Acting President Yemi Osinbajo says Nigeria will continue to support and partner the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC) in the conduct of credible elections to ensure socio-political stability in the West African sub-region.
Osinbajo made the pledge when the leadership of the ECONEC led by its president, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu, visited him in the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Friday.
He explained that Nigeria’s decision to continue to support the electoral bodies was informed by its belief in the fundamental principles of free elections.
“It is one of those initiatives that we should be proud of and must support, and I can assure you that the government of Nigeria will fully support your efforts.
“In the past, as you pointed out Prof, we have supported several of our brothers in the sub-region and we intend to continue to do so because we believe in the fundamental principles of free elections.
“And we believe that the only way to ensure stability in society is to ensure that people have a right to elect their leadership but not just a right on paper but a right in practice.
“And the only way by which that right can be manifested in practice is by free and fair elections.”
He congratulated Mahmud Yakubu on his election as ECONEC President, and thanked all members of the network for giving (Yakubu) him the opportunity to serve them.
He also thanked the members for giving Nigeria the honour to host the secretariat of the ECONEC permanently.
He said: “you said it was unanimous and I’m glad to know it was unanimous because who would have been able to resolve the electoral conflict.
“Again, I must congratulate you and thank all of the members of the network for giving Prof. Yakubu an opportunity to serve and thank you for giving Nigeria the honour to host the secretariat of the ECONEC permanently.
“We promise (to provide) all the support that will be required by the secretariat and will be required by the officials of the secretariat.’’
The acting president expressed the hope that the ECONEC would be able to bequeath to coming generations strong nations that would be led by the rule of law and democratic principles.
According to him, this is the only way African countries can be stable as well as assure generations yet unborn of stability and progress and abundance in the sub-region.
In his remarks, Yakubu, who narrated the history of ECONEC, said the sub-regional electoral body was formed to ensure the conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections through exchange and sharing of ideas and experience.
“The purpose is to come together and assist one another in the areas of experience sharing, peer review and any other support that we can render in ensuring credible elections.
“At the moment and the first time in the history of the sub-region, all 15 countries in ECOWAS are democracies.
“Gone are the days in some countries you had one government in the capital another in the bush. All the governments are in the capital now.
“So, this is a great moment for us.’’
“And in the last one year or one and half, we have had violence free, successful elections in Niger Republic, Benin Republic, the Gambia, Ghana and the Republic of Cape Verde and the results were accepted and celebrated.”
The ECONEC President added that Senegal also conducted a successful constitutional referendum while parliamentary and local elections were also conducted successfully.
He announced that ECONEC Steering Committee would soon undertake needs assessment visits to Liberia and Sierra Leone where elections would be held in Oct. 10 and March 2018 respectively.
“For Liberia and Sierra Leone, Your Excellency, these are countries that have emerged not too long ago from very unhappy developments.
“And it is very good that now that we have all democracies, we should come together to see how we can assist and ensure free and fair credible elections within the sub-region.
“Our belief, (Your Excellency) is that it is better to deploy ECONEC than to come back to you later to deploy ECOMOG.
“So, this weekend, we will leave for Sierra Leone and Liberia.’’
Yakubu stated that the outcome of their missions to Liberia and Sierra Leone would be communicated to the ECOWAS Commission.
“And where there is need for assistance from individual countries, I’m sure that those countries will take the matter up bilaterally,’’ he maintained.(NAN)