Nigeria Polls: What UN Wants

Today I completed a two-day visit to Nigeria, accompanied by the secretary-general’s high-level representative to Nigeria, Mohamed Ibn Chambas. My meetings with key national political, electoral, and security officials included the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd); the chair of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Alhaji Ahmadu Adamu Mu’azu; the permanent secretary of the presidency, Ambassador Hassan Tukur; the chair of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mr Attahiru Jega; the chief of defense staff, Air Chief Marshall Alex Sabundu Badeh; the inspector-general of the police (IGP), Mr Suleiman Abba; the director-general of the National Intelligence Agency, Ambassador Ayodele Oke; and the director-general of the State Security Service, Mr Ita Ekpeyong. The executive secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Professor Ben Angwe, representatives of the National Peace Committee, members of the diplomatic community and civil society organizations also shared their views with me.

I conveyed the secretary-general’s solidarity and support to the people of Nigeria in the lead-up to the general elections scheduled to begin on 28 March. I look forward to conveying to the secretary-general the assurances we received during my trip regarding the importance of holding the elections in accordance with the new electoral calendar issued by the INEC. I encouraged the political, electoral and security actors to continue working together to create an environment conducive for the holding of violence-free and credible elections, and ensure that all eligible Nigerians can freely exercise their constitutional right to vote, including those displaced by violence in the north-east. I urged the political actors, particularly the candidates, to resolve any electoral disputes through existing legal and constitutional means. Especially commendable is the commitment by President Jonathan and General Buhari to implementing the Abuja Accord and encouraged them to work with the National Peace Committee (NPC), political parties and civil society to ensure its implementation at state and federal levels. Especially given the important role Nigeria plays in the region and globally, the international community is closely watching the elections in Nigeria and that any persons responsible for violence will be held accountable.

In the view of the UN, INEC has made noteworthy progress in the preparations for the elections, including the distribution of permanent voter cards (PVCs) and the testing of card readers, despite the tight schedule and logistical challenges. We believe that these efforts should help to build confidence in the electoral system among the Nigerian voters and pave the way for the holding of credible and inclusive elections.

On discussing the situation in the north-east of Nigeria resulting from continuing indiscriminate and brutal attacks by Boko Haram against civilian populations, I reiterated the secretary-general’s message that no cause or grievance can justify such crimes. The secretary-general has expressed support for Nigeria and other countries of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) and Benin as they fight the insurgency and welcomed the positive steps taken by them, with the support of the African Union, towards operationalizing the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) to counter the threat posed by Boko Haram in the sub-region, in line with international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law.

I recalled the secretary-general’s message that, while security measures are essential, an exclusive reliance on a military approach would not suffice to counter the Boko Haram insurgency. Countering Boko Haram effectively and permanently should be based on a multi-dimensional approach that addresses human rights concerns and promotes good governance and economic and social development.

On behalf of the secretary-general, I also expressed sincere appreciation to the people and government of Nigeria for the country’s leadership role in the United Nations itself. This is demonstrated by Nigeria’s current membership on the Security Council and by the many talented sons and daughters of Nigeria who are in key positions throughout the Organization. In addition, generations of Nigerians have served in United Nations peacekeeping operations, contributing in a tangible and direct way to global peace and security.

Abuja, 18 March 2015
Mr Feltman is United Nations under-secretary-general for political affairs

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