By Williams Ekanem
The Independent International Election Observation Missions to Nigeria has called on INEC to be truly independent and ensure transparency during and after the elections.
The foreign observer missions made the call in a statement issued in Abuja.
The statement was jointly signed by the European Union Election Observation Mission to Nigeria, Commonwealth Observer Group and the National Democratic Institution.
The missions advised INEC to accurately tabulate votes, saying that political parties and their supporters should also respect the code of conduct they signed with INEC.
They, however, recognised INEC’s efforts at administering the election process and the desire of the electorate to participate in genuine elections that would be free of intimidation and violence.
The missions encouraged security forces in the country to ensure a peaceful environment by maintaining the rule of law and safeguarding the integrity of the electoral process.
The statement quoted the missions as saying that they “ will in accordance with the declaration of principles for international election observation, independently issue their preliminary findings on the election process.’’
Another team of monitors from the European Union arrived the country on Thursday from Netherlands. The 60 observers are joining 50 that had arrived the country earlier.
The EU had said that a group of 52 long-term observers would be deployed across the country to observe the electoral process in their area of responsibility and report back to the core team in Abuja.
It added that 60 short-term observers would join the mission shortly before the elections to observe the polls.
A member of the 50-member team, Mr. Leonerdus Den-Biggelar, told journalists that they would be in the country for about three weeks or more depending on the outcome of the elections.
He said the purpose of the mission was to provide support for the development of Nigeria’s democratic institutions and procedures.
The EU Observation Mission is led by Chief Observer, Alojz Peterie, a member of the European Parliament.
In a statement yesterday in Abuja, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Interior, S. B. Ozigis, said: “The Minister of Interior, Captain Emmanuel Ihenacho wishes to notify the general public that the Federal Government has directed that all land borders be closed from 12 noon on Friday, April 1, 2011 to 6 a.m. on Sunday, April 3, 2011. This is to ensure a peaceful and hitch-free conduct of the 2011 National Assembly elections taking place on April 2, 2011.
“In the same vein, vehicular movements have been restricted nationwide from 8.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. on the election day, Saturday, April 2, 2011. Only INEC vehicles, security operatives specially assigned for election duties as well as those on essential and emergency duties, would be allowed to ply the roads.
“The minister of Interior, Captain Emmanuel Ihenacho would like to use this medium to urge all Nigerians to ensure a very smooth, peaceful and successful elections,” he said.
All the major stakeholders in the conduct of polls: INEC, the Nigeria Police and sister security services, the political parties, civil society organisations, and election monitors have said they have done what is needed to guarantee hitch-free conduct of the elections.
Officials of the electoral umpire, the police and other bodies in various states of the federation involved in the preparation for the elections told The Guardian that they are set for the exercise.
In some states, soldiers have been deployed in the streets, who were seen demonstrating their readiness to maintain law and order during the polls.
The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) yesterday sang an usual song when it called for the immediate removal of the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr. Hafiz Ringim for allegedly spearheading the rigging machinery of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
ACN National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, made the call at a news conference in Lagos yesterday. He said the party’s leadership would not watch and allow a repeat of the “disgraceful and destructive conduct of the PDP, which characterised the 2007 general elections.”
Among the national leaders of the party present at the event were former Lagos State Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu, his successor Babatunde Raji Fashola, Alhaji Yusuf Alli, Dr. Audu Ogbe, Alhaji Lawal Shuaibu and Dr. Muiz Banire, the ACN National Legal Adviser.