By Victor Ogunje
Ado Ekiti — The British Government has clarified its position that it will maintain neutrality as Nigerians go to poll in ≠2019 to elect a new president to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari.
This is as international agencies in conjunction with local Civil Society Organisation told the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to fashion ways for Peoples Living with Disabilities (PWDs) to easily participate in the 2019 elections.
The agencies, which include British High Commission and Australian High Commission in Nigeria, British Department for International Development (DFID) and Foundation for Justice and Social Development(FOJSOD), stated that excluding the people living with disabilities from the electoral system is not in consonance with the global best practices.
Participation of PWDs in 2019 general election’, the Political Adviser to the country’s Deputy British High Commissioner, Mr. Wale Adebajo, said the British Government is supporting neither President Buhari nor the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, or any other candidate in the election.
Adebajo said the National Disability bill awaiting presidential assent would help in resolving some of the issues bedeviling the group in the country.
Adebajo applauded INEC for including PWDs in its strategic plan for 2017 to 2021 elections, saying the British Government and United States Department for International Development(USAID) are favourably disposed to the action.
“When we pointed out in the Ondo State governorship election the need to make the PWDs more inclusive in our elections, INEC responded positively to our request by establishing desk officers in INEC offices to take care of the PWDs. This, to us, was a signal of INEC commitment to improving access to electoral system.
“We want to clear the air that the British Government is not supporting any candidate in the election. We are neutral when it comes to election in Nigeria,” he said.
The DFID Regional Programme Officer, Mrs. Margaret Fagboyo, said the agency has always believed that PWDs should be beneficiary of the sustainable development in Nigeria, which unfettered access to participate in elections was part of.
“In 2019, INEC must ensure that ballot boxes are placed where they can be accessed easily; the police shouldn’t harass them, and they should be accorded respect. They should be seen as critical stakeholders in any election.
“We commend INEC for noticing where they are lapses and trying to improve on them. We can’t leave these people behind while taking critical decisions just because they have one form of disability, so if this happens, definitely there will be problem,” Fagboyo said.
Raji, said INEC has identified those critical areas where PWDs have problems in the electoral system, saying such are being tackled through policy formulation and strong legal framework.
Raji said those with disabilities were effectively sensitised before the July 14 governorship election in the state, and that it accounted for the major breakthrough recorded in the poll.
President Muhammadu Buhari has approved an enhanced salary structure for the Nigeria Police Force and given assurance that his administration would continue paying attention to the welfare and operational needs of the force
Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, in a statement yesterday, said the president confirmed the approval in the State House, Abuja.
The president spoke when he played host to the members of the Nigeria Police Service Commission and the leadership of the force who were on a “thank you” visit to him.
By the president’s approval of the Rank Salary Structure Adjustment, salaries, allowances and pension of policemen will be increased.
Buhari expressed the commitment of his administration to restoring the NPF lost primacy in the internal security framework of the country.
He regretted that the inability of the police in performing their constitutional role as the frontline force in the prevention of crime, had led to military involvement in the maintenance of law and order throughout the country.
“From Taraba to Sokoto, to the South-south, people don’t feel secure until they see the military.
“I am pleased to make the increase in salary and allowances in the hope that it will increase the performance index of the police and strengthen Nigeria’s internal security system,” he said.
According to him, the more efficient the police is, the more confident the government and citizens will be.