2023: UK worried over attacks on INEC offices, US harps on transparent polls

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THE United Kingdom and the United States have expressed concerns over the attacks and destruction of the Independent National Electoral Commission facilities across the country, warning that this portends grave danger to the 2023 elections.

The UK Development Director, Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, Chris Pycroft, and US Consul General, Will Stevens, said this at separate fora yesterday against the backdrop of the multiple attacks on INEC offices and violent rivalry among political parties in the country.

Speaking at the Northern Peace Conference on the 2023 General Elections in Abuja organised by the 2Baba Foundation in partnership with the J-Dev Foundation and the Child Protection and Peer Learning Initiative, Pycroft said the survival of democracy in Nigeria is critical to Africa and the world at large.

Themed, ‘Vote Not Fight: Election No Be War,’ the event attracted eminent personalities including the INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, Northern Elders Forum’s spokesman, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, former Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, among others.

Pycrof said fears over the forthcoming election have heightened in Nigeria over the past few years even as he called on all stakeholders, particularly politicians to commit to peaceful conduct before, during and after the elections.

He said, “As we approach the polls next year, attacks on INEC facilities and personnel, violent clashes between opposing members of political parties or broader security challenges are all factors that threaten the peaceful and inclusive and successful execution of the elections.

“The largest democracy in Africa occupies a critical place in efforts to consolidate democracy elsewhere across the world. Credible, useful elections will deepen citizens’ trust and reinforce the foundations for democratic consolidation in Nigeria.”

According to the diplomat, a peaceful environment enables people to cast their votes on election day, without fear of harm, intimidation, or coercion.

He pledged the support of the UK government to Nigeria both in ensuring the smooth conduct of the elections and in sustaining her democracy.

Meanwhile, the US has insisted on credible and peaceful polls for the 2023 elections, saying the polls must reflect the will of the people.

Speaking at an open session of election reporting workshop for journalists, organised by West Africa Broadcast & Media Academy in Ibadan on Monday, the US Consul General, Will Stevens, added that the US government looked forward to seeing a free and fair conduct of the 2023 election in Nigeria.

Stevens said, “We really want to see a credible, transparent, peaceful election. That above all, represents the will for the Nigerian people in our programmes and our funding our ballot process, and encouraging people to vote. So people participate in a democracy. They feel like they have a stake in that democracy.

‘’When they vote, when they read your reporting, they feel like they’re part of the project of Nigeria, just like the project of the United States. So I’ll leave you with the words of one of my heroes, American investor and philanthropist Warren Buffett, who said, ‘’the smarter the journalists are, the better off society is.”

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