President Muhammadu Buhari has assured Nigerians and the international community of free and fair elections in 2023, even as he pledged peaceful transfer of power.
Buhari, who made the pledge at a virtual summit for democracy organised by President Joe Biden of the United States, said necessary mechanisms would be strengthened to ensure that Nigeria witness another peaceful transfer of power.
“As we countdown to our next general elections in 2023, we remain committed to putting in place and strengthening all necessary mechanisms to ensure that Nigeria will not only record another peaceful transfer of power to an elected democratic government but will also ensure that the elections are conducted in a free, fair and transparent manner.
“Nigeria will continue to actively support the democratisation processes in our region West Africa and the African continent at large. But regrettably, our democratic gains of the past decades are under threat of the unconstitutional takeover of power.
“This unwholesome trend, sometimes in reaction to unilateral amendments of constitutions by some leaders, must not be tolerated by the international community. Nigeria fully supports the efforts by ECOWAS to address this growing challenge and appreciates the support of both the African Union and the United Nations,’’ he added.
The President noted that Nigeria continues to face security challenges, which pose a threat to democracy, calling on global partners to support the nation’s efforts in tackling insurgency and terrorism.
“I am proud to state that Nigeria has had over two decades of uninterrupted democratic governance and has unequivocally remained committed to upholding the core values and principles of democracy.
“Since assuming office in 2015, we have been able to introduce mechanisms to ensure free, fair and credible elections. We have strengthened our key anti-corruption agencies in collaboration with international partners and have undertaken several anti-corruption measures and initiatives.”
Buhari thanked President Biden, the government and the people of the United States for hosting the summit, adding: “As you are aware, democracy has remained the most popular and universally recognised way of governance thus far. It is one governance system that guarantees freedom of speech, rule of law, respect for human rights and inclusiveness in governance. It also promotes social justice, economic and social development and national and global peace.
“However, in spite of these laudable qualities, more is required from us as members of democratic societies, particularly in ensuring that democratic institutions and processes are strengthened, especially during this period of a global pandemic which has threatened social cohesion in most democracies.
“We, therefore, must remain resolute and enhance cooperation, so that together, we build back better democratic institutions and sustainable democratic values,’’ the President added.
President Buhari noted that the summit was taking place at a time when democratic institutions around the world were facing several challenges.
“This event will help promote a positive agenda for democratic renewal by focusing on some of the major challenges faced by democracies today. It is hoped that through our collective action, we can safeguard democratic values and principles,’’ he said.
While observing that the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which had made it impossible to convene the meeting face to face, had taken a heavy toll on economies, health and democratic processes around the world, Buhari said: “Nevertheless, we have witnessed the resilience of democratic institutions in many countries that have held free, fair and transparent democratic elections under very challenging conditions.’’
Also, yesterday, the President assured the management of the National Human Rights Commission of his continuous support in its efforts to get closer to the people in order to assuage their grievances.
He spoke at State House, Abuja, when he received in audience the governing council of the commission.
“I am very pleased that you have the facilities throughout the country. This is very good and I am pleased with the way you approach your work; and the way you are on the ground.
“I will try and see the minister working with you and find out within our limited resources what we can honestly do for you,” the President said.
In her remarks, the Chairperson of the commission, Dr. Salamatu Suleiman said the council decided to visit the President yesterday being World Human Rights Day to intimate him with the efforts of the commission in tackling petitions before the organisation.
She commended President Buhari for his generosity towards the commission, especially with its allocation “increased for the first time in our democracy,” which has enabled the commission to have offices in the six geo-political zones, with state office complexes also coming up in 10 states.
“COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted political, social and economic foundations in Nigeria and Africa…leading to loss of livelihoods and increase in the level of inequalities as well as the upsurge in sexual-based violence,” Salamatu said.
She, however, assured that “the attainment of human rights obligations, especially socio-economic rights, enshrined as Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy is at the centre of the implementation of the approved National Development Plan (NDP) for 2021-2025.”