By Biola Adebayo
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for peaceful, inclusive and credible elections in Nigeria.
Guterres made the call in a report to the Security Council on the activities of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS).
The UN chief also appealed for peace in other countries in the West African sub-region holding elections in 2019, noting that there has been incremental improvement in the conduct of elections in the region.
“However, the pre-and post-electoral periods have often been characterised by antagonistic contestations and disputes.
“I call upon authorities and national stakeholders to work together to ensure a level playing field and to create an environment conducive to the holding of peaceful, inclusive and credible elections in 2019 in Benin, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Nigeria and Senegal.”
Guterres said: “In Nigeria, tensions have been rising ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections of Feb. 16, and of the gubernatorial and state assembly elections of March 2″.
According to him, concerns were raised by the alleged instrumentalisation of security forces in recent gubernatorial elections”.
The UN scribe said there were also concerns in the surge in alleged vote buying.
The challenges related to the ability of internally displaced persons to participate in the polls amid ongoing terrorism and violence between farmers and herders, is also a concern, he said.
The UN chief also noted what he termed “a series of high-profile defections” from one political party to the other in the country.
“In his capacity as my High-level Representative for Nigeria, my Special Representative continued consultations with key national stakeholders to promote an environment conducive to peaceful general elections in 2019.
“My Special Representative initiated and participated in a joint pre-electoral mission to Nigeria with ECOWAS and the African Union from Oct. 29 to Oct. 31.
“During the mission, he consulted with the President, the Office of the Inspector-General, senior military officials, civil society organisations and other key actors and institutions,” Guterres said.