The British Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr Ben Llewelyn-Jones has urged Nigerians to cooperate with Independent National Electoral Commission to ensure the electoral process is successful noting that the commission has the capacity to deal with challenges facing them.
Llewellyn-Jones gave the urge in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos.
He implored politicians to settle their rifts in an amicable manner and avoid heating the polity and inciting the citizens to stir violence
“My advice to politicians in the upcoming elections is that they should respect the process as the new technology is there to ensure that people can vote and that must be respected.
“If the politicians have a problem or dispute, then the use of legal or peaceful processes should be carried out and if their supporters are angry, ensure peaceful protests and avoid any form of violence.
“Most importantly, politicians must desist from buying votes as the right thing is to tell people to vote for you because of what you would do and not by buying votes to convince them to vote for you.
“It is imperative of politicians and people to do the right things as the UK government is committed to issuing visa restrictions where it is aware of attempts to subvert the democratic process,” he said.
Llewellyn-Jones disclosed that since 2019, the UK government has spent over £10 million working with the INEC institution capacity building and civil societies, amongst others.
“We have been working very closely with INEC and we have spent over £10 million since 2019; not just on them as that money went into capacity building for Nigerian government institutions, civil societies and observers who have been working closely with INEC.
“We are impressed with steps that have been taken as we know there is still a lot to do, especially in terms of logistic challenges, but INEC is very experienced and they would overcome the challenges.
“We encourage Nigerians to work and cooperate with INEC as there would always be challenges, but Nigerians should remain supportive,” he said.
The UK envoy noted that there should be inclusiveness of people across the board in elections.
He advocated for People Living With Disabilities, youths and women to contest various positions in future elections.
He said, “We are strong supporters of the ‘Not-Too-Young-To-Run’ Movement, as we supported the act and encouraged more people to come forward to participate in the elections because we want to see more inclusiveness across the board.
“We want to see people with disabilities, people from different backgrounds and ages contest in elections but that is still a real challenge as we don’t see that.
“More women should participate in politics as you can look at the UK which has had three female prime ministers and we believe it is important to see more women participating as it would be a massive encouragement in general.
“It is important to have that identification process so we are actively supporting all of that to make that difference happen.”
Llewellyn-Jones expressed confidence that the forthcoming elections would be peaceful and fair.
While noting the neutrality of the UK government, he disclosed that the UK government did not have preferred candidates saying that its concern was for the public to determine their preferred leaders.
“I have been watching elections in Nigeria since 2014 and every election since 1999 has been an improvement as there have been changes, improvements, development, assurance and more confidence from the voters.
“I’m certain that the upcoming elections would be a step forward and the technology that is being introduced is a big part that would ensure that people can’t rig the elections.
“We would be observing the elections and we are really hopeful that the elections would go smoothly.
“The key thing is that Nigerians vote, that they vote in a peaceful environment and that their votes count
and the process is credible.
“The UK government is not bothered about who wins the elections but our focus is on the process and to ensure Nigerians choose their leaders,” he said.