The National Peace Committee led by a former Head of State, Gen. Abdusalam Abubakar and Bishop Matthew Kukah has expressed concern over the security situation in the North East and Rivers state ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Speaking to newsmen after a close door meeting with a delegation of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), led by the chairman, Mahmoud Yakubu, noted that the commission equally raised the alarm over the existence of other flashpoint areas like Rivers 78 days into the poll.
Abubakar, who stressed the importance of peace in nation building, said that where there is no peace there can’t be a country.
The former Head of State however assured that judging by the briefing from the commission, there are strong indication that INEC is 100 per cent ready for the 2019 general election.
Stressing that INEC has no problem of funding notwithstanding the fact that the commission’s budget was yet to be assented to, he said: “We have invited the chairman of INEC and he came with his high power delegation.
“For one hour or so, he has briefed us on the preparation for the elections, his challenges and what he is going to do in order to make sure the elections are successful, free and fair elections.
“We have taken note of flash areas in the states where he wants the Peace Committee to intervene in order to bring peace so that elections will be conducted. On our part, we will do the best that we can in order to help sanitize the political arena,” he said during his opening remarks.
Asked the security flashpoint the commission expressed concern, he said: “All of us are worried about the security situation in the North East and it is necessary that we try to contain it in order for INEC to conduct elections.
“You should know that INEC will not send people to endanger their lives in order to conduct elections. And in actuall fact, no agent or political party will endanger the lives of its people in any conflict areas and we will try to contain that violence in order to conduct elections.”
On other possible areas of flashpoints, Abubakar said: “I believe that you are Nigerians, the media have told us where there are crisis. In particular, we have problems in Rivers state and some other areas where problems are emerging. So, we will try to see how we can nib the problem in the bud.
“And you help us also in given us information, where you think we should intervene. It is not only the INEC that the responsibility lays on; every Nigerian has a role to play.”
The former Head of State spoke on other challenges confronting INEC, identifying imposition of candidates by parties.
“It is mainly on the activities of the political parties. You have seen during the primaries either direct or indirect, or whatever it is, the report from the media where there are impositions of candidates. So, these are part of the challenges.
He however tasked the media on the need to properly inform the general public, stressing: “The media have also a role and a duty to educate our people and the politicians so that when they go on campaigning, they campaign on issues and there should be politics without bitterness and rancour.
“They should also help educate our citizens to avoid been used as tugs during campaign and during elections. They should educate Nigerians on their citizen’s right to ensure that they receive their PVCs and ensure that their names are properly registered, to avoid ballot snatching and all types of hooliganism during the elections.
“Our people should realize that peace is very paramount in any society. There must be peace before we conduct elections, there must be peace before we have a country. So, I employ the media, they know what people see, what people read, they have the tendency to believe it in total.
“Please ensure you educate our people, help in voter education and all the necessary things that needed to be done so that we have a peaceful election.
On whether the campaign has been issue based or gate speech so far, he said: “Well, all we can do is to sanitize the polity to make sure that there is no hate speeches, to make sure that it is decent campaign during elections where there will be no name calling and undesired utterances.”
He also revealed that the committee will be meeting with the leadership of political parties as a precursor to signing a National Peace accord.
“The next stage is that we are going to meet with the Chairmen and Secretaries of political parties today to discuss and see how we can make progress. After the meeting with the political parties, we are going to draw a memorandum of understanding for peace and tranquility and this we hope will be signed by all the presidential candidates and the chairmen of all the registered political parties,” he said.
On the committee’s advice to INEC, he said: “Like all Nigerians, we pray and hope and we get assurances that INEC will do the right thing and the political parties we have them also in exercising their right to do free and fair elections. Each Nigerian has a role to play and I hope they will play their part.
On the readiness of INEC to conduct free, fair and transparent election, he said: “So far as INEC is concerned, they are 100 per cent ready. But the political parties also have to assist them in ensuring that they send the names of their agents to ensure that there are no problems so that they can finalize the printing of ballot papers and other issues.
“As far as INEC is concerned from the briefing we received, they are ready pending of course what the political arties does. So now the ball is in the court of the political parties to get their acts together,” he said