President Muhammadu Buhari has urged all candidates in Saturday’s general elections to respect the choice of voters and accept the outcome of the polls.
He spoke in Abuja yesterday at the second signing of the National Peace Accord by political parties and presidential candidates, organised by the National Peace Committee (NPC).
He also urged any aggrieved candidate to resort to the established judicial processes, saying all must have the confidence to trust the nation’s legal system.
“I implore the candidates contesting in these elections at all levels to respect the choice of voters and accept the results of the elections as announced by INEC, the agency empowered by law to do so.
“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 unto today,” Buhari said.
The president, who commended the NPC, noted that despite having no financial support from the government, it had remained steadfast in working with relevant agencies to provide a moral compass and serve as an independent agency for alternative dispute resolution on the electoral process.
He said he was aware of the deep concerns raised about the conduct of the general elections and the outcomes they might throw up.
He said, “However, since my assumption into office, my government has 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 this legacy till the very last day of my administration.”
Buhari also assured the Independent National Electoral Commission, the security agencies and all relevant institutions saddled with the responsibility of conducting the elections of his administration’s continuous support.
He asked them to be firm and courageous and to abide by the laws and constitutional provisions in conducting the elections.
He also cautioned that there should be no riots or acts of violence after the announcement of the election results and that all grievances, personal or institutional, should be channelled to the relevant courts.
Earlier, the chairman of the NPC and former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, recalled that the committee on September 29, 2022, organised the 15th signing of the National Peace Accord committing the candidates to engage in issue-based campaigns.
He said the committee also monitored the compliance of the accord by the politicians, and that it recorded some of the infractions that were a thing of concern.
He, however, lamented that there was a lack of compliance by the major political parties.
He said 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 hard-core supporters and four per cent by chairmen of the parties.
Earlier yesterday, a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari had asked the INEC to go ahead with the conduct of general elections as planned.
The council assured that the police, the military and all security agencies were fully ready to ensure free, fair and credible polls.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami and the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, jointly briefed State House reporters on the outcome of the maiden NSC meeting in 2023 at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Malami said the meeting was fully briefed by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, the three service chiefs, the IGP and heads of other security agencies about their readiness to provide the necessary security for the coming elections.
He said the meeting was a follow-up to earlier meetings of the Federal Executive Council and the Council of State held to affirm the readiness of the electoral body, the police and security agencies to go ahead with the general elections in the country.
He said the meeting convened by the president to review the state of preparedness mainly focused on the coming elections.
Malami said: “The summary and conclusion of all submissions were to the effect that the system is wholeheartedly ready for the conduct of the election and arising therefrom, the position of the government, the position of the president is to the effect that the election is holding on the 25th day of February, 2023 and Mr. President and the National Security Council are happy with the preparations on the ground and wholehearted arrangements are put in place in that direction.
“The summary of it, the conclusion of it, the resolution of the Council, is to the effect that the elections are holding and there is no going back about it.”
The IGP, while also briefing, said the Nigerian Police, leading other security agencies and members of the armed forces and intelligence community, were prepared to ensure citizens exercised their right of voting and INEC performed her task as an umpire without any hindrances.
Asked if there were specific directives given by the president on the security issues, he said: “We have specific instructions. The specific instruction is that we should maintain law and order and we must ensure that Nigerians are allowed to come out and exercise their franchise or vote for the leaders of their choice and for that, we must create a conducive environment or atmosphere for Nigerians to exercise their right.
“We must also provide protection for INEC materials and officials to do their work. We must ensure that before, during and after the election, whatever fallback it is, we do not have people who will take the laws into their hands and if there are any, we should be able to check within the quickest possible means to ensure that it does not snowball into a bigger crisis.”
On the combined security exercise on the streets of Lagos and Abeokuta, Baba said the joint operations were aimed at stabilising the internal security before the election, especially after the violence that trailed the currency swap policy, adding that “On the election day, you will not see them in polling stations, by the grace of God, we will be able to do that.”
Report had it that President Buhari yesterday held a discussion with INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu.
The president, who noted that the discussion was at Yakubu’s instance, said it was part of the efforts to ensure the elections were held successfully.
Buhari stated this while explaining his few minutes of lateness to the commissioning and handover of N12bn security equipment to the military and the Nigeria Police Force.
“I’m being grounded by INEC. You know next Saturday is a great day for us and I take instructions from INEC so that I make sure there’ll be no excuses for the successful election,” Buhari had told his guests.