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US envoy commends Nigeria’s card reader initiative as NHRC insists on solders deployment for elections

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

Entwistle , who was speaking at a one day conference on Promoting Peaceful and Credible 2015 Elections in Abuja Thursday, said that he had been speaking a lot lately on peaceful 2015 elections, not because America wants to play the big brother 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 US-Africa policy.

Stressing that there is no role for violence in the democratic process, the ambassador expressed his positive impression on the emphasis on non-violence and issued-based campaigns by stakeholders in the electoral process. “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 said.

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.

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

For those calling for the exclusion of the Army during the elections, Professor Odinkalu insisted that solders must be deployed for the protection of citizens, adding that any breakdown in law and order during the elections will have adverse effects on the region because Nigeria is the most strategic country in Africa.

“Solders must be part of the elections because IEDs have gone off in 24 states of the country. The security situation in the country is not limited to the north. The solders are there to protect the people, not to be part of elections. We must have a ground rule as to their work but shutting solders in the barracks is not an option’, he said.

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.

Odinkalu noted that though the background to this election has been defined by violence, the country has made appreciable progress. He explained 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 added also, that since 2007, the election process has improved judging by the percentage of results that have ended up in court. In 2007 according to him, 86 per cent of the results were contested in court. This figure reduced to 51 per cent in 2011, representing a 35 per cent progress. “We have to be a little more confident and positive because we are making progress”, he charged.

He therefore, called on politicians to stop attacking INEC as shown in various media advertorials. “INEC is being shot at because they are preparing the ground to discredit the elections. Nigerians should stand up for INEC”, he urged.



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