Ahead of the scheduled governorship election in Kogi State on November 16, religious leaders in the state have warned the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security agencies not to compromise on their duties.
The religious leaders gave the warning while speaking at a stakeholders meeting in Lokoja. They said that the rising tension in the state was an indication that all was not well.
The leaders insisted that the only way to avoid violence during the election was to create a level playing ground for all candidates and for results to reflect the wish of the people.
The state Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Bishop John Ibenu said the lukewarm attitude of the group to the election was due to certain things that happened during the last general eletion.
“Some of the things that happened during the last elections actually discouraged us, but as elders, we have decided to move forward. We all know what to do and what to say, but the problem is with the implementation,” Ibenu said.
He said that CAN deployed observers to monitor the elections but expressed shock that those trained by the commission to conduct the last general election were replaced. He also expressed shock that the INEC staff were yet to master the operation of the card reader machine, describing the development as unfortunate.
The clergyman said that the biggest problem facing election in Nigeria today was at the collation centres where he said INEC staff and security agents see “elections not as a national issue but pocket issue.”
He said that Nigeria was ripe for electronic voting, urging the the National Assembly to work toward realising it.
The state Chairman of the Jamatul Nasril Islam (JNI), Amb. Usman Bello, explained that the success of the coming election depended on INEC, police and the political parties.
Bello said that the only way to avoid violence in the election was to ensure justice and fairness for all parties.
He charged government to rise up to its responsibility of providing security for the people and work for peace on the election day.
“If they (government) are interested in peace, they should work for peace. If they are coming to INEC, they must come with clean hands. The election must not be compromised.
He suggested that INEC should facilitate a meeting of the religious leaders with the police and political parties so as to table some issues before them.
He also called on INEC to pay more attention to its staff welfare to prevent politicians from taking undue advantage of them.
The state Resident Electoral Commission (REC), Prof. James Apam, assured the people that their vote would count in the coming governorship election.
He pleaded with the religious leaders to appeal to their adherents to allow peace to reign before and during the election.
Apam said that INEC was deeply worried over the rising tension in the state ahead of the election because election in the state had always been characterised by violence.
He said that the commission had done a lot to ensure a peaceful, free, fair, credible and conclusive election but stated that nothing could be achieved without peace.
The REC admitted that INEC ad hoc staff did some shameless things during the last general election but did not give details.
He said that he had met with the management of the National Youth Service Corps on the need to call corps members to order and warn them to behave well in the coming elections.
“Challenge us and see what we will do. INEC will make your vote to count. Vote needs to count. Once vote counts, the elected will have the respect of the people,” he said.