The National Peace Committee led by General Abdulsalami Abubakar and Bishop Matthew Kukah has expressed concern over the the 2019 general election as well as the security situation in the North East and Rivers State.
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Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu, told newsmen, told newsmen, a closed-door meeting, that members were on a fact-finding mission on INEC’s preparedness to conduct the 2019 elections.
He also disclosed that INEC raised the alarm over the existence of other flashpoint areas, such as Rivers, 78 days to the polls.
Abubakar, who stressed the importance of peace in nation-building, said where there is no peace there can’t be a country.
The former Head of State, however, assured that judging by the briefing from the commission, there are strong indications that INEC is 100 per cent ready for 2019.
On INEC’s readiness to conduct free, fair and transparent election, he said: “So far, as INEC is concerned, they are 100 per cent ready. But, the political parties also have to assist them in ensuring that they send the names of their agents to ensure that there are no problems so that they can finalize the printing of ballot papers and other issues.
“As far as INEC is concerned, from the briefing we received, they are ready pending of course what the political parties do. So, now, the ball is in the court of the political parties to get their acts together.”
He stressed that INEC has no funding problem, notwithstanding the fact that the Commission’s budget was yet to be assented to. “We invited the chairman of INEC and he came with his high powered delegation.
“For one hour or so, he briefed us on preparation for the elections, challenges and what he is going to do, in order to make sure the elections are successful, free and fair.
“We have taken note of flash areas in the states where he wants the Peace Committee to intervene, in order to bring peace, so that elections would be conducted.
“On our part, we will do the best that we can, in order to help sanitise the political arena,” he said, during his opening remarks.
Asked the security flashpoint the Commission expressed concern about, Abubakar replied: “All of us are worried about the security situation in the North East and, it is necessary that we try to contain it, in order for INEC to conduct elections.
“You should know that INEC will not send people to endanger their lives in order to conduct elections.
“And, in actual fact, no agent or political party will endanger the lives of its people in any conflict areas and, we will try to contain that violence in order to conduct elections.”
On other possible flashpoints areas, Abubakar said: “I believe that you are Nigerians, the media have told us where there are crises.
“In particular, we have problems in Rivers state and some other areas where problems are emerging.
“So, we will try to see how we can nip the problem in the bud. And, you help us, also, in giving us information, where you think we should intervene.
“It is not only the INEC that the responsibility lays on; every Nigerian has a role to play.”
Abubakar also spoke on imposition of candidates by political parties.
“It is mainly on the activities of the political parties. You saw during the primaries, either direct or indirect, or whatever it was, the report from the media where there were impositions of candidates.
“So, these are part of the challenges.”
He also revealed that the committee would be meeting with the leadership of political parties, as a precursor to signing a National Peace accord.
“The next stage is that we are going to meet with the chairmen and secretaries of political parties today to discuss and see how we can make progress.
“After the meeting with the political parties, we are going to draw a Memorandum of Understanding for peace and tranquility and this, we hope, will be signed by all the presidential candidates and chairmen of all the registered political parties,” he said.
On his part, INEC Chairman Mahmood Yakubu told newsmen the Commission has told the committee “some of the challenges we are facing…
“Basically, this was our routine meeting with the committee and more of these interactions are planned with the committee and chairman and secretaries of political parties.
“We will continue with this kind of interactive meetings with stakeholders as the elections approach…”