The United Nations (UN) said on Thursday it would expect the conduct of Nigeria’s 2015 elections to be credible enough to serve as benchmark for other African countries.
Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambers, the Special Representative of UN Secretary-General for West Africa, said this when he visited the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega in Abuja.
Chambers, a former President of ECOWAS, said the UN and it Secretary General had a special interest in Nigeria’s 2015 elections because of the special place the country occupied in Africa.
“Nigeria is a naturally leader both in West Africa and in Africa; so one has come to expect that as a natural leader, in any endeavour including the conduct of elections that the leader would be setting the pace and the benchmarks by which other can be measured.
“And in that regard, the expectation is that the standard that will be maintained for the conduct of elections in February will be up to the international best practices.
“And we can hope then that this would inspired other West African countries, and Africa countries to improve on their own practices as far as electoral governance is concerned.
“2015 will be a year in which we will witness some fairly significant elections in West Africa. In addition to Nigeria, we have elections in Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, and Burkina Faso.
“These are all countries within the ECOWAS countries, significant countries and some of them for instance Côte d’Ivoire, Genuine, and even now Burkina Faso will be conducting elections, post-conflict.
“So we expect to face some challenges there and it is in that contest that we will hope and expect that Nigeria’s elections will be standard setting and we can hopefully use some of these expertise from Nigeria to support these other countries in the region.”
He said the commission was at INEC to exchange ideas and discuss what UN could do to support INEC’s efforts to conduct free, fair, credible, and transparent elections in the country.
“We are here to learn about the efforts that have been made to deal with the challenges which we know, given the size of the population, both the financial and human resources challenges and now of course the insurgency in the three of North Eastern states,”Chambers said.
He said the UN would work closely with ECOWAS to monitor pre-election preparations, the elections, and post-election activities in the country.
Responding, Jega said that while the commission had done a lot in preparation for the 2015 general elections, there were challenges still facing the commission.
He identified the distribution of Permanent Voter Cards as one of them.
Jega said INEC was doing everything possible to ensure that all registered Nigerians exercised their voting right in the 2015 general elections.
“So far we have produced permanent voters’ cards and distributed them in 24 states and FCT. We have also done an update of register in those states. The last phase of the distribution of the register is to cover the remaining 12 states.
“I must say with regret that we have we have experienced some challenges in the production of those cards within our own defined time plan.
“And this has necessitated adjustment of the time period for the distribution of the cards.
“Whereas in initially we had wanted to distribute the cards within the same period for all these remaining 12 states, now we have to stagger it in order to ensure that we have all the cards before they are distributed.
“Of course people have been very anxious and I must say many have also be disappointed not just by the change in the time table for the distribution of the cards, but also by some of the logistical and operational delays experienced in the field.
“But these are minor challenges as far as we are concerned because we are absolutely sure that before the February elections, every registered Nigerian will have his or her permanent voter card to be able to exercise their vote.”
He commended the UN and other stakeholders for their support towards the conduct of credible elections in the country.
“There is no doubt that as we prepare for the 2015 general elections, we have to strengthen partnerships and expand relationships and welcome whatever support and assistance we know can add value to our operations,” he said.