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Nigeria must succeed with 2023 polls, UN scribe warns

• Charges NBA to ensure success of general elections
• NBA apologises to Nigerians for neglecting role
• Polls must hold as scheduled, Afenifere insists
• Warns against use of court to abort exercise
• EU deploys 100 observers to monitor elections
• Shari’ah Council fears staggered polls may instigate violence
• Utomi: INEC must pass confidence test, tackle under-age voting, vote buying
As Nigerians countdown to the presidential polls, which will hold in the next 25 days, the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) and Chair of the UN Sustainable Group, Ms Amina J. Mohammed, has warned that Nigeria cannot afford to fail with the 2023 general elections.

She also urged the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to ensure success of the polls.

Mohammed stated this, yesterday, in her keynote address delivered at the State of the Nation Dialogue on Security, Economy and Administration of Justice, organised by NBA in Abuja, urging the association to come up with how to effectively manage conflicts that may arise from the conduct of the elections.
with the biggest ports and security anchor for our neighbouring countries, Nigeria cannot simply afford to fail. UN will support any process that will lead to credible, all-inclusive, free and fair general elections. UN is committed to accompanying Nigeria on this journey.
And NBA has a huge role to play to advance the country’s aspiration towards 2023 general elections.”

She said the UN has observed fake news, religious and ethnic hate speeches trailing the ongoing campaigns.

Speaking to the audience via a live broadcast, Mohammed applauded the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for achieving great strides in increasing the credibility and transparency of the electoral process.

“The increase in the registration of voters is encouraging and shows Nigerians are enthusiastic of the electoral process,” she said.

However, Mohammed said the UN “continues to witness attack on electoral institutions, fake news, hate speeches based on religious and ethnic identities since the political campaigns began.”

She also made a case for increase in the number of women in politics of the country, while frowning on the near alienation of women and youths. She said equal participation is crucial for development.

She said: “Nigeria’s population is young and talented and yet, they are not heard from. Seventy per cent of the population is under the age of 30, yet they are also not represented and often not included as active participants in decision making.

“My sincere hope is that this can be turned around to build more equal and just society. Nigerian women constitute only 3.6 per cent of the national parliament and none is 35 years of age or younger. My appeal is to prioritise gender equality, women’s right and increase the number of women in government.”

NBA President, Yakubu Maikyau (SAN), in his speech, apologised to Nigerians for what he described as the failure of lawyers to live up to their responsibilities of offering guidance for the country’s advancement.

Maikyau said most of the challenges facing Nigerians were as a result of the neglect of lawyers to provide direction and leadership to the people.

“I dare say, with utmost respect, that to a large extent, our experience today as a country is a direct result of the legal profession’s abdication of the duty to provide direction and leadership to the people. I must, therefore, as one who is privileged to lead the Bar at this time, apologise to Nigerians for the abdication of our role.
“Today, as members of the Bar, we are reputed more for how much fees we charge our clients as opposed to the discharge of our primary call to offer guidance and/or offer ourselves for the advancement of the cause of our country. This apology is necessary because, no other group of professionals is called to this privileged position as the lawyers,” he said.

As the watchdog of the people, he added that NBA members must, through their independence and total commitment to social justice, provide necessary support to sustain independent and fearless judiciary, the last hope of man for law and order, peace and progress.
Members of a panel of discussion moderated by Eugenia Abu on the ‘State of Human and State Security in Nigeria: Is there a way out?’ lamented the security challenges in the country, even as they held that the security of life and property is the responsibility of government.

A former Inspector General of Police and Chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC), Dr. Solomon Arase, a member of the panel, in his comment, called for increase in the numerical strength of security agents, adding that when there is consequence for crime, there will be deterrent.

Present at the NBA dialogue were presidential candidates of Action Alliance (AA), Maj. Al-Mustapha Hamza (rtd); Sani Yabaji Yusuf of Action Democratic Party (ADP); Prof. Peter Umeadi of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA); Omoyele Sowore of African Action Congress (AAC); Prince Adewole Adebayo of Social Democratic Party (SDP); Dumebi Kachikwu of African Democratic Congress (ADC) and Nwanyanwu Daniel Daberechukwu of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).

THE pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, yesterday, called on government and all stakeholders to ensure that there is no change in this year’s elections and handing-over date on May 29. This was contained in a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Jare Ajayi, in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.
According to Ajayi, the need to reiterate the sacrosanct nature of February/March elections became imperative partly due to the alarm note sounded by the spokesman of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Dr. Hakeem Baba-Hamed, on possibility of using the court to thwart the electoral process, as well as difficulties being inflicted on Nigerians through the naira swap policy and fuel scarcity, whose consequences may be used as excuse to jeopardise the ongoing civil rule.

Ajayi said: “The contrived pains can be seen in the unabated insecurity, heightened difficulties in getting fuel, in getting new naira notes and in getting other energy sources such as electricity, gas, kerosene and diesel. If the difficulties being experienced in these areas continue and Nigerians begin to react, their (peaceful) expression of frustration may be used as an excuse to want to tinker with the democratic experiment going on. Such would not be acceptable in any way.”

Recall that Baba-Ahmed, at the weekend, said there were insinuations that the elections might not hold “and some kind of unconstitutional contraption may be forced on Nigerians after May this year.”

The Afenifere spokesman stated that the organisation is on the same page with ACF in its warning that “Nigerians will not accept to live under any arrangement that offends the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Afenifere further called on the judiciary not to allow itself to be used to imperil democracy through unhelpful and frivolous litigations such as the one brought by one Chief Ambrose Albert Owuru wanting to stop the forthcoming presidential election.

“Luckily, the case, which was heard by Justice Inyang Edem Ekwo of a Federal High Court in Abuja was dismissed on Monday,” he added.

But dissatisfied with the idea of staggered elections, the Supreme Council for Shari’ah in Nigeria (SCSN) has asked the Federal Government to prevail on INEC to hold all the forthcoming polls in one day, while expressing fears that violence may mar the staggered general elections.

The Council said that violence might be imminent because some desperate politicians are already warming up to cause crisis to stop the elections, knowing that they may lose the contests.
Addressing a press conference in Kaduna, the Secretary General of the Council, Nafi’u Baba-Ahmed, said: “A security source confirmed to the Council that security agencies may not be able to withstand the looming political violence.”

According to the him, “there is high probability of the second election not holding because of violence from the first election. The first election is the presidential and National Assembly elections. Our fear is that in the light of precarious security situation in the country and the admission by security agencies that they are overstretched, it is quite possible, in fact highly probable, that some desperate politicians who might lose the election will trigger political violence to the extent that the subsequent elections may not hold.”

PROF. Pat Utomi, Convener, Big Tent Coalition for Obi-Datti Presidential Ticket, said INEC must ensure the elections are devoid of child voting and vote buying. The political economist stated this in Lagos at a news briefing to flag-off the Big Tent Door-to-Door Campaign nationwide for the Labour Party presidential candidate, Mr Peter Obi.

Utomi said INEC must use the general elections as opportunity to redeem its image. He noted that trust deficit in the relationship between INEC and the Nigerian people had haunted the legitimacy of elections conducted so far.

He said that INEC should put its integrity to bear by conducting credible election and ensuring that under-aged children were not allowed to vote as witnessed in previous elections in parts of Nigeria.

Utomi noted that stopping under-aged voting was easy with introduction of the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) that would make it impossible for children below the age of 18 to vote
“Election monitors should look out for under-aged voters and call INEC’s attention to it for verification,” he said.

AHEAD the elections, the European Union (EU) has deployed 40 foreign observers and another 60 local observers to monitor the polls. The Chief Observer of the European Union Election Observations Mission (EU-EOM), Andrew Barry, during a press conference, in Abuja, revealed that they are in the country following invitation from INEC.

He said 11 experts with competences in various aspects of election arrived the country three weeks ago, including political, legal and election analysts, observer coordinator, data and media analysts, press officer and social media analyst.”

He revealed that for the first time, the mission has a dedicated election technology analyst to assess the use of technologies, especially in verification of votes and the transmission of result.

Barry stated that during the election, the EU-EOM would be observing and assessing the legal framework and its implementation, the impartiality and performance of the election administration, the degree of an open and fairly contested campaign and campaign finances, among others.

Other areas the delegation would be observing include the role of state institutions and civil society, the universal franchise afforded to voters, especially to women, youth and vulnerable groups, conduct of the media, including social media, access by political parties and candidates to state and private media.

The Guardian Online


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