AHEAD of next month’s general elections, a delegation of the European Union on Wednesday visited the national headquarter of the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) to seek for the update on the forthcoming exercise from the electoral umpire.
Leading the delegation was the EU Ambassador in Nigeria, Mr. Ketil Karlsen. Other members of the delegation were Charge D Affairs United States of America Embassy in Nigeria, David Young; British Commissioner in Nigeria, Catriona Laing and Germany Head of Mission in Nigeria, Regine Hess.
The United States Ambassador pleaded for the autonomy of all arms of government in Nigeria as he noted that Nigeria runs three tiers of government. In an apparent reference to the growing fear of emasculation of the judiciary, Ambassador Karlsen stated in clear terms that it ” is critically important that the executive does not interfere in the role of the judges and the judiciary. ”
He also called for non-interference of the security services in the electoral process other than the provision of adequate security to guarantee the safety of staff of the electoral body and the voters on polling days.
He said: “US is committed to providing support to INEC for the Nigeria general elections. We are looking forward to working together in providing more support. I would want to especially address all the concerns we have and that is the neutrality of the security services.
“For us, it is very important that the security services provide security for the elections that will guarantee the voting process, the security of the voters, but should not interfere with the people getting to the polls, or poll watchers, election monitors from having access and be able to vote freely.
“This is something we feel very strongly about and the neutrality of the security services is one of the very important issues for the credibility of the elections. I also want to say that we appreciate very much the important role the judiciary plays in Nigeria. As a country with the perfect three tiers of government with executive, legislative and the judiciary branches, it is critically important that the executive does not interfere in the role of the judges and the judiciary. And it important that judiciary is safeguarded and respected.
“As regards the police, we know that a new Inspector General of Police was just appointed, the US Embassy looks forward to working closely with him. They will appreciate the leadership he will provide as IGP. We are looking forward to working with Nigeria as friends and partners.”
His United Kingdom counterpart, Catriona Laing, appealed to INEC to ensure that the general elections were free and fair as he noted that the United Kingdom was aware that INEC was under intense pressure, regularly from entrenched interest.
She said: “UK has been a strong supporter of INEC in practical ways, we have been providing significant technical skills to INEC for many years. The reason why we do that is because such support is fundamental in delivering free, fair and credible election not only in Nigeria but the international community.
“It is imperative that INEC performs its role as required by the constitution completely free from any political interference, and we are not naive to recognize that there is always political pressures on INEC from time to time, from actors from different areas. And we see it as part of our role to provide INEC with that support that enables INEC withstand such political pressures and encouraging INEC to continue to exercise its independence. We see as really fundamental for INEC to continue to service the people of Nigeria and ensure that the election is credible.”
In his opening remarks, the EU ambassador, Mr. Karlsen had earlier declared that the European Union had no favoured candidate or entrenched interest in Nigeria democratic process but to ensure that genuine democracy thrives.
“We seek the opportunity of this visit to ask to be briefed by you on the development of preparation. As you know we from the EU, we already have longtime observers in the country. We are blessed with the arrival of our chief observer in the next few days.