By Prudence Arobani/New York
As Nigeria’s 2019 general election draws near, the UN said there is the need to reactivate the National Peace Committee, which played critical roles in ensuring a peaceful 2015 presidential election.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated this in the ‘Report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS)’, presented to the UN Security Council.
The National Peace Committee followed the signing of the Abuja Peace Accord on Jan. 14, 2015 by former President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party, then All Progressives Congress candidate Muhammadu Buhari and other presidential candidates.
The Committee comprised of ‘respected statesmen and women, traditional and religious leaders’ who include former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar, Bishop Mathew Kukah, and Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, Sultan of Sokoto.
Guterres said his Special Representative for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohammed Chambas, continued to support efforts to sustain peace in the region by promoting and supporting inclusive national political dialogues, constitutional and democratic reforms and transparent, credible and peaceful election.
The UN chief said: “Cognizant of the politically active environment ahead of the Nigerian polls in 2019, he conducted consultations with political and religious leaders in Abuja from 18 to 21 March.
“National stakeholders concurred on the need for the full reactivation of the National Peace Committee of Nigeria, which had been instrumental in facilitating dialogue prior to the country’s elections in 2015″.
Through the Peace Accord, the candidates committed to “take proactive measures to prevent electoral violence before, during and after the elections”.
They also expressed determination “to avoid any conduct or behaviour that will endanger the political stability and national security of Nigeria,… to place national interest above personal and partisan concern”.
They further reaffirmed their “commitment to fully abide by all rules and regulations as laid down in the legal framework for elections in Nigeria”.
The UN chief noted the preparedness for the 2019 presidential election and other political developments in Nigeria.
He said: “In Nigeria, political developments centred on preparations for presidential and parliamentary elections set to take place in February 2019.
“On 9 April, the President, Muhammadu Buhari, declared his intention to run for a second term. Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar also announced his candidacy for the presidential election.
“A demand made by the House of Representatives in April, following an increase in violence in the Middle Belt and the north of the country, to dismiss national service chiefs and security advisers, has not been carried out.
“In addition, the decision of the National Assembly to summon Mr Buhari to provide a briefing on the increased insecurity in the country prompted a debate on whether the legislature had such power over the executive”.
Guterres noted the ‘Not Too Young To Run’ bill, which would reduce the age limits set for candidates for elected positions, and the adoption of the Electoral Act amendment, which would regulate the general elections.
On security trends, Guterres said asymmetrical attacks were carried out by Boko Haram terrorists against security forces, local authorities and civilians in Nigeria and other West African state.
The UN chief said extremist armed groups continued to harass civilians, carry out targeted abductions or killings, burn down schools and threaten teaching staff.
“In Nigeria, multiple clashes between farmers and herders in the Middle Belt states, as well as in the southern states of Edo, Ebonyi and Kogi, resulted in numerous casualties, population displacement and destruction of property”.
Guterres also noted the continued protests by the Islamic Movement in Nigeria over the detention of its leader, decreased violence in the Niger-Delta and Southeast regions, and militant groups threat to resume attacks.