British envoy urges urgent steps for clean Nigeria polls
Britain's envoy to Nigeria called Monday for urgent steps to ensure that presidential elections due by April next year are credible and peaceful, after previously flawed and violent polls.
British High Commissioner Bob Dewar said in a blog post distributed to the media that time was running out and electoral organisers needed to act fast.
"There needs to be a level playing field for all. Each vote should count," he said in comments that come as the country sets up its Independent National Election Commission to prepare for the vote.
"All political and other leaders need to stand out against violence," he said. "Politicians need to practise good conduct and leadership, showing by their behaviour that they really want to deepen Nigeria's democracy."
Oil-rich Nigeria, Africa's most populous country with 150 million people, has a history of electoral fraud and violence. It is also ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
The opposition, rights groups and foreign observers criticised the 2007 election that brought the late Yar'Adua to power and which the United States described as "seriously flawed" and marred by "malfeasance and vote-rigging."
President Goodluck Jonathan, who took office after Yar'Adua died from illness on May 5, has vowed to clean up the electoral process.
He has sacked the previous electoral agency boss, blamed for the flawed 2007 elections, and last week nominated university don Attahiru Jega to head the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The Senate is expected to approve the nomination next week in what would be a major step in preparations for the 2011 election.
Once formally approved, the new INEC boss needs to move fast because "time is running out," said Dewar.
"For a start INEC needs a budget and plan and the electoral register needs updating. The clock is ticking," he said.
Nigeria gained independence from Britain in 1960.
© 2010 AFP