President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday urged candidates contesting elections at all levels to respect the choice of voters and accept the result of the elections as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The President, who witnessed the signing of the Second Peace Accord for the 2023 Presidential elections at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, reminded the political class and their supporters that INEC is the agency empowered by law to announce the results.
”Any aggrieved candidate should resort to the established judicial processes, and we must have the confidence to trust our legal systems.
”I once again ask the candidates to abide by the spirit and letter of the Accord they have signed today.
”Let me remind all Nigerians not for the first time that this is the only country we have, and we must do everything to keep it safe, united and peaceful.
”There should be no riots or acts of violence after the announcement of the election results. All grievances, personal or institutional, should be channeled to the relevant courts,” he said.
The President acknowledged that deep concerns have been raised about the conduct of the 2023 general elections and the outcomes they may throw up.
He, however, assured Nigerians that his administration will continue to do the utmost to deliver a free and fair election.
”Since my assumption of office, we have worked so hard to ensure that we pass on a legacy of free, fair, credible, safe, and peaceful elections.
”We will continue to act with neutrality and allow the rule of law to take precedence over political expediency.
”We have demonstrated that with the off-circle elections in Edo, Ondo, Anambra, Ekiti and Osun States. We allowed Nigerians to decide who should govern them. We are committed to that legacy in this administration.’’
President Buhari therefore assured INEC, security agencies and all relevant institutions saddled with responsibility of conducting the elections, of his administration’s continuous support.
He asked them to be firm and courageous, abiding by the laws and constitutional provisions in conducting the elections.
”We must constantly improve our electoral process using technology and all the positive elements it brings to consolidate the integrity of the elections.”
President Buhari thanked the Chairman and members of the National Peace Committee, led by General Abdulsalami Abubakar, for their commitment and sacrifices to support peaceful elections in Nigeria.
He recalled that in September 2022, the Chairman had respectfully asked him to deliver a goodwill message in support of issue-based and peaceful campaigns and political rallies devoid of insults and personal attacks.
”I readily agreed because this is my personal belief and conviction; that we need to dwell more on issues that are fundamental to Nigerians.
”Despite having no financial support from the government, the Peace Committee has remained steadfast, working with relevant agencies to provide moral compass and serve as an independent agency for alternative dispute resolution on the electoral process.
”I commend the Committee’s commitment and loyalty not only to the electoral process but to peace generally in Nigeria,” President Buhari said, adding that the ”committee has made a name for itself, at home and abroad,” he said.
The President pledged that Federal Government would give the Peace Committee all the necessary support needed to make their work more impactful and successful.
He called on all other agencies and the International Development Partners to give them all the support in facilitating peaceful elections in the country.
General Abubakar expressed concern about the lack of compliance by major political parties to the National Peace Accord signed in September 2022.
”44 per cent of the violations were carried out by the spokespersons of the political parties; 26 per cent by party members; 19 per cent by the presidential candidates themselves; 11 per cent by the hardcore supporters and 4 per cent by the Chairmen of the parties,” he said.
The Chairman of the Peace Committee stated that the since the start of official campaigning on September 28, 2022, there have been 60 attacks recorded on political rallies, resulting in nine fatalities, with the highest numbers in the southwest and southeast and lowest in the northeast and north-central, according to data collated by the National Election Violence Tracker.
He, therefore, called on all political actors, key stakeholders and Nigerians to support a peaceful transition, promote the ideals of peace and a violent free post-election period.
‘‘I urge all politicians who will sign the accord to fully commit themselves to the letter and spirit of the Accord,’’ he said.
INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu assured the nation that the presidential election will hold on Saturday, February 25, saying ‘‘INEC is ready.’’
According to him, INEC has already commenced the movement of sensitive materials to the various Local Government Areas (LGAs) nationwide.
”By Friday we will activate the registration area centres so that at first light on Saturday, polling units will open on time.
”The commission is committed to free, fair, and credible elections in compliance with the electoral framework and the spirit of the peace accord.
”All political parties and candidates are hereby reassured of the commission’s neutrality. INEC is not a political party. We have no candidate in the election. Our allegiance is to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and our loyalty is to Nigerians.
”Therefore, Nigerians should feel confident that their votes will count,” he said.