The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has cautioned the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) against taking sides in the general elections.
In its New Year message yesterday, the association urged government not to involve the military in the polls, to prevent voter intimidation.
It also tasked the police, the Nigerian Civil Defense Corps, and other security agencies not to compromise standards by working for desperate politicians.
The statement signed by Mr. Bayo Oladeji, media assistant to CAN President Samson Ayokunle, reads in part: “The year 2019 is a crucial one to all Nigerians because it is a year of general elections.
I therefore urge all Nigerians to make sure they abide in peace without getting involved in violence throughout the year, especially before, during and after the elections.
“We should all distance ourselves from electoral manipulations in whatever form. I urge politicians not to be too desperate to be voted into power or get themselves involved in using thugs to cause chaos or commit electoral fraud. Vote buying is evil; all stakeholders should shun it.
“The military should not be dragged into the electoral process. They should instead be allowed to face their primary responsibilities. Voters should not be intimidated, and election observers should not be harassed like we witnessed in recent polls.
“INEC and their personnel should maintain neutrality in their conduct throughout the elections. Let us remember that without a free, fair and credible exercise, which will bring credible leadership, the ‘dry bones’ of Nigeria will not rise again.”
This was as the presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili, expressed concern over reports that Boko Haram killed 700 Nigerian soldiers in Baga, Borno State.
She also frowned at recent killings in Zamfara State, saying the security situation in the country shows a lack of effective leadership by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“Although the military and the presidency have denied the reports but the serial credibility challenges of the Buhari administration and the security team he leads as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces have created public distrust of any rebuttal by government. And that is gravely worrisome,” Ezekwesili said in a statement yesterday.
She noted: “The only way to ensure accuracy of the casualty that Nigeria is suffering as a result of counter-terrorism at this stage is to inaugurate a citizens-led independent investigation panel. Such an initiative would go a long way to eliminate the opaqueness of the counter-terrorism war and restore public confidence, as the case may be, in how the Buhari administration is prosecuting it.
“This is demonstrated in the very troubling inertia to decisively confront and end the frequent killings of our citizens; especially our soldiers on the frontline of battle. The killings have tragically earned Nigeria the designation of the 16th most dangerous country in the world, according to the Global Peace Index. Nigeria is also the 15th most fragile country in the 2018 Fragile States Index by the United States Fund for Peace.
“Tackling this will require commencing a security discourse and planning, away from a narrow focus on military responses, to a more collective and participative conversation of the structure of the Nigerian state and our security architecture.”
She promised: “Our ACPN administration would without fail prioritise this. We would be responsive to current and immediate challenges by revising the current containment measures to ensure efficiency and include effective public communication on security issues without compromising genuine national security concerns. We would also bring citizens in, as participants in their own security, through the establishment of local peace committees as part of the national security architecture.”
The presidential candidate added: “Within days of being inaugurated into office, our ACPN administration would move swiftly to launch a coordinated response to all acts of violence in regions that are vulnerable to attacks from armed groups and concurrently commence a strong security sector reform for professionalism, accountability and results-focus.”
The Nigerian Army meanwhile has warned against “concerted efforts by some unpatriotic elements” to politicise and derail the ongoing fight against terrorism and insurgency in the country.
It also condemned what it said were recycled Boko Haram propaganda video clips, old interviews with soldiers, and inaccurate news reports.
“They are determined to dampen troops’ morale especially in the northeast, so that the troops would become compromised against the war efforts and complicate the security situation in the country for selfish and cheap political gains and expediency,” said a statement yesterday by Director Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Sani Usman.
It added: “We would like to reiterate that Nigeria is at war with Boko Haram terrorists, in any form or guise that they may manifest, and strongly warn these subversive elements to desist from these unwholesome efforts.
“We will continue to monitor subversive propaganda and take necessary action against perpetrators. The Nigerian Army will remain undaunted in the successful prosecution of this war against terrorism, insurgents, militants and bandits in the country.”