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Saturday, February 2, 2019

DO EVERYTHING TO DEFEND YOUR DEMOCRACY, UN TELLS NIGERIANS


Nigerians have been told to “firmly reject all undemocratic and negative voices that seek to promote conflict” to disrupt peace during the forthcoming general elections.

The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, made the call at the conclusion of a two-week pre-electoral mission to Nigeria.  The mission, which took place from Jan. 21 to Jan. 31, was the third pre-election mission to Nigeria by the Secretary-General’s envoy.The mission included extensive discussions with Nigerian stakeholders in several States, including Benue, Kaduna and Kano.During his mission, Chambas had important discussions with stakeholders and key actors involved in the preparation of the elections.To all his interlocutors, the UN representative conveyed the support of the UN and the international community to efforts aimed at consolidating and strengthening Nigeria’s democracy.
He called on all candidates, political parties, state institutions, and citizens to abide by their commitments to ensure free, credible, and peaceful elections. He also encouraged each camp to uphold its commitments and refrain from actions capable of inciting confrontation and violence during and after the elections. It will be recalled that the Nigerian government says the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the European Union acted in haste to comment on the suspension of Walter Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN).

Onnoghen had been suspended on Friday, with Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed taking his place in acting capacity. On Saturday, the US, UK and EU had issued statements questioning the suspension, especially so close to the elections. However, a statement by Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media and Publicity), issued on Sunday, noted that the international community acted in haste and were not properly informed on the matter. According to Shehu, the international community constitutes “friends” and would have done the same given similar circumstances.

THE FULL STATEMENT

The Presidency notes with interest the coordinated statements of the US, UK and EU linking the suspension of CJN Onnoghen to the conduct of the upcoming elections. We appreciate the concerns voiced by the three statements and accept that the authors of the statements believe they were acting in friendship toward Nigeria with regard to making the statements.
However, we also note that friends, when not properly informed or acting in haste, can indeed make serious mistakes even with the best of intentions. Such is the case here.

The statements by the three seem more driven by unfounded assumptions and to be honest, a certain condescension to this African democracy. This is unfortunate. But this gives us an opportunity to clarify some points in the hope that these three friends reach a deeper understanding of the situation. The statements by the US, UK and EU speak of their respect for constitutional practice and fair elections. However, the positions they stake tend to contravene rather than strengthen these laudable objectives.

CJN Onnoghen’s situation is one of his own making and, to a large degree, his own choosing. The CJN was brought before the CCT because of a serious breach of law regarding his assets declaration. This is not a mere technicality like innocently placing a document in a wrong file or mistakenly placing yesterday’s date on a document.

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