Live up to expectation, Commonwealth observers tell INEC

Four days to the presidential election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has reiterated the commitment of the electoral body to conducting a free, fair and credible exercise. INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, reechoed this yesterday when he received the Commonwealth Observer Mission to Nigeria in his office.

Leader of the Mission and former President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, during the meeting with Yakubu, along with some National Commissioners in Abuja, said Nigeria is a very important country for the Commonwealth and they are hopeful the elections will be peaceful, credible and all-inclusive.

The Commonwealth delegation is in Nigeria, as one of the foreign observer groups that will monitor the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly polls in the country. This is the seventh election the Mission would be observing in Nigeria.

Stating the purpose of the visit, the former South Africa President said the meeting would afford the delegation an opportunity to hear from the electoral umpire, especially on preparations thus far.

According to him, the mission will write a report based on their observations and possibly make recommendations as well. Mbeki added that the success of the polls depend on the activities of INEC. He, therefore, stressed the need for INEC to live up to the expectations of Nigerians and the international community in its conduct of the February 25 and March 11 general elections.

On his part, Yakubu stressed the importance that INEC attaches to the observations of the Commonwealth Observer Mission in the past. He explained that some of the recommendations in the past have led to improvements, including the deployment of technologies by the Commission.

Earlier, the Commonwealth of Nations had announced its impartiality ahead of the polls after deploying a monitoring team of 16 high-calibre officers from various member nations, including politicians, diplomats, and experts in law, human rights, gender equality, and election administration.

The team is set to provide an independent assessment of the electoral process, and its findings will be communicated through a preliminary statement on February 27.

Mbeki, while addressing newsmen in a press conference, described the election as Africa’s largest democratic exercise, adding that the outcome will be significant not only for Nigeria, but also for the entire continent. He urged all stakeholders to uphold their commitment to ensuring a peaceful and inclusive election.

“Our mandate is to observe and assess the pre-election period, activities on polling day and the post-election period. Throughout, we will consider all factors relating to the credibility of the electoral process. We will assess whether the elections are conducted according to the standards for democratic elections to which Nigeria has committed itself,” Mbeki said.

“As we undertake this assessment and conduct our duties, we will be objective, independent, and impartial.” An estimated 93.4 million registered voters will have the right to cast ballots for presidential and National Assembly candidates in 176,846 polling units across Nigeria.

Following the elections, Mbeki said the group will submit its recommendations in a report to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland KC.

“She will forward the report to the Government of Nigeria, the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission, leadership of political parties taking part in the elections and all Commonwealth governments. The report will be made public afterwards,” he added.

ALSO, the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI), yesterday, announced the deployment of a joint international election observation mission (IEOM) to Nigeria.

The 40-member delegation, comprising political and civic leaders, election experts, and regional specialists from 20 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America, received accreditation from INEC to observe the February 25 polls.

The delegation is led by former President of Malawi, Dr. Joyce Banda. She will be joined by President and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars, Ambassador Mark Green; former Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, Ambassador Johnnie Carson; IRI Board Member, Constance Berry Newman; NDI Board Member, Stacey Abrams; among others.

Banda said: “We are here to show our support for, and solidarity with Nigerian democrats. These elections are of tremendous significance for the country and the region as a whole. I encourage all voters to participate and make their voices heard through the ballot box.”

IRI and NDI have deployed international election observation missions to every general election in Nigeria since its 1999 transition from military to civilian democratic rule.

NDI President, Ambassador Derek Mitchell, and IRI President, Dr. Daniel Twining, will also participate in the mission.On Election Day, IRI/NDI will visit polling stations in 20 states across all six geopolitical regions of Nigeria to observe the various aspects of the elections and the administration of the poll, including the opening, voting, tabulation, transmission and publication of results.

THIS is coming as the United States Embassy in Nigeria has issued an advisory to its citizens in the country, alerting them on possible violence ahead of the elections.

In a notice on its website, titled ‘Possible Protests Leading to Elections and Restricted Movements on Election Days – February 25 and March 11’ the embassy urged its citizens to avoid rallies as “they can turn violent with little or no notice.”

Stating that movements will be restricted during the period, the advisory further stated that citizens should have food and water supply for at least three days at home, in case movements are restricted beyond election days.

“The Government of Nigeria will restrict the movement of all personal vehicles on election days across the country. Information from government indicates that only law enforcement personnel and INEC-accredited election observers will be allowed to move freely along the roads.”

The advisory added: “Have three days of food and water in your residence in case movement restrictions are extended beyond election day; have a pre-packed bag that contains your travel documents, medications, toiletries, cash and clothes in case you need to relocate from your residence; avoid large crowds. Be aware of your surroundings; review your personal security plans; keep your cell phone charged in case of emergency and monitor local media for updates.”

THE Nigerian military and intelligence high command has vowed to give a bloody nose to thugs and troublemakers during the election billed for Saturday. Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, also assured that both military and intelligence community are ready for the election.

Irabor, who spoke with newsmen after an expansive meeting with Service Chiefs and Nigeria’s intelligence agencies, said: “We have just finished a meeting with the service chiefs, the IGP, the DG-DSS represented by the director of operations, the DG-NIA and the CDI and we have compared notes and assess the entire situations and we are good to go.

“The assessment is that we are set on all fronts, we equally got representation from the INEC chairman who of course you have interacted with, who has also told Nigerians and the world that they are ready for elections.

“So by and large, we are good to go and I like to use this opportunity to assure Nigerians that on the security front, we are good to go in all fronts. Trouble makers better have a rethink because they will have a bloody nose.”
THE Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC), yesterday, said about 1.8 billion litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) is being stocked for the months of February and March.

With lingering scarcity of the product, INEC had raised concerns over the impact of the scarcity on the election. But NNPC in a release, yesterday, noted that the current stock would suffice for 42 days, adding that concerted efforts were made to sustain the supply of petroleum products nationwide.

According to the state oil firm, the country has a total of 1.805 billion litres of PMS stock, representing 805.35 million litres in all the land depots nationwide and 1,000.20 million litres on marine vessels, which is equivalent to 30.09 days sufficiency.

An additional PMS supply of 884 million liters is also expected into the country by February 28, Chief Corporate Communications Officer, NNPC Limited, Garba Deen Muhammad, said.

The company noted that in March, a total of 2.3 billion litres of PMS is expected into the country, while about 2.5 billion litres, which is equivalent to 42 days sufficiency, will be the closing stock for the month under review.

MEANWHILE, in a last attempt push, chairman of the Southern Governors’ Forum (SGF) and governor of Ondo State, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, yesterday, insisted that the push for Southern presidency was for fairness and equity.

While arguing that a Northerner has spent eight years in the saddle, Akeredolu insisted that it is the turn of the South to produce the next president.
The governor, who spoke during a meeting with stakeholders in his hometown of Owo, headquarters of Owo Council, highlighted the benefits of electing the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, as the next president.

The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), also insisted on its endorsement of the Labour Party (LP) presidential candidate, Peter Obi, dismissing reported rejection of Obi’s endorsement by a purported youth wing of the forum.

A statement by PANDEF spokesman, Ken Robinson, said: “For the avoidance of doubt, PANDEF stands by the endorsement of Obi by our national leader and elder statesman, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, and the affirmation by the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF), done in Abuja, on February 2, 2023. Without equivocation, PANDEF’s endorsement of Peter Obi is sacrosanct.