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Nigeria: UK wants free elections in 2011

The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Bob Dewar has urged  Nigeria’s electoral body to work towards the conduct of a credible, free and fair elections in the country by updating voters’ register and making it a priority that every vote counts.

The envoy who spoke in an exclusive interview with THISDAY weekend emphasised the importance of making every vote count and warned against rigging, intimidation and violence during the forthcoming 2011 general elections in the country.

Following the nomination of Professor Attahiru Jegga recently by President Goodluck Jonathan as chairman, the envoy had expressed his views on his blog post where he said that the success of the polls go beyond the selection.

“The commitment of President Goodluck Jonathan to 2011 election has been important and I think the citizens of Nigeria really want their votes to count and it’s important that every vote does count with no rigging, intimidation and violence.” Dewar said adding that it is the responsibility of every politician and all leaders to ensure that the aforementioned are realised.

The top diplomat stressed the need for the incoming INEC, when constituted, to address “some urgent issues” such as updating the voters register and getting a budget and a plan.

“A very big democracy like you have, one of the largest in the Commonwealth desires a lot of work to ensure a level playing field for everybody which is essentially what is needed for elections to be free and fair.” he stated.

On the allegation that the present members of INEC board are mostly Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members, Dewar said the importance issue is that a genuinely independent and impartial body emerges to prepare for the elections in a way that voters have confidence in it.

He gave the assurance that his country would offer necessary assistance in due course provided there is a political commitment from the Nigerian government and from all the parties and actors.

“One area which is very important to mention that we would provide support is the civil society and the media. They all have important roles to play in voter education and monitoring.

The earlier voters training starts, the better.” he said adding that there are other important dimensions to deepening democracy which include security.

He elaborated the need to make adequate preparation to ensure that Nigeria shows leadership in Africa a the broader international community.

According to the High Commissioner, the celebration of Nigeria’s 50th independence from Britain calls for reflection

His words: “I think it will be a time of reflection. You’re a very vibrant multicultural society and democracy and I think to move forward, reforms and commitment to those reforms in areas of political and economic governance and in deepening democracy and ensuring performance in those would be very important for the future.”

He expressed confidence that the scheduled visit of President Jonathan to the United Kingdom would be a good opportunity for the new leader to meet the new government team in his country for fruitful interactions

“We can build on that partnership which has so many strands to it-political, economic, development, cultural; between people, institutions, and within the Commonwealth.” Dewar said.