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Elections: ‘Stop Harassing Opposition Leaders’ – US Congress Warns Buhari



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The United States Congress has warned President Muhammadu Buhari to stop the harassment of the opposition political leaders, following recent perceived crackdown on some political figures in the country.

The warning by the US Congress is coming on the heels of a N156 million fraud allegation against former Vice-President and Presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) by the federal government.

The UN Congress warning is contained in a bipartisan resolution urging the government of Nigeria, along with Nigeria’s political parties, to ensure electoral accountability and transparency in the upcoming February election.

A statement made available to THISDAY by Zachary Seidl of the US Congressional office, said the resolution, which has been adopted by the US Congress, was introduced on Wednesday, by Rep. Karen Bass, a top Democrat serving on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, along with the Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Elliot L. Engel, the top Republican serving the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa Congressman Chris Smith, Nigeria Caucus Co-Chairs Representatives Steve Chabot and Shelia Jackson Lee, and Representative Gregory Meeks.

“The upcoming elections in Nigeria, Africa’s largest democracy and economy, are critical to the future of the nation. Reports of President Muhammadu Buhari’s apparent crackdown on non-violent protests and harassment of opposition leaders are extremely concerning, as well as the ongoing violence that has been perpetrated by extremists, particularly in the Middle Belt region. The violence must be stopped, along with any subversion of the electoral process. The Nigerian government must see to free and fair elections, which this resolution calls for,” said Ranking Member Smith.

They urged President Buhari to copy the smooth transition in 2015 from the ruling party to the opposition, as their commitment to the strengthening of democracy in Nigeria.

“I am proud to be an original cosponsor of this legislation, which reaffirms the United States’ long-standing commitment to strengthening democracy in Nigeria. In 2015, Nigeria became another democratic role model for countries on the continent, showing that a credible electoral process could result in the peaceful transition of power from an incumbent to the opposition. Regardless of the outcome, my hope for the upcoming presidential, gubernatorial, and National Assembly elections is that Nigerian politicians, citizens, and the electoral commission will build on the successes of 2015 to further consolidate democracy in Nigeria,” said Chairman Engel.

The Congressmen harped on the imperative of conducting free and credible elections. “It is critical that Nigeria remain a role model in its region for democratic institutions and work to ensure free and fair elections. There can be no democracy without full confidence in the results of an election, and it is vital that there is full transparency so that February leaves no doubt as to the outcome,” said Representative Meeks.

According to Representative Bass, “It is in the best interest of the United States to maintain a strong bilateral relationship with a politically stable, democratic, and economically sound Nigeria that can play a leadership role in the region and the continent more broadly.

“A credible, transparent and peaceful election this coming February would further consolidate democratic gains achieved over the last two decades. Nigerians are deeply committed to democracy and ensuring transparency in electoral preparations, which would build public confidence in the electoral process. This resolution sends the message that the people of the United States will continue to stand with the people of Nigeria in support of peace and democracy.”

Still on US-Nigeria collaboration, Representative Chabot said, “As Co-Chair of the Congressional Nigeria Caucus, I appreciate the importance of a strong bilateral relationship with Nigeria and applaud its citizens for their commitment to democracy.

“There is still work to be done, however, to ensure that Nigeria’s upcoming elections are transparent, peaceful, and credible. Our resolution lays out the necessary steps to achieve these goals, and urges Nigeria to conduct elections free of violence. Conducting high-quality elections will strengthen our bilateral relationship, help consolidate Nigerian democracy, and be an example to other countries.”

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