Campaign for the 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections officially kick-started yesterday and the European Union delegation to Nigeria, the United States, the United Kingdom and 22 other countries having diplomatic missions in Nigeria have urged stakeholders in the Nigerian electoral system to refrain from using hate speech and eschew violence.
The countries also said it would welcome new efforts towards the 2015 type of peace accords which played an important role in stemming post election violence that year.
In a statement sent through the public affairs section, United States Diplomatic Mission to Nigeria yesterday the countries noted that they hoped to see transparent campaigns and urged all voters to use their democratic right and vote.
The group further said it strongly supports the principle of media freedom and the vital role the independent media plays in ensuring informed public debate, advocating for balanced, neutral and non-defamatory coverage.
The statement read: “As friends of Nigeria and its people, we will follow the campaigns and election process closely. Who wins the elections is for the Nigerian people to decide. Our concern is to see a process leading to free, fair, transparent and peaceful elections.
“We hope to see transparent campaigns and we urge all voters to use their democratic right and vote. We are particularly keen to see greater participation of women, youth and people living with disabilities.
“We urge all involved – political and non-political actors – to refrain from using hate speech and take a firm stance against violence. The 2015 Peace Accords played an important role in that regard and we welcome new efforts towards that end.
“We were gravely concerned over widespread incidents of intimidation, interference and vote-buying during the recent gubernatorial elections. We were also perturbed by irregularities and violence during party primaries, and noted with particular concern that several women candidates were disenfranchised.
“We wish to draw particular attention to the fundamental role of the security agencies in providing a safe and secure environment for the Nigerian people to exercise their democratic rights. It is vital that security agencies act, and are seen to act, in an impartial manner that maintains the high standards of professional conduct.
“We strongly support the principle of media freedom and the vital role the independent media plays in ensuring informed public debate. We also stress the importance of balanced, neutral and non-defamatory coverage.
“At the beginning of the 2019 electoral campaign, we would like to reiterate our strong commitment to support democracy in Nigeria. We encourage Nigeria and its people to consolidate and deepen democracy, building on the standards set in 2015.
The signatories to the statement were European Union (Delegation to Nigeria), France, Germany, United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada and Czech Republic.
Others were Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.