2019: Group tackles Buhari on commitment to free, fair elections

President Muhammadu Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari

“With less than seven months to the general elections, the president declared his administration considers national security superior to the rule of law.”

A civil rights group, Tap Nitiative for Citizens’ Development, has called on the federal government to avoid actions that could jeopardize the progress of Nigeria’s democracy.

The executive director of the group, Mbasekei Martin-Obono, in a statement also expressed fear that the recent remark by President Muhammadu Buhari on national security and the rule of law has added to the concerns about the president’s sincerity of purpose in the struggle to develop Nigeria’s democracy.

In the statement, the group said although Mr Buhari has stated his commitment to credible elections, the actions of the ruling All Progressives Congress leaves much to be expected in the build up the 2019 general elections.

While receiving British Prime Minister, Theresa May at the President Villa, in Abuja on August 29, Mr Buhari reiterated his administration’s commitment to a free and fair 2019 general elections, adding that the multi-party system in Nigeria is an added advantage to the nation’s growing democracy.

‘‘I assure you that I’m all out for free, fair and credible elections. I’m very pleased that my party is doing very well. The High Commissioner will brief you more. The recent successes in polls in Katsina, Bauchi, and Kogi have boosted our morale greatly.

‘‘Nigeria has accepted multiparty democracy and that is putting politicians on their toes, forcing them to work harder,’’ Mr Buhari said.

The civic group, however, alleged that Mr Buhari was paying lip service to the UK Prime Minister, since this government has also been involved in what Mr Martin-Obono describes as outright disregard for the voice of opposition.

“In the history of Nigeria, there has never been a time in our democratic journey where a government has displayed total disregard for human rights and intolerance for opposition and voice of reason.

“Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari promised the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, his administration would conduct free and fair elections. Events have shown that the president is only paying lip service to the Prime Minister as the government consistently displays a high level of intolerance towards opposition voices, civil society organizations and journalists”.

“Apart from the regular trepidation of insecurity and rigging which characterise the nature of our elections, it appears that the 2019 elections are designed to fail,” the statement said.

“With less than seven months to the general elections, the president declared his administration considers national security superior to the rule of law. This only suggests that the administration could suspend laws and rules to pave way for the ruling party in the 2019 elections.”

Mr Buhari’s comments suggesting the supremacy of national security to the rule of law has been condemned by many Nigerians including senior advocates and Nobel Laurette Wole Soyinka.

The group in its statement also noted how a presidential candidate, Rabiu Kwankwaso, was denied access to a public venue for his campaign program,e, as well as the many cases of vote buying in recent elections across the country.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how Mr Kwankwaso was denied use of the Eagle Square for a flimsy reason after being granted approval initially. He eventual had his declaration at a private hotel in Abuja.

“We have also noted with keen interest the denial of an opposition presidential candidate access to use a public venue for his presidential campaign declaration despite making payment for the venue and being issued a receipt by the facility managers.

“In the most recent elections under this administration, state resources have been used to procure votes especially in Ekiti, Imo, Edo, Bauchi among others, contrary to section 138 (1) Electoral Act 2010. The president must ensure that rules do not only apply when it comes to opposition but he must be guided by them.

“Also, elections in the north have been typified by underage voting. This is unacceptable and the government must demonstrate courage to prevent this from reoccurring in 2019.

“We are therefore calling on the government to ensure transparency in allocating public facilities in order to guarantee a free and fair election in 2019.”

The statement called on the international community to help safeguard Nigeria’s democracy and demanded immediate compliance by government to orders of court.

“We also call on friends of Nigeria and the international community to pay close attention to the 2019 general elections and help rescue Nigeria from imminent danger of an election colored with indices of unfairness and violation of rules.

“We also call on the government to obey the Federal High Court judgment pronounced by Justices Ijeoma Ojukwu and Gabriel Kolawole for the Federal Government to release Colonel Sambo Dasuki and Sheikh Ibraheem El-zakzaky respectively.

“We also call on the government to release all those being held illegally and without trial in the various State Security Services facilities across the country.

“This is the only way the government can demonstrate obedience to rule of law and democratic tenets.”


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