The Election Observation team dispatched by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has expressed worry that Nigeria’s upcoming elections may be affected by the persisting fuel deficit and cash shortage.
Ernest Bai Koroma, the former president of Sierra Leone and leader of the 250-member ECOWAS delegation, voiced 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 concerns prior to the elections.
Koroma stated, “Thus far, there have been some worries voiced about the supply of fuel, as its scarcity will impede the mobility of everyone, including the Independent Election Commission” (INEC).
“Another problem is the lack of currency and the system’s restricted liquidity. This issue has been raised by both our observers and the political parties with whom we have spoken.”
In addition, he brought up the problem of security as it pertains to certain sites and regions, stating that, notwithstanding sporadic incidences of violence, the government should take action prior to the elections.
However, he complimented Nigeria for its ceaseless efforts and sacrifices in bolstering democracy in the sub-region, noting that the success of the Nigerian elections is of paramount importance to the international community.
He stated, “We are delighted to be here. As observers of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), we arrive with high hopes. Prior to now, we have sent long-term observers who were involved in the early observation of the process, and we are now deploying approximately 250 observers across the country to observe the process.
This election is important since Nigeria has the largest economy in the subregion. It is Nigeria because success in this country will convey the proper message to the rest of ECOWAS, the AU, and beyond.”
He continued, “For us, this is a crucial time because we have witnessed a rollback of the democratic advances we have won in the subregion. We have had five attempted coups and there are nations among us that are governed by military governments, which is not encouraging for our democracy. We are aware of the sacrifices that Nigeria has made in the past to restore democracy in the sub-region, including my own country and neighboring nations, as well as what you have done recently to ensure that electioneering processes are carried out in their entirety in nations such as The Gambia.
“For us, Nigeria should serve as an example, which is why everyone is so anxious and eager to be a part of this process. We are proud to be a part of this process, and we hope that the ultimate result will be an election that the people embrace as a reflection of their will. We are pleased to learn that President Muhammadu Buhari has pledged to ensure free and fair elections that would form part of his legacy.”
In his remarks, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, told the visiting group that the Buhari administration has taken measures to address the gasoline crisis and cash crunch by mandating the circulation of the old N200 notes to alleviate the suffering of the people.
He lauded President Koroma for his efforts for democracy in the sub-region and expressed hope that Nigerians can benefit from his vast knowledge, while assuring his guests that the government will hold a free, fair, and transparent election.
He stated, “President Buhari has made it very clear that he wishes to leave a legacy of a peaceful transfer of power, and he has put in place all the instruments to guarantee peaceful, free, fair, and transparent elections; this is a truly beautiful legacy for us.”