The ECOWAS Observer Mission to Nigeria has urged the Nigerian government to address the challenges of fuel and cash shortage as well as insecurity before the forthcoming elections slated for Feb. 25.
The mission, led by former President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, gave the advice when he visited the Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama on Wednesday in Abuja.
Koroma said President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to ensuring free and fair elections had become part of his legacy.
He also spoke on the concerns raised that could affect the elections.
“We have had some concerns on the availability of fuel.
“Its limitation will affect the movement of everybody, including INEC.
“Another concern is that of the scarcity of cash – the limited liquidity in the system.
“This has been a concern that has been raised by our observers and also the political parties that we have met.
“Now, in addition to these two general concerns, there are security issues that affect specific locations and regions.
“These are all issues that we will want the government to address as we are going into these all important elections.
“For those that are specifically in the hands of the government, maybe you will want to share with us the efforts that are made or will be made to ensure that they do not limit the overall activity of the elections,” Koroma said.
The leader of the mission said elections in Nigeria, if free and fair, would set the stage for peaceful and democratic elections in other African countries holding elections in 2023 and beyond.
“As we said, Nigeria is key. Nigeria is big, and anything happening here will set the stage, especially when we are having other elections this year in other countries, including my country, and elections coming up next year in Ghana and others.
“But whatever happens here will set the stage for peaceful and democratic transitions in our countries,” he added.
In his response, Onyeama urged the mission to pay a visit to the Chief of Defence Staff and some of the service chiefs who would provide information on measures taken on security.
The minister also spoke on measures taken on cash and fuel availability.
“On the issue of cash availability and fuel – huge challenges.
“But I do understand that there are measures that are being taken in respect of fuel scarcity.
“Also, the president has just decided that at least the N200 note will remain a legal tender.
“So banks, because these are old notes, they should be more readily available and the financial institutions will put them into circulation,” the minister said.
He explained that the Peace Accord are in the process of being signed by the political parties.
He urged political leaders and parties to show and act responsibly and be careful in the pronouncements they make.
NAN gathered the Presidential and National Assembly elections have been slated for Feb. 25, while governorship and state assembly elections would be held on March 11. (NAN)