The European Union Delegation to Nigeria and the United States of America have called on Nigeria’s security agencies to avoid actions that could jeopardise the success of next year’s general election.The warning came as campaigns for the polls officially began yesterday.

“We wish to draw particular attention to the fundamental role of the security agencies in providing a safe and secure environment for the Nigerian people to exercise their democratic rights. It is vital that security agencies act, and are seen to act, in an impartial manner that maintains the high standards of professional conduct,” said a joint statement issued in Abuja yesterday.

The Delegation and the United States said they were “gravely concerned over widespread incidents of intimidation, interference and vote buying during the recent gubernatorial elections. We were also perturbed by irregularities and violence during party primaries.” They also expressed desire for “greater participation of women, youth and people living with disabilities.”

The statement was jointly signed by various countries with missions in Nigeria including, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Australia and Austria. Others are: Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.

“We reiterate the importance of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as it fulfills its constitutional role. INEC must be allowed to operate free from outside pressure and intimidation, and in turn, must demonstrate full neutrality and professionalism. 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,” the statement added.

Back home, stakeholders at the Nigerian Satire Festival at the weekend in Abuja also tasked INEC to ensure credible polls. Speaking at the event, a former chairman of the National Electricity Regulation Commission (NERC), Sam Amadi, regretted: “The primary elections this year were nothing to write home about. There was no fairness and civility. There was no accountability. INEC has refused to use rules to shape behaviour and therefore it should be reorganised.”

The executive director of Centre for Transparency Advocacy, Chima Amadi, however admitted there has been improvement in INEC’s conduct of elections. “If you look at the value chain of our electoral process, the umpire we inherited in 1999 is not the same in terms of institutional duties that you have in 2018. INEC has improved. This made politicians to resort to vote buying because people have become impoverished. Unfortunately, there is not much INEC can do,” he explained.

But three months to the election, the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) has stirred the political waters, vowing its 8 million-strong prospective voters would cast their ballots against the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari because of the “victimization of our group and continued incarceration of our leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.”

Many IMN members have been killed in confrontation with security agencies, the most recent being the October clashes in Abuja. According to the head of IMN Resource Forum, Muhammed Ibrahim Gamawa, “We will never be comfortable with the All Progressives Congress (APC) and President Buhari. Our sect will be voting on election day and certainly we will not vote Buhari.”

On why the group was taking the position, he said: “He (Buhari) killed us. Do you want him to come back and kill us the more? We are not comfortable with Buhari. We will vote for whoever we feel will protect our rights. We will vote for someone who will keep us alive and respect our rights to worship.”Gamawa made the disclosure when he led key officials of the sect on a courtesy visit to the Abuja Bureau of The Guardian.

While APC spokesman Lanre Issa-Onilu declined to comment, a source within the party said a way would be found around the threat, adding: “The president would be re-elected because of his good works.” But reaffirming the protest against the Buhari administration, a political support group, Coalition of Saraki Advocates for Atiku (COSAA), claimed the president failed to turn Nigeria around because he surrounded himself with corrupt politicians.

The group said it has begun mobilising voters across the country and would boost the chances of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, with 36 million votes.“We are not saying Buhari should not fight corruption but he should not be selective. The time to send away APC is 2019. This should serve as a lesson that whoever fails the people by reneging on his promises would be booted out of office,” said the group’s southwest coordinator, Oba Adelusi, in Ado Ekiti, at the weekend.

The Taraba chapter of Project Save Atiku also disclosed its readiness to frustrate triumph for the APC and the United Democratic Party (UDP) in the state. Coordinator, Luka Agbu Junior, told reporters in Jalingo that Nigerians have lost confidence in the current administration. He added that the group has toured the 16 local government areas of the state and would deliver every ward to the PDP.

In preparation for the polls, the PDP urged its candidates to embrace issues-based campaigns, promote the party’s ideals, and eschew violence and acts that may heat up the polity.“We enjoin all our members, leaders, faithful and supporters to display the highest levels and examples of party discipline, decency, tolerance and be on their best behaviour, to ensure that we all embrace a credible and satisfactory campaign that will shame our detractors,” said a statement by Delta State publicity secretary Ifeanyi Michael Osuoza.

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