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Insurgency, sit-at-home order pose serious challenge to general elections, cleric warns

National Director, Church and Society of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) and Executive Secretary, Caritas Nigeria, Rev. Fr Uchechukwu Obodoechina, has warned that the Sit-at-home order being observed every Monday in the South-East, the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East and the general insecurity in the country pose serious challenges to the forthcoming general elections.

He stressed the need for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), security agencies and other duty-bearers to be aware of peculiarities and tendencies in different parts of the country and quickly address the gaps in order to have a hitch-free and credible elections. Speaking at the Pre-election dialogue organized by Caritas Nigeria yesterday in Abuja, Obodoechina observed that elections in Nigeria have been bedevilled by all manners of malpractices, thuggery, and conflicts and expressed optimism that the forthcoming elections will be a reasonable milestone for the country.

The cleric noted that there is a high level of fear and apprehension in the minds of Nigerians concerning the forthcoming elections hence the need for INEC and security agencies to tell Nigerians the level of their preparedness in order to counter their fears because if the fears persist, they may not come out for the elections.

He said: “Since the return of democracy in 1999, we have had difficulties with all our elections where snatching of ballot boxes and all sorts of intimidations take place during the elections.

“We are trying to see how we can do things differently in the forthcoming elections. We undertook research to let the duty bearers know what roles they should play to avoid the repeat of the past.

“The studies were meant to help INEC pinpoint peculiarities and difficulties in each region. For instance, the problem of sit-at-home on Mondays and the general insecurity of kidnapping are existential realities. How will general elections take place in such areas and become hitch-free and prosperous?

Adding: “In the North -East, we have the problem of Boko Haram insurgency where people are not in their homes, and you are to conduct elections in that area.

“The duty bearers must be aware of these tendencies and address the gaps and tell Nigerians the level of their preparedness in order to counter their fears because if the fears persist, they may not come out for the elections.

“The problem of insurgency in the North/East, the sit-at-home in the South-East are sufficiently alarming and the relevant government agencies should be able to encourage and reassure people that there are no fears. The security agencies should live up to their responsibilities but if the government and the duty bearers are not deliberate in encouraging people to go out of their way to participate in the elections, it might have a negative impact.”

Obodoechina stated that though Nigerians are already traumatized, they have a binding responsibility as citizens to take their destinies into their hands.

“Therefore, Nigerians should not be indifferent towards the elections because the Nigerian project is our project and people should come out a make a statement through their votes”, he stated.

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