As campaigns for the 2019 general election kicks off, the international community has expressed concern over the forthcoming polls, calling for campaigns devoid of hate speech.
The international community also urged political and non-political actors to take a firm stance against violence.
In a statement released, yesterday, the international community further warned against intimidation, interference and vote-buying which characterised the recent gubernatorial elections in the country.
Signatories to the statement include the European Union (Delegation to Nigeria), France, Germany, United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Austria and Bulgaria. Others were Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.
They said: “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.
“We urge all involved, political and non-political actors, to refrain from using hate speech and take a firm stance against violence.
“The 2015 Peace Accords played an important role in that regard and we welcome new efforts towards that end. We were gravely concerned 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.”
The international community further said INEC must be allowed to operate freely.
INEC, the international community added, must demonstrate neutrality and professionalism.
“We reiterate the importance of INEC as it fulfils 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 manner that 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.”
The international community also reiterated its commitment to supporting democracy in Nigeria.
“We encourage Nigeria and its people to consolidate and deepen democracy, building on the standards set in 2015.”