Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), has urged universities across the country and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to do the “right thing” by granting students a one-week break to participate fully in the forthcoming general elections.
Speaking during a meeting with observers from the European Union, Election Observation Mission (EU-EOM) in Abuja on Monday, Mr Obi expressed concerns that over three million Nigerian students who are eligible to vote might not be able to exercise their constitutional right of electing their leaders if they are not encouraged.
He hinted that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and university authorities should grant students at least a week’s break to enable eligible students to participate in the election process because the election is about young people.
“I am sure INEC will do the right thing. I am sure the universities will give them the break to go and vote. It is important because it is about their future. This election is about these young people and I’m sure they will allow them to go and vote. We will continue to mention it to them as we go along,” he said.
Mr Obi also expressed worries over the inability of some Nigerians who are still experiencing difficulty retrieving their Permanent Voters Card (PVC), particularly in Lagos State.
On Monday, PREMIUM TIMES reported how Nigerians across the country are going through harrowing experiences to collect PVCs.
“For me now, what is important is ensuring that people collect their PVCs. There are some areas where people are still complaining that they are being denied their PVCs for one reason or the other,” Mr Obi said.
“INEC must give them (PVC collectors facing difficulties) attention. But I must give INEC credit for extending the date for the collection of PVC but again I urge them to ensure that people collect their PVC.
“This election is very important to Nigerians. It is an existential election. We want all those that have registered to participate.”
In his remarks, Labour Party National Chairman, Julius Abure, said: “It is the young ones that bear the brunt of maladministration, so this election is about them.”
He explained that when the voter registration process was ongoing, most of the university students were at home and they did their registration at home.
However, the party chairman said the students are in school and if they remain in school during the election, it means they will be denied the opportunity to vote.
“So we are asking that a one-week break should be given as a holiday to enable them to go and vote. You would have excluded them if they have their PVC and are not in the place where they can use it to vote,” Mr Abure said.
The party chairman also raised concerns about the lingering insecurity in the country.
He said: “Generally, the country is insecure. We want the security to improve before and during the election because if security is not guaranteed we may have a situation where legitimate voters may be afraid to come out on the election days to vote.”
Based on this, he said there must be assurances that security situations will improve in parts of the country.
“We have had situations where the security agencies are being used to rig elections or create an enabling environment for elections to be manipulated or in some cases facilitate vote buying,” Mr Abure said.
Earlier, the EU-EOM Chief Observer, Barry Andrews, told the party leaders that their visit was to facilitate interactions with leading presidential candidates and other stakeholders in the forthcoming February 25 presidential election.
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He said: “It is part of our work, we are having meetings with all the stakeholders in this very important election here in Nigeria. We have met with important participants including the Labour Party today. We also met with APC and PDP candidates.
“What we are doing is trying to develop a picture of transparency, inclusivity and credibility of the election. And we will report that, two days after the election, in a preliminary report in a press conference on the 27th of February.
“We are in the very early stages. We have been meeting and people have a collective sense of deepening the very root of democracy and we think we can play a part but we won’t be making any conclusion until after the election.”
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