The Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, has admitted that elections in Nigeria have been marred by the use of illicit weapons.
The INEC chairman said this at a forum on the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in Nigeria, organised by the Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PRESCOM), Monday, in Kaduna with the theme ‘Ballot without Bullets’.
Jega assured of the commission’s determination to having a peaceful election come February. He said if the election is peaceful, it would be free and fair.
“Elections in Nigeria have been marred in recent times by the use of illicit weapons that are prevalent all over the place”, he said.
The INEC chairman, who was represented by the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Kaduna State, Hussaini Mahuta, said the commission had decentralized the distribution of voter’s card, explaining that after the three days that was given to distribute the permanent voter cards, the distribution went back to the local government offices and is now at the ward centres.
He used the occasion to appeal to members of the public to go and collect their voters’ card before the end of January.
“As Nigeria inches towards 2015 general elections, the country has been gripped by palpable anxiety”, the INEC chairman said. “Keen observers of politics since the return of democracy in 1999 have been using virtually every opportunity and platform to express their fears about the danger that the present spate of bloodletting and acrimony portend from the democratic venture that civilian regime is supposed to be nurturing.
“In elections, arms are used to steal the people’s collective mandate thus subverting the whole process. We know the effects of stolen mandate are much more profound and far-reaching as it impacts not only on individuals but the society in general as a result of the lack of legitimacy, insecurity and instability associated with this.
“Nigerians must therefore discourage the proliferation and use of arms during the coming elections”, he added.
Jega pointed out that the commission had not rested on its oars in conducting free, fair and credible elections that would strengthen and deepen the country’s democratic roots, adding that the eyes of the world were on INEC and Nigerians are hoping that the commission will deliver.
In his opening remarks, the chairman of PRESCOM, Emmanuel Imoho, said nuclear weapons may be a big threat in Europe, middle East or other parts of the world, but in Africa, the threat was clear, the danger known, the weapon of mass destruction that continues to fuel conflicts, wars, violence and wanton bloodletting with severe losses in lives and wasted economic opportunities, is small arms and light weapons.
According to Imoho, the aim of the forum was to, among other things, contribute to the reduction of electoral violence in Nigeria come 2015 and beyond by sensitizing Nigerians on the necessity for “ballot without bullets”, create awareness on the negative socio economic impact of illicit small arms and light weapons proliferation in Nigeria and harness stakeholders’ opinion on how best to ensure public-private partnership in combating the proliferation of small arms and light weapons to ensure a sustainable violence-free electoral culture.
In his speech, the Governor of Kaduna state, Ramalan Yero, represented by his deputy, Nuhu Bajoga, appealed to fellow politicians to play the game with a lot of decorum and go for issue-based politics as against maligning each other.
“After all, power belongs to God and he gives it to whom he pleases at the time he pleases”, he said.