From Fred Ezeh, Abuja

Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) has asked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to carefully study the complaints and observations of Nigerians regarding the workings of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).

The Secretariat, thus, suggested that the complaints are critically analyzed and necessary corrections made so that the functionality and efficiency of the BVAS can be significantly improved upon long before the election day.

CSN Secretary General, Rev. Fr. Zacharia Samjumi, who addressed journalists in Abuja, on Tuesday, challenged INEC to also ensure that a level field of participation for all voters recognizing the massive awareness that has been created and increased interest of Nigerians to participate in the coming polls.

He said: “INEC has a huge burden to guarantee the efficiency of the BVAS on election day in all the 176,846 polling units across the country, as well as the efficient electronic transmission of results from the polling units. This will, undoubtedly, engender transparency and trust in the electoral process.”

Fr. Samjumi, however, pointed to the allegations of manipulation of the electoral register in different parts of Nigeria and implored INEC to investigate the allegations diligently to ensure that, to the extent that they are well-founded, anyone implicated is brought to account in a timely fashion.

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He added: “There’s also allegations that multiple registrations happened alongside willful and incorrect entries of voters’ information. We, thus, implore the Commission also to ensure that the necessary due diligence is observed in the accurate documentation and cleaning up the voters’ register to boost confidence and trust of Nigerians in the system.”

He urged all Nigerians, especially politicians and their agents, to be civil, decent, and respectful in their utterances as they canvass for votes and debate the country’s future.

He added: “We have observed that rather than marketing a party’s agenda and candidate’s manifesto through value-based campaigns and discipline of language, some political parties’ campaigns are often characterised by the use of intemperate language, issuance of threats, character assassination and the spread of misinformation and outright falsehood about their opponents. 

“Political parties and their candidates should understand that elections are not a do-or-die affair, and also remember that no one is so good enough to lead another without his/her consent. The candidates should, therefore, stick to their signed peace accord and call on their followers to shun violence and thuggery. Only a peaceful election can guarantee the peaceful Nigeria that we desire to live in.”

He also registered concerns with the growing cases of abuse of judicial power and office as judicial corruption has risen due to the fact that politicians seek to importune judges with unprintable sums of money to overturn the will of the people in fair elections. 

He, thus appealed to judges, lawyers, the legal profession and, in particular, the leadership of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), to rise to be counted in the 2023 elections.  “Similarly, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and the National Judicial Council (NJC) should make an example of those judges who have abused or will abuse judicial powers in the cause of this election cycle.”