By Ochiaka Ugwu
The United States, Delegation of European Union To Nigeria and some Scandinavian nations have appealed to Nigerians to refrain from using hate speech and to take a firm stance against violence as campaign for 2019 polls begins.
In a statement released in Abuja yesterday by the Information Office of the Public Affairs Section of theUnited States Diplomatic Mission to Nigeria in Abuja, it stated that “As friends of Nigeria and its people, we will follow the campaigns and election process closely. Who wins the elections is for the Nigerian people to decide. Our concern is to see a process leading to free, fair, transparent and peaceful elections.
“We hope to see transparent campaigns and we urge all voters to use their democratic right and vote. We are particularly keen to see greater participation of women, youth and people living with disabilities”.
They urge all involved, political and non-political actors to refrain from using hate speech and take a firm stance against violence.
The statement informed that 2015 Peace Accords played an important role in that regard and they will welcome new efforts towards that end.
They expressed concern over widespread incidents of intimidation, interference and vote-buying during the recent gubernatorial elections.
“We were also perturbed by irregularities and violence during party primaries, and noted with particular concern that several women candidates were disenfranchised.
“We reiterate the importance of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as it fulfills its constitutional role. INEC must be allowed to operate free from outside pressure and intimidation, and in turn must demonstrate full neutrality and professionalism.
“We encourage that adequate funding is swiftly facilitated for INEC and supporting institutions, and we hope to see the entry into force of improvements to the Electoral Act as soon as possible.
“We wish to draw particular attention to the fundamental role of the security agencies in providing a safe and secure environment for the Nigerian people to exercise their democratic rights. It is vital that security agencies act, and are seen to act, in an impartial mannert hat maintains the high standards of professional conduct.
“We strongly support the principle of media freedom and the vital role the independent media plays in ensuring informed public debate. We also stress the importance of balanced, neutral and non-defamatory coverage.
“At the beginning of the 2019 electoral campaign, we would like to reiterate our strong commitment to support democracy in Nigeria. We encourage Nigeria and its people to consolidate and deepen democracy, building on the standards set in 2015”.
The signatories to the statement include European Union (Delegation to Nigeria), France, Germany, United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic.
Others are Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden.