Civil society groups in Nigeria are against postponing the general elections billed to hold in February. They have also condemned the advertisement place in some national dailies by Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State warning Nigerians not to vote for General Muhammadu Buhari, presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress
| By Maureen Chigbo | Feb. 2, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
THE Nigerian Civil Society organisations have described as unnecessary the call by Col. Sambo Dasuki, national security adviser to the Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to postpone the general elections in February as well as condemning the front-page advertisement Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State placed on national newspapers asking Nigerians not to vote for Buhari because he is old. The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, Situation Room, COM also expressed concern over the call for the postponement of the general elections by retired Dasuki, recalling that Attahiru Jega, INEC chairman, in a recent meeting with Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, assured that every effort would be made to ensure that intending voters collect their PVCs before the February elections.
Dasuki at a briefing in Chatham House, London on Thursday, January 22, called for the postponement of the elections, which according to him is to enable INEC distribute millions of permanent voters cards, PVCs, to the voters. The report also claimed that Dasuki had told the chairman of INEC that a postponement within the three months allowed by the law would be a good idea.
However, the Situation Room said the call was an unnecessary interference in the independence of INEC as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution stating that dates for the elections can only be set by INEC. It called on the political parties and civic groups including religious organisations, labour unions, etc to mobilise citizens to pick up their PVCs at the centres designated by INEC.
Advising INEC to put in place every measure to ensure unhindered and speedy distribution of any outstanding and uncollected PVCs, the Situation Room, urged INEC to update the public on PVC distribution in States that have been most impacted by delays.
It also called on Nigerians to go out en-masse to collect their PVCs, and prepare to cast their votes for candidates of their choice in the upcoming general elections.
The Situation Room is made up of Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, working in support of credible and transparent elections in Nigeria and includes such groups as Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, PLAC, CLEEN Foundation, Action Aid Nigeria, Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD, Enough is Enough Nigeria, Wangonet, Partners for Electoral Reform and Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement, YIAGA. Others are Development Dynamics, Human Rights Monitor, Election Monitor, Reclaim Naija, Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, CITAD, CISLAC and several other CSOs numbering more than 60.
Previously, on Monday, January 19, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room described the advertisement with the banner headline “Nigerians Be Warned’’ as being in extreme bad taste and falls within the category of hate speech prohibited under the Electoral Act and other known international laws that forbid the publication of hate speech.
According to the Situation Room, the advertisement negates the Abuja Accord recently signed by the presidential candidates and leaders of political parties for the elections and advise politicians to be cautious in their campaign and conduct ahead of the February polls and allow peace to reign in the country. The group expressed disappointment that such a publication could emanate from a highly placed political office holder. It equally condemned newspapers for accepting to publish such advertisement in clear violation of their duty to promote national cohesion at a critical time in the life of the country. The group reminds Gov. Fayose and all other politicians that the constitutional requirements for running for the office of president are clearly stated under S.131 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
The section provides “that a person shall be qualified for election to the office of the President if – (a) he is a citizen of Nigeria by birth; (b) he has attained the age of forty years; (c) he is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that political party; and (d) he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent. Furthermore Section 95 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) prohibits this kind of intemperate and slanderous language and innuendo from being used as campaign tools. In the advertisement, Gov. Fayose had stated: “Nigerians be warned” “Nigeria… “I have set before thee – Life and Death”. “Therefore, choose Life that both thee and thy seed may live”. “Will you allow history to repeat itself?” “Enough of state burials.” “Nigerians vote wisely.” “Vote Goodluck Jonathan”. “Northern Presidency should wait till 2019”.
The advertisement had included photographs of former Heads of States/Presidents of Northern origin, who had died in office and appeared to indicate that a similar fate awaits Major-General Muhammadu Buhari.