The United Kingdom has urged political parties to adhere strictly to electoral laws, amidst reported cases of wide-spread vote buying in the last weekend governorship election in Ekiti State.
UK International Development secretary, Penny Mordaunt gave the advice after meeting with INEC Chairman Professor Mahmood Yakubu in Abuja.
Mordaunt said though the elections were largely peaceful, and results widely endorsed by key stakeholders, vote buying by both the main political parties was widely criticised.
She said though there is time to tackle some of the challenges noted before next year’s elections, political parties and their supporters must respect a code of conduct and adhere to the highest standards, Nigeria’s electoral law.
“I am therefore calling on political leaders, the media and Nigerians at large, to act responsibly and use their platforms to urge the people to exercise their democratic right, and to do so within the law.
“We encourage security agencies to remain visibly neutral and ensure a safe and secure environment for the electorate,” Ms Mordaunt said.
She expressed UK’s strong support for INEC to carry out its constitutional role, free from political pressure and intimidation.
UK, she said, encouraged INEC to demonstrate neutrality and impartiality in its application of the electoral laws, to build voter trust and confidence.
“It’s a tough job, but I commend INEC for their efforts to deliver truly free, fair, credible and peaceful elections, that Nigerians can be proud of.
“But INEC will not be able to solve all electoral problems on its own. Everyone in society has a role to play and a contribution to make.”
Nigerians, she said, are entitled to an issues-based campaign with focus from all candidates on Nigeria’s national interest and long term sustainability.
“But one of the fundamental principles of democracy is the very freedom to hold different views without fear of violence, prejudice or divisiveness, and for our society to be stronger because of it.
“’This is vital for Nigeria’s reputation and stability, as well as to protect and further enhance the business and economic conditions for investment and sustained growth,” she said.
“Whatever the outcome next year, the elections are Nigeria’s opportunity to demonstrate progress towards strengthening democracy. I am confident that this ambition is within reach,” Mordaunt added.