion .

The Forum therefore appealed to all leaders on both arms of government to resist the temptation to put  their partisan consideration above national interests in matters related to the orderly and responsible conduct of the National Assembly, especially at this critical time. Nigerians are closely following these trends and will not tolerate untoward act by any politician who puts the forthcoming election in jeopardy in the name of partisan or personal advantages.

iv) Vote Buying

  The  Forum notes that the recent alarming  and fast spread of vote buying at polling centers represents a very unfortunate and audacious  assault on the electoral process. If this alarming practice is not dealt with decisively and comprehensively, there will be no hope that the 2019 elections will reflect the will of the people.

While we commend the decision by INEC that voters will no longer be allowed to use smartphones from the moment they collect their ballot papers and drop them in the boxes, we believe dealing with this matter at the voter’s level is not enough to curb this crime. We should go further to treat this serious infraction with all the sanctions it requires .

 The Forum finally appealed to all concerned, principally Mr. President, the National Assembly, INEC, Security agencies, C.S.Os and the international community to collaborate and find immediate and effective solutions to this audious threat.

The statement was jointly signed by, Chief Ayo Adebanjo (Afenifere), Prof Ango Abdullahi, (NEF), Chief John Nnia Nwodo (Ohanaeze), Chief Edwin K, Clark (PANDEF) and Dr Pogu Bitrus (Middle Belt Forum).

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