*FG insists international community must be impartial, respect Nigeria’s sovereignty

*Police vow to apprehend, prosecute electoral offenders

Alex Enumah  in Abuja

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Wednesday stated that only an ‘act of God’ can stop the conduct of the rescheduled Presidential and National Assembly election slated for this Saturday.

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, stated this in Abuja while addressing a cross section of the diplomatic community and international election monitoring groups in Nigeria, for the 2019 general election.

Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, has urged the international community, to respect the sovereignty of Nigeria and allow the country solve her internal challenges herself without the undue interference of some of the foreign countries.

Onyeama stressed that while Nigeria welcomes partnership and support from the international community, the country, being a sovereign nation, would not allow herself to be dictated to since it does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.

“We welcome very much your engagement, we appreciate your support, we acknowledge how important your engagement for us in 2015 helped us to deliver probably one of the most free and credible elections we have had in this country for a very long time”, he said.

“But we have cause to be concerned with the way the engagement have been communicated, because at the end of the day, we are a sovereign country, the line should not be crossed from exalting us, and wanting this to succeed and really be democratic process to dictating to us and getting to the nitty-gritty of how we run the country”, he added.

Onyeama noted that the international community would do better if they remain impartial and don’t give the impression that they have a preferred candidate in the election.

He disclosed that the briefing which was organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in conjunction with INEC was aimed at engaging with friends and partners of Nigeria on the rescheduled election and together proffer solutions to some of the challenges to a hitch-free election.

INEC Chairman had last Saturday, barely few hours to the conduct of the Presidential and National Assembly Election announced a postponement of the election by one week due to logistics problems.

However, while the international community has called for calm and urged the electoral umpire to put everything in place so that the election can hold on the rescheduled date, political parties and politicians have continued to react differently to the postponement.

“It is absolutely important for the message to be communicated that the government is extremely disappointed and just cannot understand why after three and a half years we still are unable to deliver the process on time”, Onyeama told the foreign envoys.

While he noted that the government ensured INEC had all it requested for on time and that the government never interfered in its operations, he said the administration however was taking aback by the postponement.

He therefore called on INEC to ensure that the rescheduled election unfailingly held, come Saturday, February 23. “We will not accept any excuses or any other reason, the election must be held on Saturday. Nothing else would be acceptable to government”, he added.

Reacting, Yakubu, who was represented by an INEC National Commissioner, Dr. Mustapha Lecky, categorically stated that everything possible to ensure the elections hold on February 23 had been put in place, adding that the commission have no reason to feel things would go wrong.

According to him, the commission has developed a 6-point agenda of what needed to be done to ensure success, adding that it has completed the deployment of materials as at today.

“We have no reason to believe that anything except an act of God, and we believed that as a prayerful nation the act of God has been assuaged and that things will go right, we have no reason to feel that anything will go wrong. We have received all the materials, they have been checked, audited people have been informed, party agents have gone there to check”, he said.

While he stated that INEC had already taken responsibility for the postponement, he reiterated that the body was committed to surpass achievements of previous elections in the country.

He blamed the postponement on logistics and problems associated with the primaries of some political parties, which according to him delayed the printing of ballot papers.

Reacting to a question on the order issued by President Muhamadu Buhari to security operatives to be ruthless with electoral offenders, acting Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, said the police working with other security agencies would ensure ballot box snatchers and other criminal elements who may attempt to scuttle the polls were arrested and prosecuted according to the law.

Adamu said, the force had taken measures to protect voters, officials as well as election observers during the polls and warned troublemakers to rethink or be made to face the consequences of their actions.

He added that all security personnel for the polls had received one training or the other to enhance their professionalism. “The police would be professional, impartial and would create a level playing ground for all parties”, he said.