Catholic Bishops Mixed Reactions on Election

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Lucius Ugorji

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Catholic Bishops are not happy with the hitches encountered during the presidential and National Assembly election on March 28, but they have commended Nigerians for their patience and peaceful conduct

By Maureen Chigbo  |  Apr. 6, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT  |

THE Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, CBCN, an a religious body with 56 ecclesiastical jurisdictions has lauded Nigerians for conducting themselves well during the March 28 general elections. It has also frowned at the Independent National Electoral Commission’s, INEC, inability to provide identity cards for the church’s observers to enable them monitor the elections all over the country. In its preliminary statement on the conduct of presidential and National Assembly elections made available to Realnews, the Catholic Bishops congratulated Nigerians for generally conducting themselves peacefully during the elections, for their patience and resilience even into the next day. “Hopefully the result will reflect the true choices Nigerians have made. We use this opportunity and counsel all parties concerned with the collation of results to allow for the sovereignty of the people as expressed in the ballot box,” it said.

However, the CBCN said with regards the 2015 election, the Catholic Bishops received accreditation for JDPC, under the auspices of Caritas Nigeria, its relief and development agency. “Contrary to expectations, INEC could not fulfill its obligation of providing enough identity cards to all the approved list of observers, in spite of the extension of six weeks. For instance, whereas in Lagos State the JDPC planned to deploy 697 observers, as already approved by INEC, INEC could only provide 160 identity cards, and similarly shortchanged Abuja, Warri, Uyo, and towns in Benue.”

INEC was not able to print any identity cards for Bauchi, Jalingo, Nsukka, Lafia, Kaduna, Kano; all this, after accrediting JDPC and approving 5189 number of observers. INEC refused all entreaty to use alternative means of identification. We call on the Atahiru Jega, INEC chairman, to investigate what happened in order to not rubbish the good works he has put into building the credibility of INEC. We need not emphasise the fact that election observation by civil society organisations has the added value of enhancing the credibility and acceptability of election results.

Ignatius Kaigama
Kaigama

The CBCN said: “We express concern about the results that are flying about in the social media and call on Nigerians to show restraint as this could potentially lead to chaos if released results do not reflect those released on social media. Again, we call on all parties concerned to be faithful to the results. We hereby also call on both PDP and APC to accept the result as declared by INEC and make no recourse to violence if it is found unacceptable.”

It also urged the political parties to enjoin their followers to keep the peace. “This is the only country we have and it is everybody’s task to keep it as one. We enjoin the security forces to be at alert and contain any post-election violence, and to be holistic in their approach to security by ensuring that in their attempt to prevent post-election violence, they do not leave the space open for sustained renewed attacks by Boko Haram. Boko Haram is still a serious threat to the peace and security of our land and its people”, it said.

The CBCN said that its final report would be made later, it observed that perhaps due to logistic challenges, many observers reported late start of the accreditation process by INEC. “Our observers in Abraka, Ethiope East LGA in Delta State, Karu Nasarawa State, Abuja Zones 4, Bende area of Lagos State, Kwajim Magaji Primary School, Kano as at 10.30am accreditation had not yet started. Up to 11 am, there were no INEC officials in FCT Area 10, Lekki, Lagos. We hope that INEC has learnt enough lessons to not repeat these logistic challenges in the next elections.”

It said that while card readers gave so much promise before the elections, there appears to have been a general challenge with them. For instance, in Nsukka, as reported by our observers, the situation with the card readers was so bad that many polling agents altogether abandoned them and resorted to manual identification of voters in the register, as later directed by INEC. It called on INEC to properly investigate what really happened after all the assurances given about the card readers. The CBCN observers noted serious breaches of the electoral process with the possible collusion of law enforcement officials. In certain cases, no elections took place at all at some polling units, while at least one polling unit was reported for thumb printing in Akwa Ibom State with the aid of a security official. “We hope that there will be significant improvement in the next election and some culprits would be brought to book as a deterrent to others,” it said. “We were hoping that the use of smart card readers would render useless ballot stuffing and ballot box snatching. We express serious concern about what will likely happen in Rivers’ State with regards to the gubernatorial elections where the stakes seem higher. We call on security authorities to evolve a special security plan for Rivers State,” it advised. The bishops prayed that God would spare Nigeria and make us come out of these elections a better, prosperous and secure nation.

The statement signed by Lucius Ugorji, bishop of Umuahia and Chairman Church and Society and Archbishop Ignatius A. Kaigama, archbishop of Jos and president, Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, said that a well ordered society that promotes the dignity of the family and the common good is essential for the spiritual growth of citizens. “This is why the Bishops constantly engage government and her institutions towards the mandate of securing the life and welfare of Nigerians,” it said.

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