The international community has admonished the federal government to allow the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) free hand in the preparations and conduct of the 2019 general elections.
The charge came yesterday from the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK), France, Germany, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, and Denmark.
Others were Finland, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, and Sweden
In a statement issued on behalf of the listed countries yesterday by the Public Affairs Section of the US Diplomatic Mission to Nigeria, titled: “Statement on the Occasion of the Beginning of the 2019 Election Campaigns,” it stressed the need for the federal government to allow INEC to be truly independent.
The delegation also urged the federal government to allow free, fair and credible polls in 2019 even as it expressed serious concerns over the widespread cases of intimidation, interference and vote-buying during the recent governorship elections in some states of the federation.
The joint statement reads in part: “We reiterate the importance of the Independent National Electoral Commission 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.
“We were also perturbed by irregularities and violence during party primaries, and noted with particular concern that several women candidates were disenfranchised.
“We urge all involved – political and non-political actors – to refrain from using hate speech and 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 were gravely concerned over widespread incidents of intimidation, interference and vote-buying during the recent gubernatorial elections.”
The delegation said that the fundamental role of the security agencies is providing a safe and secure environment for the Nigerians to exercise their democratic rights, adding that it is vital that security agencies act, and are seen to act, in an impartial manner that maintains the high standards of professional conduct.
According to delegation, “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.
“We strongly support the principle of media freedom and the vital role the independent media play in ensuring informed public debate. We also stress the importance of balanced, neutral and non-defamatory coverage.”
The delegation, however, urged the federal government and its people to consolidate and deepen democracy, building on the standards set in 2015.
It said at the beginning of the 2019 electoral campaign, the delegation would like to reiterate “strong commitment to supporting democracy in Nigeria, adding that 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,” the delegation said.