Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has warned that the 2023 elections might be sabotaged by “anti-democratic forces” if security agencies fail to put an end to the continuous attacks on the facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Mr Falana, who spoke in a statement titled ‘Halt Official Sabotage of 2023 General Elections’, said that the violent attacks being carried out by suspected arsonists posed serious security threats to next year’s election.
“Unless the security forces are prepared to deal with the anti-democratic forces that are currently disrupting the democratic process, the 2023 general elections may be sabotaged to the detriment of democracy and political stability in the country,” he said in the statement obtained by The Tide source.
In preparation for the general elections, regional offices of INEC have come under attacks, especially in Imo, Osun, Ogun, Enugu, Akwa-Ibom and Anambra States, among others.
Property and election materials worth millions of naira had been destroyed at the facilities with the brutal attacks orchestrated by suspected arsonists.
However, the electoral body has said the attacks at its facilities would not stop the commission from conducting a free, fair and transparent election next year.
Positing further, Mr Falana condemned the continuous attacks on INEC offices in the country, noting that it was becoming a dangerous trend.
He expressed worry about how the attackers perpetrating the crime on the INEC facilities operate without any challenge from the security forces.
“In spite of the fact that the facilities (INEC) are said to be well guarded, the criminal elements involved in the nefarious activities generally operate without any challenge from security forces.
“If the dangerous trend continues on a larger scale, INEC will not be in a position to conduct elections in the affected areas. It is, therefore, curious to note that the few suspected arsonists have not been charged before any court,” Mr Falana added.
INEC has fixed February and March for the 2023 presidential and general elections with no less than 18 political parties already fielding candidates for the exercise.
ECOWAS Parliament Declares 2023 ‘Elections Year’
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has declared this year an election year partly because of the general elections coming up in Nigeria this year and similar elections in three other West African countries.
The Speaker of the ECOWAS parliament, Sidie Mohammed Tunis, speaking at the opening of the fifth Legislature of ECOWAS Parliament Extraordinary session in Guinea Bissau said Nigeria is the region’s biggest democracy and that a large chunk of its observer mission will be deployed for the polls.
“This year has been tagged “Elections Year” in the region. In a matter of weeks, our biggest democracy, the Federal Republic of Nigeria, will be holding Presidential and Legislative elections. In a few months, the Republics of Sierra Leone and Liberia will do the same. These have been preceded by Legislative elections in the Republic of Benin.
“In conformity with the established framework for election observation, we are working very closely with the ECOWAS Commission to ensure the scrupulous implementation of the provisions of Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance, relative to the holding of elections. Our Observers will be available to provide the necessary support to the Joint ECOWAS Mission, in anticipation of free, fair and transparent elections in the various countries,” Tunis said.
The Speaker assured Nigeria that ECOWAS will be fully involved in election observation across the country on the day of election, adding that the parliament was working very closely with the ECOWAS Commission and has signed a memorandum appointing observers who will be in Nigeria for the polls.
Tunis also condemned the killing of innocent souls in Burkina Faso and other parts of the region.
“Let me emphatically condemn the brutal killing of innocent civilians, including children in the west of Burkina Faso and other parts of the region where similar menace exists. No expression of displeasure and no religious loyalty justify the killing of innocent people. It is barbaric, evil and must be condemned by all well-meaning citizens of this region.
“On top of all I have said, is the issue of the economy, the bread and butter issue, 2023 is not going to be a challenging year for our democracies alone but also our economies.
“The IMF predicts that global growth will slow at 2.7%in 2023 and many countries will experience recession. These have been attributed to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the hike in cost of living and economic slowdown in China due to the latest hike in COVID-19 cases.
“This leaves poorer countries, like most of ours, with no option but to act aggressively to heighten monetary policies and build more multilateral cooperation to address our economic volatility.
“It is a fact that economic stagnation would usually influence the finding and implementation of projects, programmes and activities of ECOWAS; we must therefore act within our discretion to draw attention to the need to start economic choices not only in the ECOWAS institutions but in our respective member states,” Tunis added
In his opening remarks, Speaker of the Guinea Bissau National Assembly, Cipriano Cassama urged the Parliament to implement new policies and infrastructures that will speed up development technologies within the West African market.
According to Cassama, “These development plans and major policies in the process of decision taking are placed on the shoulders of parliament.
“Communities should invest more in educational programs in a way of improving the protection of the environment and health sector.”
He thanked the parliament for resolving the internal crisis within the region.
Reacting to the Nigeria election, Edwin Snowe expressed the importance of the Presidential election in West Africa.
He said “Nigeria is the hub of our region and it is seen as the big Brother, not just in elections but many other activities in the region. We believe in democracy. We also look forward to a peaceful election and a result that will be accepted by all the people.”
PDP, APC Bicker Over Alleged Attack On Buhari’s Convoy In Kano
A convoy involving President Muhammadu Buhari was alleged to have been attacked in Kano state on Monday.
There were varying versions of what reportedly happened in Hotoro area of Kano state, with several persons said to have hurled stones at the president’s convoy.
There were also videos that went viral on Monday showing stones littering a road said to be the area where the president’s convoy was expected to pass through.
In one of the videos, a voice in the background said the people were angry at the president and decided to attack him with stones.
“This is Kano state. People are picking up stones and stoning the president here in Hotoro at exactly Hadeja-Jama’are River basin. People are just stoning, saying the president won’t pass. Residents of Kano are angry. It is happening now in Hotoro,” the voice in the background said in Hausa.
“Oh my God! This is even before his arrival; see plenty stones on the streets,” a voice in another video said.
Reacting to the incident in a statement, Debo Ologunagba, PDP spokesperson, described the alleged incident as treason and sacrilege.
“This organised attack on the person of the President is outrightly treasonable and a sacrilegious assault on our national sovereignty which must be condemned by all,” the PDP said.
“Our Party is alarmed that this attack is part of APC Presidential Candidate’s alleged plot to undermine the Presidency, cause confusion, trigger violence in the country, disrupt the conduct of the 2023 general elections and derail our democracy; having realised that he cannot win in a peaceful, free and fair electoral process.
“The PDP invites Nigerians to note how Governor Abdullahi Ganduje attempted to abridge President Buhari’s movement and even tried to stop him from visiting Kano State. More disquieting is the fact that the APC Presidential Campaign sought to humiliate and harm President Buhari, while performing his official duties in Kano.
“It should be noted that the APC Presidential Candidate has been displaying open aversion and making inciting statements against President Buhari since Mr. President’s declaration, in line with democratic best practice all over the world, that Nigerians should freely vote for any candidate and Party of their choice in the 2023 general elections.
“The apparent frustration of Asiwaju Tinubu to resort to encourage or condone violence is fueled by his entitlement mentality, that it is his turn to be President, despite his numerous ineligibility and disability baggage.
“Nigerians are reminded about Asiwaju Tinubu’s infamous statement in London where he declared to his supporters that ‘political power is not going to be served in a restaurant, it is not served a la carte. It is what we are doing; It is being determined; you do it at all cost; fight for it, grab it, snatch it and run with it’.”
However, Bayo Onanuga, spokesperson of the APC presidential campaign council, dismissed the claim of the attack and criticised the PDP for reacting to something “imaginary”.
“We were not surprised to read of the imaginary attack on the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria being peddled by the Peoples Democratic Party since the party has nothing tangible to tell Nigerians from its crumbling Presidential Campaign,” Onanuga said.
“This invented attack on President Muhammadu Buhari must have happened only in the fertile imagination of PDP National Publicity Secretary, one Debo Ologunagba.
“Nigerians should disregard this fake news from a party that has lost touch with reality and suffering the agony of violating its own rules on power rotation.
“Just as it has been masterminding fake news against the APC presidential candidate and trying vainly to cause disharmony in the APC family, we believe the party may have planned to embarrass President Buhari in Kano and then put the blame on host Governor Ganduje and Tinubu.
“This is because PDP has of recent morphed from being a Buhari virulent critic to strangely becoming a Buhari spokesperson! The last time it issued a self-serving misinterpretation of Asíwájú’s statement in Abeokuta as an attack on President Buhari.
“It should be quite obvious to Nigerians that the knowledge of impending defeat of PDP at the coming presidential poll has pushed the party and its candidate into frenzied hallucinatory mode of mindless, ridiculous, ludicrous litany of lies and fabrications against APC and its candidate.
“The PDP is a drowning party feverishly clawing at any straw of lies and lashing out in all delusional directions to keep afloat – but sink it will. We believe Nigerians are not taken in by the jejune antics.”
Onanuga also asked security agencies to “arrest” Ologunagba over his comments regarding the alleged attack.
Meanwhile, the development comes hours after Abdullahi Ganduje, Kano governor, made a U-turn over the president’s visit to the state.
Ganduje had asked the president to postpone the visit over security concerns and difficulty in accessing the new naira notes.
However, after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) extended the deadline, the Kano governor visited the president and announced that the state was “very ready” for Buhari’s Monday visit.
INEC Denies Woman Collecting N1k To Give PVCs In Viral Video
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it is currently investigating alleged extortion in connection with the distribution of permanent voter cards (PVCs) in Enugu East LGA of Enugu state.
A now-viral video shows a woman charging N1,000 each from registrants who came to collect their PVCs.
She said in the video that the N1,000 was to cover her transport fare and stress she went through to get the cards to a primary school in a neighbourhood in the LGA.
Speaking with The Tide source on Monday, Rex Achumie, INEC’s head of department of voter education and publicity in Enugu, said the woman in the video is not a staff or a hoc staff of INEC.
He added that none of the people in the video are INEC employees.
“INEC wants to unravel how the cards got into the hands of the unscrupulous woman in the first place.
“We are looking at getting the electoral officer in charge of the area to liaise with his staff to know who actually gave the woman the cards”, he said.
Achumie assured residents that INEC would get a clearer picture of the whole episode by Tuesday, as well as “where and whom the woman in question is working for”.
INEC had, on Sunday, extended the deadline for the collection of PVCs.
The previous deadline was January 29 while the new deadline is February 5.
The commission said the decision followed reports from the various states and discussions with Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs).
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