By Olugbenga Salami
Ahead of the 2019 general elections, the Great Britain, on Monday cautioned security agencies in Nigeria against intimidating the electorate while also being impartial before, during and after the elections.
Acting British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Harriet Thompson, who gave the warning in an interview with journalists after she visited the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki at the National Assembly complex, Abuja, said the choice of Nigerians must be allowed to prevail in the elections by all bodies participating in the process.
Thompson spoke 24 hours after the Britain issuing a joint statement with other world’s leading countries on the need for relevant stakeholders in Nigeria to get things right in the next year’s general elections.
She said aside the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, that is expected to be impartial, the security agencies should also be seen to be impartial as well.
According to her, issues surrounding the conduct of the elections and legislative interventions inform of required bills needed for improvement of welfare of Nigerians were discussed during her meeting with the Senate President.
“As far as we are concern, intimidation, vote-buying, that we saw in the recent governorship elections and the violence that we saw around party primaries are worrisome and we are urging all parties to refrain from that.
“We call again on the security agencies to remain impartial and to not interfere in the electoral process.
“We recall the important roles of INEC and they should ensure that these elections are generally fair and will lead to the outcome that the Nigerian people have chosen”, she said.
Thompson further stressed: “We are here at the National Assembly to draw attention to the statement released yesterday (Sunday) by the international community including the UK on the occasion of the beginning of formal campaign season.
“We drew attention to the fact that that as friends of Nigerians and maintaining our resolutely, objective position, we do not support any particular candidate or political party.
“We are strongly in support of a process that will be free, fair and credible, and that leads to the right outcome for Nigeria.
“We look forward to seeing the electoral parties set out their campaign issues and leading to transparent play so that the people of Nigeria can choose the candidates that will be best to them”.
Disclosing further on what transpired at the meeting she said “We met with the Senate President and the Majority Leader of the Senate (Senator Ahmad Lawan) in order to talk about very important legislative business that the National Assembly should undertake even before the elections and with the start of the official campaign period at the weekend.
“We are very pleased to hear from both the leader of the majority and the senate president that there is a great commitment to continue their important work. The bills that we particularly mentioned were the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, the Police Reform Bill, The Company and Allied Matters Act, the Gender Equality Bill and the Disability Bill.
“These are all bills that we believe would make things better for Nigerians, for their rights, for their opportunities and for economic development. So, we are really pleased that they will continue with their works.
Earlier at the meeting, Saraki assured the British envoy of National Assembly’ commitment to passing priority bills despite political campaigns that have started.
He said: “It is very important to emphasise that as far as we are concerned, we will follow through on the key bills. We will continue to work on these Bills, because they are priorities to the 8th National Assembly — these are Bills that were initiated by the legislative arm of government”.
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