Over 100 UK Observers will Monitor General Election, Says Envoy

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You are observers, not monitors, INEC tells observers Air force begins airlift of election materials

Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja

The United Kingdom has said it will deploy more than 100 observers across 15 states for Saturday’s presidential election in Nigeria.

The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ms Catriona Laing, said this yesterday while discussing the UK’s efforts to support free, fair and credible elections in the country.

This is coming as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday briefed accredited domestic and foreign observers on the preparation of the commission ahead of Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Air Force said that it had started the airlift of election materials for INEC.

Not fewer than 196 observers have been accredited for the elections.

Laing said the UK respected Nigeria’s sovereignty and would help it to strengthen its democracy.

Speaking as a guest on Nigerian Info FM in Abuja, she said, “As an independent observer country, we respect Nigeria’s sovereignty; it is our job to stand with the people of Nigeria in this democratic journey.”

On efforts to foster to contribute its quota to the strengthening of the democratic process in Nigeria, Laing added, “The process is what matters to us.

This is why we will be deploying over 100 observers covering 15 states to support observer missions from the European Union, United States Diplomatic Mission in Nigeria and other local observers.

“We are confident that many things have been put in place since 2015 to strengthen the process.

“We’ve invested heavily as a partner with the Independent National Electoral Commission and civil societies to strengthen those institutions and make the process stronger.”

Meanwhile, INEC yesterday briefed accredited domestic and foreign observers on the preparation of the commission ahead of Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections.

Not fewer than 196 observers have been accredited for the elections.

At the briefing, INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, reminded the observers that “you are observers and not monitors.”

He also assured them of their security, saying that necessary security arrangement has been put in place in all the states they intend to deploy their people to within the country.

The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr. Mohammed Adamu who also briefed the observers on the security arrangement assured them of the readiness of the security agencies for the polls.

An App, for the election translation, was also launched as part of the arrangement to ensure smooth observation of the polls.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Air Force has said it has commenced the airlift of election materials for the INEC.

A statement signed by the Director of Public Relations and Information of the NAF, Air commodore Ibikunle Daramola said the airlift would be conducted day and night to deliver sensitive and non-sensitive materials to designated places.

Air Commodore Daramola said: “The Nigerian Air Force (NAF), on Monday, February 11, 2019, commenced the airlift of electoral materials for INEC across the country for the conduct of the 2019 general election.

“The airlift exercise includes day and night missions, during which both sensitive and non-sensitive electoral materials were conveyed in batches, with NAF C-130 Hercules aircraft from the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja to various airports across the country.

“The materials were duly delivered by the C-130H aircraft crew to teams of INEC and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) officials together with security personnel waiting at the various airports.

“It may be recalled that the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, during his meeting with Air Officers Commanding (AOCs) and NAF Field Commanders on 1 February 2019, had expressed the readiness of the NAF to avail INEC its transport aircraft to enable expeditious movement of electoral materials, as done in the past.

“It is pertinent to state that the transport aircraft are deployed solely to provide airlift support to meet INEC’s logistics requirements, in fulfillment of NAF’s constitutional role of providing Military Aid to Civil Authority. “