Ahead of 2019 elections, civil society organisations, have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to march his words with action by ensuring free, fair and credible elections.
Buhari had on Sunday in Beijing, China, said that as a beneficiary of free and fair elections, he was not afraid of a credible process in 2019 general polls in Nigeria.
He reaffirmed this commitment at an interactive session with members of the Nigerian community in China.
Buhari said: ‘‘I have no fear about free and fair elections because that is what brought me to the present position.
“I know what I went through and very few Nigerians could boast of trying four times, contesting for the presidency.
‘‘Those interested in participating in the elections must get their PVCs, register in their constituency and elect anybody of their choice across ethnicity and religion.
‘‘The Nigerian police, law enforcement agencies and INEC must respect the people to express their wishes.”
Speaking to the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja, a cross-section of Nigerians said that the president’s words should be backed with action by first, assenting to the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill.
Executive Director, Life and Peace Development Organisation, Franklin Oloniju, who described the president’s statement as encouraging, said “having a free and fair election also depends on signing the relevant legislations that can enhance the poll’’.
Oloniju said: “Those words should be backed with action, especially as it relates to the Electoral Bill that was submitted to him by the National Assembly.
“There is the need for him to sign the bill and if there are issues, an amendment can be made.”
Oloniju also said that a free and fair poll also depended on the legislature’s readiness to approve the Independent National Electoral Commission’s budget on time.
He called on the lawmakers to take it as a matter of priority.
Nyong Essien, a Programmer with African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development, said that it would be a plus for the president if he remained committed to the promise.
He, however, corroborated that the Electoral Bill before the president was an instrument that would help to further make the electoral process credible.
Essien said: “Like the president rightly said, he benefitted from a free and fair election but from what we see, his refusal to assent to the Electoral Bill is equally a cause of worry.
“The apprehension is because the bill is the instrument that will help to further make the process credible.
“When you refuse to assent to such an instrument, it will begin to create doubt in the minds of the people.
“However, we are believing that because he has said so and he is known to be a man of integrity, he would abide by what he has said.”
On her part, Programme Officer, Nigeria for Change Initiative, Veronica Dibang, said though Buhari was doing well, there was need to ensure that security agencies did not gag the media or victimise opposition parties.