The federal government on Saturday said it would not accept foreign interference in Nigeria’s affairs.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said the Buhari administration was against actions capable of creating apprehension, distrust among citizens or undermining the transparency and acceptability of outcomes of the nation’s electoral process.
“Nigeria reserves the right to be insulated from suggestions and or interference with respect to wholly internal affairs and commends international laws, customs and norms that mandate and require nations and the comity to respect this prerogative to all,” he said.
“Nigeria is confident of its electoral processes and her preparation for the imminent elections and the federal government has supported the independent electoral umpire in both its independence and resources needed to accomplish our desire and insistence on free and fair elections.”
Shehu said the federal government welcomes the prevailing keen interest and partnerships for successful elections and a peaceful Nigeria.
He added that the government had ensured the independence of all organs, institutions and arms of government to “perform their functions in a manner that is transparent, and not lacking in integrity whether institutionally or by persons within such institutions or organs.’’
“Although the question of foreign interference, whether state sponsored, promoted or otherwise has dominated recent elections and outcomes globally, the federal government assures citizens and the global community that it will fiercely and assiduously promote the will and the right of Nigerians to choose and elect their leaders without pressure or assistance from persons or entities that are not constitutionally empowered to participate in the process,’’ he said.
He reiterated the readiness of the nation’s security forces to confront any plan or attempt to interfere with or disrupt the process whether by “elements within or from outside the country”.
The United States Government had expressed worry over the decision of President Buhari to suspend the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen.
The US Embassy in Nigeria said in a statement that the decision of the executive arm of government to suspend the head of another arm of government without recourse to the National Assembly was questionable.
The US which had last week threatened to place a visa ban on all persons who manipulate the electoral process, questioned the timing of the suspension of the CJN.
The US said the removal of Onnoghen “undercuts the stated determination of government, candidates, and political party leaders to ensure that the elections proceed in a way that is free, fair, transparent, and peaceful – leading to a credible result.”
The statement read, “The Embassy of the United States is deeply concerned by the impact of the executive branch’s decision to suspend and replace the Chief Justice and head of the judicial branch without the support of the legislative branch on the eve of national and state elections.
“We note widespread Nigerian criticism that this decision is unconstitutional and that it undermines the independence of the judicial branch. That undercuts the stated determination of government, candidates, and political party leaders to ensure that the elections proceed in a way that is free, fair, transparent, and peaceful – leading to a credible result.
“We urge that the issues raised by this decision be resolved swiftly and peacefully in accordance with due process, full respect for the rule of law, and the spirit of the Constitution of Nigeria. Such action is needed urgently now to ensure that this decision does not cast a pall over the electoral process.”
The UK government said that it was compelled, as a friend of Nigeria, to observe that the timing of the suspension risked affecting the credibility of the forthcoming elections.
“We have heard a wide range of credible and independent voices, including in the Nigerian legal profession and civil society, who have expressed concern over the constitutionality of the executive branch’s suspension of the chief officer of the judiciary.
“We respect Nigeria’s sovereign authority and its right to adjudicate on constitutional provisions but as friends of the Nigerian people, we are compelled to observe that the timing of this action, so close to national elections, gives cause for concern.
“It risks affecting both domestic and international perceptions on the credibility of the forthcoming elections.
“We, along with other members of the international community, are following developments closely.”
It also encouraged all actors to maintain calm and address the concerns raised through due process and demonstrate their commitment to respecting the constitution and the impartial administration of the rule of law.
“We further urge them to take steps to ensure that elections take place in an environment conducive to a free, fair and peaceful process,” it stated.
The European Union Election Observation Mission, Nigeria (EU COM) expressed serious concern about the process and timing of the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen.
In press statement on Saturday, the EU COM said that with 20 days to the presidential and National Assembly elections, political parties, candidates and voters must be able to have confidence in the impartiality and independence of the judiciary.
‘’The decision to suspend the CJN has led to many Nigerians, including lawyers and civil society observer groups, to question whether due process was followed.
“The timing, just before the swearing in of justices for Election Tribunals and hearing of election-related cases, has also raised concerns about the opportunity for electoral justice,’’ EU stated.
The EU therefore called on all parties to follow the legal processes provided for in the nation’s constitution and respond calmly to any concern they may have.
‘’The EU COM will continue observing all aspects of the election, including the independence of the election administration, the neutrality of security agencies, and the extent to which the judiciary can and does fulfil its election-related responsibilities,’’ the Mission further stated.
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