Christian Aid issues plea for 'free, fair and peaceful' elections in Nigeria this weekend
Christian Aid has voiced its hopes for free, fair and peaceful elections in Nigeria, as citizens in Africa’s most populous nation prepare to go to the polls this weekend.
The general election, on Saturday 16 February, will see President Muhammadu Buhari seeking a second term in office. The country will also cast votes for the National Assembly, amid ongoing concerns over election violence and insecurity.
The Country Manager for Christian Aid Nigeria, Charles Usie, said: “Citizens are preparing for this election like every other: with great anticipation and anxiety. The uncertainty around the political, security and economic aftermath of Saturday’s polls has started to trigger tension here, resulting in high migration from some major cities to smaller towns.
“There are also fears that the security risks and threat of instability may discourage a number of people who plan to participate in the elections, either as voters or observers.
“It is our hope that this election will be peaceful and will not be a trigger for violence, especially in already markedly volatile, prone areas. Rather, we hope it will mark a step in the right direction to help address the systematic and structural issues that keep people poor.
“We at Christian Aid Nigeria reaffirm our commitment to fostering good governance by encouraging active citizenship and pushing for credible and peaceful elections across the nation.”
In recent months Christian Aid has worked with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) – the body responsible for regulating Nigeria's polls – to empower people to exercise their civic responsibility. This is part of Christian Aid's ongoing efforts to support citizens to demand a government that is inclusive, accountable and responsive to the needs of the poorest and most marginalised people.
Mr Usie said: “All the presidential and House of Assembly candidates have made several promises on security, education, healthcare, improved service delivery and many more issues. We are encouraging citizens to hold their leaders accountable to their campaign promises by using Community Development Charters – a tool developed by Christian Aid and our partners – so that they can advocate for their community needs.
“Working with local partners and in collaboration with INEC, we have reached more than 1 million people with awareness-raising and voter education activities – including rallies, workshops and radio broadcasts. We have also trained election observers to ensure credibility and fair electoral processes.
“We hope the outcome is a just, equitable and peaceful Nigerian society: one in which poverty has been eradicated and every person is empowered to live life in all its fullness.”
Tomorrow's polls will take place in the context of a protracted humanitarian crisis in northeast Nigeria, where more than 1.8 million people have been displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency and ongoing military operations.
A surge in violence since November has pushed more than 80,000 civilians in Borno state to flee their villages to cities or crowded camps for the displaced, and thousands of others have fled to neighbouring Cameroon and Chad.
While the INEC has made special provision for displaced Nigerians, there are serious concerns that many may be unable to participate in the elections: particularly those who have fled in recent weeks, often without their voter cards or any ID documents. Tens of thousands are expected to vote in eight relief camps in Borno state, designated to represent eight Local Government Areas where polling cannot take place due to the insecurity.
Nigerians displaced within their own country have the right to vote in the elections and participate fully in local and national politics. Nigeria’s next government must work to protect them, address the humanitarian crisis, and enable their safe and dignified return to their communities – or other durable solutions that respect their rights.
Since 2016, Christian Aid has provided emergency relief to more than 400,000 people displaced in Borno, Benue and Gombe states, including food, water and sanitation supplies.
Earlier this week, the charity called on the African Union and leaders across the continent to ‘translate rhetoric and good intentions into laws, policies and action on the ground to protect everyone forcibly displaced in Africa’.
Notes to Editors:
1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in around 40 countries at any one time. We act where there is great need, regardless of religion, helping people to live a full life, free from poverty. We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance in tackling the root causes of poverty as well as its effects.
2. Christian Aid’s core belief is that the world can and must be changed so that poverty is ended: this is what we stand for. Everything we do is about ending poverty and injustice: swiftly, effectively, sustainably. Our strategy document Partnership for Change explains how we set about this task.
3. Christian Aid is a member of ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance, advocacy and development.
We have more than 70 years’ experience of working in partnership to support communities to thrive. We tackle the root causes of poverty so that women, men and children the world over are strengthened against future knocks. And if disasters happen, we get people the help they want straight away.