By Lizzy Okoji
Abuja, Feb. 17, 2023
British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, has urged political parties to accept and respect the results of the forthcoming 2023 general elections and refrain from actions that would instigate post-election violence.
Laing made this known while addressing newsmen on Thursday in Abuja, noting that the United Kingdom is fully in support of Nigeria’s political process.
Laing urged the candidates and political parties to resort to the judiciary if they feel the process was not fair enough and wish to contest the results.
The British Envoy also noted that the elections are not only important to Nigeria but West Africa, and the rest of the world, especially with the backsliding of democracy in the West African sub-region.
“The election in Nigeria is really important, not just for all of you as Nigerian citizens, but for this region, West Africa where sadly, we have seen a lot of democratic backsliding, and for the world.
“The World’s eyes will be on Nigeria and are on Nigeria and what happens here will send a very strong signal.
“Following the last elections, we have continued to invest in trying to create the right conditions for a free and fair, secured election, recognizing of course that it is a job for Nigeria.
“But we try to play our part so we work very closely with INEC, Civil Societies, to ensure that they are fit for the purpose.
“The head of the political parties in particular must commit to respect the outcomes of the votes and signal that to all of their supporters.
“And if indeed they are going to contest anything, it should be done through the judicial process, not through any violence.
“And so, the Peace accord which was signed on the 29th of September is so important and I am very pleased to see that there will be a second signing on the 23rd of February and I will be there representing the UK.
“The UK remains absolutely in step with you as you continue your democratic journey,” Laing said.
Laing said that following her engagements with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the UK government is confident of the process.
She said that the new Electoral laws and the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) have further increased the confidence of Nigerian citizens in the system.
Laing, however, expressed the fear of the UK government on voter’s suppression as she further appealed to political parties and the candidates against any form of voters’ suppression.
The British Envoy said that President Muhammadu Buhari has also said on countless occasions that handing over to a successor through a peaceful election would be his biggest legacy.
“In terms of INEC’s preparation, we are very confident that INEC has prepared early and is in good shape.
“The security forces, from my discussions with the IGP, and others are also committed to play the impartial role they need to play.
“We will be watching this closely and it is very important that these elections take place on time.
“If it is brought to our attention, of where directly, there are people inciting violence, making hate speeches, or conducting violent acts, we will use our visa policies to restrict such individual’s ability to enter the UK.
“Another thing we are worried about is post-election violence. As we saw in the past, I cannot remember the year, if any one of the party’s supporters feels this election is stolen, my candidate should have won, there is a risk of violence.
“It is very important for Nigeria’s democracy that the people respect the result because that is the hallmark of democracy, somebody wins, somebody loses.
“And if you feel for any reason the election in your area was not credible, transparent, there is a process and that is the court.
“What will be tragic for Nigeria on this crucial democratic journey where you have been making great strides is if there is a repeat of the 2011 wide-spread post-election violence,” Laing added.