It’s obligatory to uphold public trust, Institute tells INEC

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By Diana Omueza
The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) has urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to uphold public trust by conducting free, fair and credible by and rerun election on Feb. 3.
Dr Chris Kwaja, the Institute’s Country Director in Nigeria said this in a telephone interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Abuja.
Kwaja said that INEC had a duty and responsibility to uphold public trust in the electoral process.
“We have seen people concerned about the outcome of the elections in the context of how INEC managed some of the elections.
“The huge number of petitions in 2023 was a manifestation of some of the concerns that people raised when they were looking for justice from the courts.
“Now INEC is under obligation to ensure that in the conducts of these elections, the right things are done.
“In terms of the recruitment of ad hoc staff, in strategic communications with citizens, and transparency in the conduct of the elections and the determination of election results,’’ he said.
Kwaja said that only credible election would produce credible leaders.
He also said that when citizens were happy that an electoral process was open and credible, there would be lesser complains.
He said that when there were complains, they create conditions for tensions and many of the tensions were responsible for elections related violence in the country.
Kwaja urged INEC to mitigate any form of election violence by ensuring that the by-election and re-run were credible.
He urged INEC to work with the relevant security agencies to ensure security for its officials on election duty.
He said that the commission could work within the purview of the inter-agencies consultative forum on election security under its former chairman Prof, Attahiru Jega to ensure this.
‘’The committee has been quite active in working with security agencies and the civil population toward the conducts and guarantee of credible elections in Nigeria.
“This are some of the key issues that we need to look out for and civil society must also be very active, active in terms of engaging INEC, engaging the citizens, engaging security agencies.
“This is with a view to ensuring that they monitor the process and draw attention to where there are problems.
“And toward ensuring that any agencies that have the responsibility to act on the basis of an issue that has been identified should do that,’’ he said.
The country director said that security agencies had responsibilities to guarantee public safety during election without the use of military power.
‘’The military should know the limit of its own powers when it comes to elections, elections are civil issues, and the police and civil defence are the ones that are more active and relevant during elections,’’ he said.
He, however, said that in instances where the level of insecurity was high, the military would be required to move in and take on certain responsibilities.
All these, he said, should be done within the context of military aids to civil authority by providing supports in a non-kinetic way except where the situation was complex.
“That is when you need to drag in the military to provide extra security to ensure that the elections are conducted credible and without any form of harassment and threats,’’ he said.
Kwaja urged the international community to provide support in terms of advice to relevant agencies as well as technical support where necessary.
This, he said, should not lead of interference in the electoral processes. (NAN)

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