News Analysis Getting Plateau set for peaceful LG polls

The signing of the act to law also gives the commission the impetus to set the ball rolling for the conduct of the next local government polls in the state on Feb. 17, 2018.

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Plateau state governor, Simon Lalong play

Plateau state governor, Simon Lalong

(Daily Times)
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Gov. Mr Simon Lalong of Plateau signed the act establishing Plateau State Independent Electoral Commission on Aug. 9, indicating further empowerment of the commission to regulate local government elections.

The signing of the act to law also gives the commission the impetus to set the ball rolling for the conduct of the next local government polls in the state on Feb. 17, 2018.

The commission began with a familiarisation visit to the 17 local government areas of the state, meeting with the traditional rulers and other stakeholders and intimating them of its plans to conduct free, fair and peaceful polls.

Also to ensure free, fair and credible council polls in the state, the Plateau State Coalition on Electoral Reform and Good Governance recently, engaged the commission, security agencies, political parties and some key stakeholders in a town hall meeting in Jos.

The town hall meeting was supported by Community Action for Popular Participation Actionaid Nigeria, Ukaid and BBC Media Action.

In a keynote address at the meeting, the Senior Adviser, Search for Common Ground in Nigeria, Mr Chom Bagu, stated reasons why the commission must conduct local government elections that would be acceptable to the majority of the people.

According to him, credible and acceptable polls would further consolidate the peace being enjoyed in the state.

“It is also important to ensure that the poll is not only free and fair, but it should be credible and acceptable by a majority of the citizens."

“Democratic process must be adhered to so that the people can attest and accept the outcome of the elections."

“We have gone through turbulent times in the state; now we are enjoying relative peace. So we will not want a situation whereby the local government elections will draw us backwards."

“We advise that the commission to improve on its past efforts and ensure that the elections are conducted in a manner that will consolidate on the existing peace in the state,’’ he said.

Bagu further advised the electoral umpire to be transparent and show a high degree of credibility while conducting the council polls.

Also speaking at the event, a public affairs commentator, Mr Steve Aloko, said the onus lay on the police to ensure free, fair, credible and acceptable local government elections in Plateau.

He noted that the police reserved the duty to ensure the forthcoming local government polls in the state were conducted in an environment devoid of electoral frauds.

“The onus lies on the police and other security agencies to ensure peaceful atmosphere is provided for free, fair and credible local government elections in Plateau.

“As an institution, it reserves the right and powers to prevent people from committing electoral crime before, during and after elections.

“We rely solely on them to ensure hoodlums and desperate politicians do not hijack the electoral process, but to provide an environment where every citizen can exercise their civic rights,’’ he advised.

Aloko further urged the police to discharge their duties devoid of fears or favours, and called on the public to support and cooperate with them.

He also charged the police to give serious considerations to improving rural policing before, during and after elections.

“The bulk of the issues that mars free and free elections in Nigeria emanates from the rural areas, and it is a serious challenge,’’ he observed.

He said the police should work towards confidence-building as most populace had, over the years, lost confidence in the police.

He also called on government to adequately mobilise the police with all that would be needed in the discharge of their duties to minimise the risk of compromise.

In his view, the Policy and Governance Advisor, Actionaid Nigeria, Mr Kenneth Okoineme, urged political parties to entrench internal party democracy to ensure peaceful and acceptable local government polls.

According to him, the forthcoming local government polls would only be free, fair and credible when parties adhere and ensure inclusiveness.

“We all know that political parties play key role in deepening and shaping our polity, but the most important thing is the issue of parties adhering to the principle of internal democracy."

“There is also the need for parties to ensure an all-inclusive system that accommodates and engages all of its members; a situation where people should be the centre of its decision."

“So sentiment, personal interest and things that may breed conflicts and disagreements within the parties must be kept aside to ensure peaceful polls in the state,’’ he said.

Okoineme also urged parties to desist from hate campaigns and canvass for votes, using matured and more civilised ways.

He cautioned candidates against campaigns that could truncate the existing fragile peace being enjoyed in the state.

“You have very important role to play in ensuring that the relative peace being enjoyed in the state is sustained, and if possible consolidated."

“Personal sentiments within your parties must be jettisoned and the interest of the majority should always take the day."

“That way, we will have not only free and fair, but also a peaceful and acceptable local government election in Plateau,’’ he said.

Okoineme also charged the party leaders to create rooms for youths to contest elections on the platforms of their (leaders) parties.

He said the council poll was coming at the time when Nigerians were yearning for the younger generation to take up leadership roles and the parties ought to support their aspirations.

Beside this, Mr Nelson Ananza, Acting Director, Community Action for Popular Participation, said the meeting was aimed at engaging critical stakeholders with a view to improving the electoral process through active citizen participation.

Ananza expressed optimism that the resolutions reached at the end of the meeting would further add value to the electoral process and ensure credible council polls in Plateau.

Considering the importance of an electoral commission to credible elections, Mr Fabian Ntung, Chairman, Plateau State Independent Electoral Commission, promised to conduct free, fair, transparent and credible elections.

He, nonetheless, appealed to concerned political stakeholders to abide by the laid down rules and regulations during the electioneering to deliver a peaceful and acceptable polls.

Written by Polycarp Auta

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