United States Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, on Monday in Abuja called on the Federal government to establish an electoral offences tribunal before the 2015 general elections.
Thomas-Greenfield made the call at the opening of the Nigeria-U.S Bi-National Commission (BNC) working group meeting on good governance, transparency and integrity.
Thomas-Greenfield, who led a 23-man team to the third meeting of the group, said the U.S believed that the tribunal would serve as a deterrent to election violence.
“We stand with the Nigerian people who say loudly that they will not accept electoral tampering, overly heated rhetoric, vote selling or buying and violence.
“I have heard my Nigerian friends say repeatedly that anyway who engages in such elections chicanery should be held accountable and they are right.
“I encourage Nigeria National Assembly to pass a legislation enacting an electoral offences tribunal, a legislation that President Jonathan proposed when he was Vice President.
“We hope that our continued electoral assistance would give the utmost support to the Nigerian people because they deserve nothing less than elections that reflect their will,’’ she said.
Thomas-Greenfield commended the conduct of the Nigeria police and security operatives at the Nov. 16 gubernatorial elections in Anambra.
“We have confidence that if the Nigerian police, military and other security services are allowed to do their jobs professionally as they did in Anambra, the elections can be held safely in Ekiti, Osun this year and in 2015 elections in every polling unit in the country.’’
She urged Nigerian electorates to hold politicians, INEC, the media, judiciary and security agencies accountable for free and fair elections.
“You must vote according to your conscience and anyone who witnesses’ fraud must peacefully report to INEC and Nigeria judicial system for resolution, nothing justifies violence.’’
Greenfield, who is visiting Nigeria for third time since her appointment last year as President Barack Obama’s lead diplomat for Africa, underscored the role of U.S and UK in promoting credible elections in Nigeria.
She recalled that in the run-up to Nigeria’s 2011 elections, the U.S and the UK contributed 31.3 million dollars to strengthen Nigeria’s electoral management body and civil society groups.
“We were proud to support the great electoral success you achieved as a nation and as a people,’’ she said.
The U.S envoy reiterated her government’s support to the forthcoming elections in the country and looked forward to working with INEC and other stakeholders.
She the BNC meeting would discuss how to make the 2015 elections the most “peaceful, free, fair and credible elections in its history.
She added that the two-day meeting would also exchange ideas on how both countries could arrest “the malignancy of financial corruption that eats away at Nigeria democracy and economy.’’
In his remarks, Dr Martin Uhomoibhi, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the Federal government had consistently advocated for peaceful and credible elections devoid of violence.
“In our history as a nation, we have never seen a leader so transparently committed to ensuring a free, credible and fair election as our president.
“The confidence that he reposes on INEC bears eloquent testimony to this conviction and commitment.
“In his May 29 address, when he took on the mantle of leadership as president, the president said and I will paraphrase him: “For Africa the age of liberation and struggle is over.
“What is of moment to us now is to ensure the entrenchment of sustainable democracy,’’ he said.
Uhomoibhi noted that Nigeria would continue to play a leading role in the consolidation of democracy in the continent, citing the country’s interventions in Guinea Bissau, Mali and Cote d Ivoire.
On terrorism, the permanent secretary underscored the partnership with the U.S government to counter terrorism.
“Terrorism is evil; it has no religion, no nationality, race, ideology or definition, the only definition we know of terrorism is plain and simple, evil.
“Nigeria is committed to the war against terror, Nigeria will win that fight because Nigerians are peace loving people and have fought for peace since 1960 when we became a nation,’’ he said.
A 69-man delegation from Nigeria led by Uhomoibhi is participating in the 2-day BNC meeting.
The Nigeria participants are drawn from the government, media and civil society groups.
A communiqué is expected at the end of the meeting.
The BNC was established in 2010 to address a range of shared concerns by both countries including regional cooperation, security and counter terrorism, Niger Delta, energy and investment.
It also has a working group dedicated to agriculture and trade policy