By Olumide Ajayi
The head of the Commonwealth Observer Group, Jakaya Kikwete, says perpetrators of election related violence in Saturday’s Presidential and National Assembly elections in Nigeria should be prosecuted.
In the group’s Interim Statement presented in Abuja on Monday, Mr Kikwete, who is former President of Tanzania, said those found liable should be prosecuted.
“Election related violence and loss of life, which occurred in a number of places, is deeply troubling. Nigeria can do better. Violence has no place in a modern democracy.
“Those responsible should be held accountable. We encourage all political parties to honour their commitments in the National Peace Accord and reject violence,“ he said.
Reports from the civil society on the elections said about 35 people were killed in various election violence across eight states.
The head of the group, however, said in spite of the challenges, Nigerians still had the opportunity to express their will and exercise their franchise.
“We trust that the final stages of collation and announcement of results will be handled in a transparent and credible manner,” he said.
He urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to include Nigerians on essential duties in the voting process in future elections.
We noted that polling officials, security staff and other essential workers are unable to vote and are therefore disenfranchised.
“In addition, we are told that 11.2 million Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) are not collected. Consequently, over 13 percent of all registered voters could not vote,” he said.
He lauded the hardwork and dedication of polling staff but noted that many of them would benefit from more comprehensive trainings.
The group leader also commended increased women’s political participation as candidates and encouraged the government and all political parties to take stronger action to promote “genuine inclusion”.
Furthermore, the group welcomed the passage of the Not-Too-Young-to-Run Act as a significant first step to enabling youth participation in all elective offices.
“We hope additional ways will be found to enable more young people to participate effectively in future elections as candidates and voters,” he said.
He also commended the Nigerian youth, especially the National Youth Service Corps, for their invaluable contributions to the electoral process.
The group leader commended Nigerians for their patience and commitment to democracy and appealed that they maintain the same commitment in the post-election period.
He expressed optimism that the Commonwealth Observer Group’s Final Report to contain its recommendations, would be helpful to INEC and other stakeholders in strengthening Nigeria’s democracy.