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Polls: INEC accredits US, UK embassies, 105 others

By The Citizen
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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has accredited the embassies of the United States, the United Kingdom and 105 others for the March 28 and April 11 elections.

Most foreign missions in the country have also opened desks for the monitoring of the election, as facts begin to unfold on why the planned meeting between the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, and INEC Chairman, Attahiru Jega, failed to materialise.

Overall, INEC, according to investigation, has accredited 82 domestic and 25 foreign observers.

Some of those on the list are EU Election Observation Mission;  Commonwealth Observers Mission;  African Union Election Observation Mission;  Germany Embassy; Embassy of France in Nigeria;  Embassy of the Republic of Korea;  Oxford Department of International Development, University of Oxford;  ECOWAS Mission; High Commission of Canada; Australian High Commission; Embassy of Japan; UNDP/ DGD Project; Ghana High Commission; the International Foundation for Electoral Systems(IFES); Embassy of Switzerland; UN Women; International Republican Institute(IRI)  and Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, Kenya.

The rest include  NEPAD, FIDA, NAWOJ, Justice Development and Peace Commission(Catholic Caritas Foundation of Nigeria); National Human Rights Commission(NHRC); Police Service Commission; Election Monitor; Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room(Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre); Nigerian Bar Association(NBA) Alliance for Credible Election among others.

A diplomat told The Nation yesterday that foreign interest in the elections stemmed from Nigeria's 'importance to the political and economic development of West Africa.'

'Apart from being the largest in population in the sub-region, Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa. I think about three to four elections will still hold in Africa this year. If democracy survives in Nigeria, it will serve as a beacon for other parts of the continent,' the diplomat said.

'Most of the diplomatic missions have opened monitoring desks for Nigerian elections. We do not want violence; we want a free and fair process.'

Sources said there is no restriction on where the observers may visit while the elections last.

'All the local and foreign observers are free to go to any part of the country to look at how we are going to conduct elections,' one source said.

'We do not restrict or censor them in any manner because INEC is determined to ensure free, fair, transparent and credible general elections.'

The source however said the commission has some monitors on the field to make sure that all the over 600,000 ad hoc staff and other electoral officers live up to expectations.

The Chief Press Secretary to INEC chairman, Mr. Kayode Robert Idowu, said last night that: 'We are ready for the elections. We have accredited 107 observers apart from monitors to be deployed nationwide.

'As for the training of ad hoc staff, we would be concluding it on Saturday (yesterday) or Sunday (today). All hands are on the deck for hitch-free polls.'

Meanwhile, it was gathered that Jega could  not meet with the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor  because the Bishop failed to follow up his request for the meeting.

A National Commissioner told The Nation that a text message was sent to INEC by someone requesting for audience for the CAN President.

'As the chairman of INEC, any Nigerian can just wake up and send a text to him. Even at that, Jega was cautious and polite in asking for an official letter of request for audience,' the source said.

'The following day, a letter was sent from CAN booking an appointment with the INEC chairman. Without considering the busy schedule of Jega, the letter was specific on the date and time.

'We tried to adjust the schedule of INEC chairman but it was tight. Jega directed INEC's Secretary to reply CAN President that the time fixed was not convenient because the chairman had a prior commitment. The letter was with a caveat of 'let us look at another time' to meet.

'Since then INEC has been expecting a fresh date from the CAN President. But the INEC chairman woke up to read about snubbing of Oritsejafor. It was unfortunate that only one side of the story was presented to the media.

Responding to a question, the source added: 'Jega had met with all religious leaders last year. Even under the aegis of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), Jega had audience with Oritsejafor and others. The Nation