The Election Observer team deployed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has raised concerns that the lingering fuel shortage and the cash scarcity may have effects on Nigeria’s forthcoming elections.
Former President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, who is the leader of the 250-man ECOWAS delegation, raised these concerns on Wednesday when the Observer team visited the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama in Abuja, urging the Nigerian government to address these issues before the polls.
Koroma said: “So far we have had some concerns that have been raised that bother on the availability of fuel, as its limitation will affect the movement of everybody including the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC).
“Another concern is that of the scarcity of cash, limited liquidity in the system. This has been a concern that has been raised by our observers and also the political parties that we have met.”
He also raised the issue of security that affects specific locations and regions, adding that although there are isolated incidents of violence, the government should take steps to address them ahead of the polls.
He however lauded Nigeria for its ceaseless efforts and sacrifices in strengthening democracy in the sub-region, stressing that the world attaches so much importance to the success of the Nigerian elections.
He said: “We are very pleased to be here. We are here with great expectations, we are here as an observer mission of ECOWAS. Before now we have deployed long term observers who have been involved in the early observation of the process and we are here with a total deployment of about 250 observers that will be deployed all over the country to observe the process.
“This election is critical because Nigeria is the biggest economy in the sub region. It is Nigeria because anything that succeeds here will send the right signal to the rest of ECOWAS and even to the AU and beyond.”
He added that: “For us the moment is critical because we have been experiencing a reversal of democratic gains we have made within the sub-region. We have had five attempted coups and we have countries among us that have military regimes governing them and this is democracy backsliding which is not encouraging for us. We know the sacrifices that Nigeria has made in the past to restore democracy in the sub region including the country that I come from and neighboring countries and what you have done recently in ensuring that electioneering processes are completed fully in countries like The Gambia.
“For us Nigeria should be an example that is why everybody is very anxious, everybody is keen in being part of this process and we are proud to be part of this process and we hope that at the end of it all, the outcome will be an election that will be accepted by the people as a reflection of their will. We are happy to note that President Muhammadu Buhari has made a commitment to ensure that there is a free and fair election that will become part of his legacy.”
In his remarks, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, assured the visiting delegation that the Buhari Government has taken steps to address the issues of fuel shortage and cash crunch by ordering the circulation of the old N200 notes to ease the suffering of the people.
He praised President Koroma for his sacrifices for democracy in the sub region and expressed optimism that Nigerians will gain from his bountiful experience even as he assured his guests that the government will conduct a free, fair and transparent election.
He said: “President Buhari has made it absolutely clear that he wants to leave a legacy of peaceful transfer of power and he has put in place all the mechanisms to ensure peaceful, free, fair and transparent elections and this is really a wonderful legacy for us.”
Michael Olugbode in Abuja