Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has strongly urged the Government of Nigeria to ensure that the new dates set for the country’s general elections are maintained following the vote’s recent postponement, according to the United Nations spokesperson’s office.
The polls, originally scheduled for 14 February, was pushed back to 28 March and 11 April following appeals by the armed forces to delay the vote amid ongoing fighting in the country’s north-eastern regions against the militant group, Boko Haram.
In a statement released by the UN spokesperson earlier today, the Secretary-General welcomed commitments by the candidates to the Presidency to respect the new calendar and commended the progress made by Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the preparation for the elections, including the distribution of Permanent Voter Cards.
In addition, the spokesperson said Mr. Ban urged all relevant national institutions to continue to work with INEC “to ensure all voters can exercise their constitutional right to participate in the elections freely and without intimidation.”
Although the postponement was greeted in many quarters as an opportunity to channel the country’s collective focus on fighting Boko Haram, some Nigerians have reportedly voiced concern about the delay’s legality.
“The Secretary-General nevertheless expresses strong concern over reports of election-related violence,” the statement continued. “He urges all political leaders to adhere to their commitments under the Abuja Accord, to refrain from inflammatory statements and to immediately condemn any statements from their supporters that amount to an incitement to violence or subversion of the electoral process.”
The spokesperson said Mr. Ban reiterated that the UN would continue to closely follow developments in the country and that the Organization was “offering its full support to Nigeria at this important moment,” particularly through the ongoing active engagement of his High-Level Representative to Nigeria, Mohamed Ibn Chambas.