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U.S. envoy commends INEC’s card reader initiative


 NHRC insists on soldiers’ deployment

THE United States (U.S.) Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. James Entwistle, has commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for its initiative to use the card reader technology in the forthcoming general elections, saying that the commission has the support of America on this.

  Entwistle, who spoke yesterday at a one-day conference on promoting peaceful and credible 2015 elections in Abuja, said that he had been speaking a lot lately on peaceful 2015 elections, not because America wants to play the big brother’s role to Nigeria, but because both countries are huge democracies while Nigeria remains the most important country in Africa, as well as being the most important country in U.S.-Africa policy.

  The ambassador expressed his positive impression on the emphasis on non-violence and issued-based campaigns by stakeholders in the electoral process, saying: “Nigerians should ask the candidates to take the non-violence pledge. Genuine change of the electoral process is possible in Nigeria because it happened in America. 50 years ago, African-Americans protested to have the right to vote. Today, an African-American is the president of America.”

  He added that even in America, the voting process is not yet perfect in some states with regards to the use of technology; and that losers in the elections have always accepted the results in good fate because they consider the interest of the nation first. He, therefore, enjoined all candidates in Nigeria’s elections to accept the results in good fate and prosecute their grievances in the courts rather than resort to violence.

  In the same vein, Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, who gave the keynote presentation at the event organised by the Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni Association, stated that for there to be a peaceful election, the process must be credible and fair.

  Odinkalu, who insisted that soldiers must be deployed for protection of citizens to avoid any breakdown of law and order during the elections, said: “Soldiers must be part of the elections because Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) have gone off in 24 states of the country. The security situation in the country is not limited to the North. The soldiers are there to protect the people, not to be part of elections. We must have a ground rule as to their work but shutting soldiers in the barracks is not an option.”

  He also used the occasion to warn those peddling the rumour of another postponement of the elections and the extension of the President’s tenure by six months that these matters should not be contemplated.

  According to him, if the election does not hold, the situation can degenerate into a conflict that the country may not be able to contain, a situation, which can ignite the people against the State.   

  The NHRC chairman said that though the background to this election has been defined by violence, the country has made appreciable progress, noting that the 2015 election is the most competitive so far in Nigeria’s history, having more vibrant opposition in the history of elections in Nigeria.

  He, therefore, called on politicians to stop attacking INEC as shown in various media advertorials.

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