2015 Elections: Catholic Church to deploy 4889 observers in 23 states

John Cardinal Onaiyekan

The Catholic Church would be deploying 4889 observers in 23 States of the country for the forthcoming general elections.

The Executive Secretary of Catholic Caritas Foundation of Nigeria, Rev. Fr. Evaristus Bassey, said this during a press briefing on Friday in Abuja where he expressed fears of possible outbreak of violence.

Read full press statement below

PRESS STATEMENT URGING NIGERIANS TO PREPARE TO MITIGATE THE IMPACT OF POSSIBLE OUTBREAK OF VIOLENCE DURING THE FORTHCOMING ELECTIONS BY THE EXECUTIVE SECRETARY OF CARITAS NIGERIA AND NATIONAL SECRETARY OF JDPC EVARISTUS BASSEY, CATHOLIC SECRETARIAT OF NIGERIA ON THE 30TH OF JANUARY 2015

“Gentlemen of the Press, this press statement is being issued in my capacity as the Executive Secretary of Caritas Nigeria who is also responsible for coordinating the JDPC groups within the country. Caritas Nigeria is the relief and development agency of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria while Justice Development and Peace Committee at the national level is the advocacy organ of the Conference.

As you may know there are several forms of humanitarian crises already brewing in Nigeria: There is the silent Sahel food crisis affecting the food and nutrition needs of those states in the Sahel region like Sokoto, Kebbi, Yobe etc; there is the post-flood humanitarian crisis, with many still to recover their livelihoods even after billions of naira were collected; there is the potential Niger Delta crisis which could erupt anytime, and there is the mother of all humanitarian crises caused by Boko Haram which has led to the greatest displacements and miseries since the civil war.

On top of all these are the potential dangers and humanitarian emergencies that may arise because of the already charged presidential elections. From our discussions with our partners in some parts of the country, the certain towns and cities are already so charged that potentially lives and properties are not safe, depending on the outcome of the elections.

It does appear that a predetermined outcome for the elections is demanded by some groups that no matter how free and fair it is, if it does not suit them, they would resort to violence that could lead to loss of lives.

Consequently at a Contingency Planning meeting for possible elections violence attended by JDPC representatives from volatile states, we resolved the following:

Preventive Measures:

 Church and Mosque leaders should intensify sensitization of their members to avoid violence whatever the outcome of the elections

 Clergymen themselves must avoid being inciting and partisan during their sermons

 Clergymen should admonish their members against inciting and abusive language in the social media

 Traditional leaders should hold meetings with youth leaders on the need for peaceful conduct during and after the elections

 Parents and elderly relatives should call their wards and warn them not to be used as instruments of violence by politicians

 Citizens should be aware that during voting there will be a card reader that would match the thump print on the permanent voter card with that of the holder; it is therefore useless to collect other people’s voter cards

 Citizens should not rely on the assurances of security agencies alone, as the scale of violence, if it happens, may overwhelm their capacity, and therefore must be extra vigilant

 Citizens must pray against violence. On this note the JDPCs will be holding prayer rallies across five geo-political zones, except for the North East.

B. In the Case of a Possible outbreak of Violence we advise the following:

 Citizens in volatile places should stock essential commodities in case shops are not open for days

 Citizens should by now make arrangements for safe havens in case they have to escape from their homes; and those who can, should move their families from volatile areas, as the right to life is stronger than the right to vote

 After voting, although they could stay back to observe the counting, we advise ordinary citizens in volatile places to go home, and allow politicians to sort themselves out. The Catholic Church is deploying 4889 observers in 23 States, these observers will also stay back to observe to the end.

 We advise churches and mosques to set aside some funds to deal with possible humanitarian crises that may arise, to complement government effort which often times is inadequate and therefore unreliable; especially with the experience of the current IDPs situation. After more than four years of a humanitarian crisis caused by Boko Haram we should be more proficient in handling these things but government is still dropping items and going away. Up till now no proper camps.

Finally we advise Nigerians to know that politicians are all the same. If APC, everyone will move there and if PDP wins, they will move back to PDP, so it is not worth it destroying property and or especially destroying lives just because one set of politicians have lost elections.”


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