From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Representatives of different religion faiths in Nigeria have expressed optimism and confidence in the ability and capacity of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct peaceful and credible elections next year.
The religious leaders, however, tasked the Federal Government to put in place serious measures check rising cases of insecurity in some states, saying tensions and violence in states affected by farmer-herdsmen conflicts, terrorism, banditry/kidnapping may trigger electoral violence in next year’s polls if unchecked.
They said to achieve peaceful, free and credible elections, all stakeholders, particularly INEC and religious leaders must commit to the cause.
Their position was contained in a communique released at the end of sensitisation and capacity building workshop organised for religious leaders, civil society organisations and policymakers towards peaceful 2023 general elections in Abuja, yesterday.
The communique was jointly signed by Bishop Sunday Onuoha and Alhaji Sanni Kunle. It recommended that INEC provide adequate trainings for their personnel on the use of the BVAS, provide adequate internet facility to ensure uninterrupted connection to the server, and additionally, provide prompt alternatives to faulty BVAS where necessary.
Part of their conditions for peaceful polls include: “INEC must ensure that every Nigerian who duly registered to vote in 2023 elections receive his/her voter’s card in his/her respective polling units before the elections, and there should be unwavering commitment of all stakeholders in the electoral process including citizens to ensure peaceful, credible and transparent elections.
“There should be effective collaboration among all critical stakeholders before, during and after the elections with regards to planning, deployments, voter education, monitoring and information sharing, as well as reduced incidences of electoral violence through full implementation of the electoral act and adequate deployment of security forces to identified vulnerable locations.”
The religious leaders urged security agencies to collaborate with other stakeholders in various communities for intelligence gathering to strengthen rapid response mechanism and avoid breakdown of law and order.
“There should also be improve funding, timeliness and effectiveness of voter education and awareness for citizens especially in the grassroots by INEC and other stakeholders; while religious leaders, traditional rulers and faith communities were enjoined to live up to their responsibilities as custodians of community values and peaceful coexistence.”
They also suggested that future electoral acts should be modified to give Nigerians in the Diaspora the right to vote, making reference data from Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), which indicated that there are over 17 million Nigerians in Diaspora without voting right.