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UN raises four major concerns about Nigeria’s forthcoming elections

UN raises four major concerns about Nigeria’s forthcoming elections

By Collins Mbakwe

The United Nations office in Nigeria has outlined a number of concerns in the build-up to Nigeria’s general elections on 25 February and 11 March.

Nigeria will hold presidential and federal legislative elections on 25 February while state elections will be held on 11 March.

UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Matthias Schmale, shared the global body’s concerns in an interview with newsmen.

“We are concerned about elections being postponed due to violence,” he said, speaking about the major concern of the global organisation.

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It is not just violence in the North-east, Mr Schmale pointed out, it is in the South-east and other places in the North-west. He said the violence could negatively affect the running of and the outcome of the elections.

NORTHEAST STAR has reported the violence in different parts of the country caused by armed groups. Armed secessionists in the South-east routinely attack security officials as well as officials and offices of the electoral commission, INEC.

In the North-west and some parts of the North-central, terrorists, locally called bandits, continue to attack locals in rural communities, displacing hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. The Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east, though degraded, has also not been totally eliminated.

Though violence remains a major concern, Mr Schmale told PREMIUM TIMES that the UN got assurances from the police and the military that they are doing their best to ensure that polling stations and citizens are protected and that the elections will not be impacted by violence.

Two other matters the UN is concerned about are the perennial fuel crisis in the country and the recent cash crunch across Nigeria.

“I have mentioned some challenges around preparations being far enough advanced in terms of getting materials, the BVAS machine, officials and so on to the polling stations and that is directly linked with the fuel crisis and also the currency-related crisis,” he said.

OurNigeria News reported the acute scarcity of cash across Nigeria due to the currency redesign by the Central Bank of Nigeria. Though old large-denomination notes have been withdrawn by the central bank, new notes introduced into the system have been grossly inadequate.

This has led to people spending hours in banks and has led to violent protests in some parts of the country.

Also, fuel scarcity has become the norm in many parts of Nigeria with prices more than doubling as a result.

According to Mr Schmale, despite the observations, the UN has to remain open-minded and continue to work with INEC to make sure that from an administrative point, the elections are ready.

A fourth concern the UN official mentioned is hate speech.

Mr Schmale said unacceptable statements have been made by parties, candidates and their supporters.

He called for language to be toned down and for campaigns to be conducted in a respectful and peaceful manner.

He said it is necessary to ensure there is a level playing field for all candidates in the election as there have been allegations that those in power do not provide public institutions for opposition candidates.

“That is an issue that is being addressed through various channels including the National Peace Committee to ensure that all sitting governors ensure that all key candidates have the opportunity to present their case to voters,” he noted.

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