Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
With Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) coordinating a minimum of 28 rerun and by-elections in 11 states this January alone, President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the electoral body and the Nigeria Police Force to step up their efforts in delivering free, fair and credible elections.
According to a statement by Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, Buhari gave the directives when he met at State House, Abuja, with INEC Chairman Professor Mahmood Yakubu, other top officials of the electoral body, and the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu.
President Buhari charged the Commission to ensure that the election operations followed the rules, without fear or favour to any special interest.
“Those that you declare as winners must be the candidates that the people have chosen. Democracy is about free will, and the will of the people must be allowed to prevail. Get your acts right, and leave no room for underhand tricks or manipulation,” he President said.
President Buhari said he was determined to give Nigeria an electoral system that meets with best practices anywhere in the world, and charged the electoral umpire to stick to the rules of fair play and adherence to justice.
He told the IGP that he expects nothing less than a scrupulous securing of the electoral process, without bias or favouritism.
“Our elections must be done in a violence-free atmosphere. The process must be free, fair, decent, devoid of intimidation or malpractices. It is the duty of the police to accomplish that, and it is what I expect in the elections immediately ahead, and going forward,” he said.
Adesina said both INEC and the police pledged fidelity to the rules and regulations, commending the President Buhari for his commitment to fair play.
Speaking to State House Correspondents later, the INEC Chairman said they met the President on the litigation on national and state Houses of Assembly elections.
“It is essentially on the conclusion of all the litigations with respect to all the national and state houses of assembly elections arising from the 2019 general elections. So far 30 elections were nullified by courts orders, some in whole state constituencies others in pocket constituencies. We have conducted two elections in these elections-Kogi West and Ajaokuta Federal Constituencies,” he said.
“We have 28 elections outstanding spread across 11 states of the federation and the Commission has already fixed 25th of January – that is in the next 19 days for the conduct of the courts ordered re-run elections and we are ready for these elections.
“In addition, we met with His Excellency, Mr President and he reiterated his commitment to ensuring that the processes of free and fair and the environment is secured for that to happen. That was why the meeting was held involving the electoral commission and the Inspector-General of Police.”
The IGP, speaking on security for the elections, said: “As the INEC Chairman told you, the government wants to have an election process that is equal to none in terms of example that could be given to the world so that free, fair and credible elections will take place and, for that reason, there must be a secure environment. And in securing the environment, the security strategy that was in place in the previous elections has to be reviewed, has to be enhanced so as to have an election that violence will not be tolerated, ballot snatching will not be tolerated. Those that usually participated in such actions like the politicians, security agencies, the INEC officials and any other group that partake in that, this time around they will not be allowed to do that.
“We shall make an example of anybody that wants to use violence to achieve his aim during the electoral process. This is the message that we are sending to Nigerians and this is the beginning of the process to make sure that this country from now onwards gets elections that is exemplary to the rest of the world,” the IGP said.