As politicians prepare for campaigns across the country, the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) has said that security during the election season is a topmost concern for the British government.
FCDO’s Development Director, Chris Pycroft stated this at an Expert Meeting on Conducting Nigeria’s 2023 General Elections in Volatile Security Environments organised in collaboration with the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) in Abuja. According to him, stakeholders must strive not only to guarantee the security of voters and the electoral process, but also to actively promote peace.
He said, “Security is a top priority for the UK in its partnership here in Nigeria, and will become of increased importance over the coming six months. Strengthening the delivery of peace and security is one of a number of initiatives we are part of.
“Nigeria is facing more challenges than ever before to deliver a peaceful and secure election. But at the same time, the demand for democracy and change, especially among Nigeria’s rapidly expanding youth population and women across the country continues to grow. These elections are important not only in Nigeria, not only for the continent of Africa, but for the world.”
He explained that democracy across the world is under threat, stressing that Nigeria can demonstrate the power of democracy to represent the world and the ambitions of a nation.
Pycroft added: “Security personnel, INEC and others face huge challenges in meeting this demand, because of the seriousness and range of security threats that the people face across the country.
“As important as the security of the election is, as stakeholders involved in this election, we must strive to not only guarantee the security of voters and the electoral process, but also to actively promote peace. We need to focus on police deployments and access to polling stations. These are critical issues, but they are not enough.
“Unity and peaceful coexistence between Nigeria’s diverse religious, ethnic and cultural communities is under huge strain. Serious escalations of inter communal conflict are an escalating risk across all six geopolitical regions of Nigeria.
“We need to ask ourselves, what role can the stakeholders here today play in conflict prevention and mitigation efforts? What contingency plans can we put in place? How can we work with others to de-escalate tensions before they flare up into conflict? These are the questions that we need to address today.”
In his remarks, the Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said that the nation is entering critical stages ahead of the 2023 general elections and that all hands must be on deck to ensure the success of the elections.
He urged all political parties and candidates to focus on issue-based campaigns, adding that it is the best way to ensure transparent elections in which only the votes cast by citizens determine the winner.
According to him, “This meeting is timely because the election is fast approaching, but there is still time to address the security concerns ahead of the election.
“Most appropriately, I believe that arising from the shared experience of participants at this meeting, specific recommendations will be made to further enrich our understanding of the security issues in the forthcoming election, the various dimensions of the challenges and, most importantly, possible measures to respond to them to ensure that elections peacefully hold nationwide as required by law.”
On her part, the Executive Director, CDD, Idayat Hassan, said that the prevailing insecurity across the country is a source of concern, which must be addressed, especially because they are not the normal electoral violence, but which can also add to the electoral violence, pre, during and post-election period in the country.